If a family member has Alzheimer’s, does that mean I’ll develop it, too? This common question weighs on the minds of most people with a family member with the condition. The answer? Maybe.
Most health problems come with a set of factors you can control to reduce your risk of developing the affliction and a set of factors you can’t control. Alzheimer’s and dementia are no different.
Genetic factors can influence the development of Alzheimer’s and some types of dementia, but there are also environmental factors — or things you can control — that can help reduce your risk for cognitive impairment.
Overlooked Risks to Brain Health
These common conditions can affect the brain as well as the body, and can cause blood vessel changes or changes in thinking.
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
If you have any of these conditions, make sure they are well controlled to reduce your risks of cognitive impairment or damage.
According to the National Institutes of Health, older adults are at a higher risk of brain injuries from falls, car accidents and other accidents. Increase your safety by avoiding alcohol or medications that can make you drowsy or dizzy and wearing safety equipment like helmets or seat belts when biking or driving. Learn the risks for and how to prevent falls as well.
Common medicines for the treatment of allergies, anxiety, depression and sleep aids can cause confusion or changes in thinking.
Lack of physical activity
Not getting regular exercise can increase your risk of developing the above health problems. Physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive performance and reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s, some studies show.
Eating high-fat, high-sodium foods can lead to conditions like high blood pressure or certain heart conditions, which can hurt your brain. A healthy diet can help protect against cognitive impairment.
Smoking and drinking alcohol can also raise your risk of stroke, heart problems and can cause confusion and changes in balance.
A good night’s sleep supports brain health. Not getting enough sleep or getting poor-quality sleep can lead to issues with memory and cognitive function. Conditions like sleep apnea can lead to problems like stroke, high blood pressure and memory loss.
Though there are factors we can’t control when it comes to our cognitive health, taking care of our bodies and minds by managing chronic conditions, making healthy choices and preventing injuries can help reduce risk of cognitive decline.