4 healthy habits that reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

For SHA Wellness Clinic
|
Tuesday September 21st, 2021
Natural therapies
A healthy diet, physical exercise, mental exercise and restorative sleep are key to minimising the risk factors that cause this disease.

The World Health Organisation ranks dementia as the third leading cause of death in the world and Alzheimer’s accounts for 60-70% of all cases. These figures make it one of the major global health issues, with an incidence rate on the rise. This is why World Alzheimer’s Day is celebrated on 21 September, to raise awareness about this neurodegenerative disease that manifests itself with behavioural disorders and cognitive deterioration and which, according to the Spanish Society of Neurology, more than 900,000 people suffer from in Spain. Although there is currently no effective treatment to stop it, we can reduce the risk of suffering from it with these four healthy habits.

1. A healthy diet

SHA nutritionist Marina Domene explains that “although there is currently no food that can reverse or prevent the ageing of brain cells, eating a healthy diet, rich in seasonal fruit and vegetables, pulses, nuts and cereals, can reduce the risk of suffering from this type of disease. Specific micronutrients for brain health include omega-3 fatty acids, which can be of animal origin, such as small oily fish (sardines, anchovies, mackerel) or vegetable origin, such as flax or chia seeds and certain nuts, which are omega-3 precursors and the perfect alternative for vegans and vegetarians. B vitamins such as folic acid and beta-carotene, found in carrots and green leafy vegetables like cabbage and spinach, are also very beneficial. In addition, including berries like blueberries, blackberries and raspberries in your diet and drinking green tea or kukicha will provide a good dose of flavonoids with great antioxidant benefits”.

2. Physical exercise

The SHA Fitness team believes in a “healthy mind, healthy body. And vice-versa. Because exercise contributes significantly to improving brain function and protecting memory and cognitive skills. When we engage in physical activity, we increase our heart rate, which promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. It also stimulates the production of hormones that help improve brain cell growth. Exercise as a habit is vitally important and has been shown to reduce changes in the brain that can cause Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia”.

3. Mental exercise

Bruno Ribeiro, head of SHA’s Cognitive Development and Brain Stimulation Unit, says that “the only thing we know that can help delay Alzheimer’s is cognitive reserve. It is like the piggy bank of our cognitive abilities and, to fill it, it is important to set aside 10 to 15 minutes a day to an extra activity to train the brain. Of course, it should be a task or a distraction that isn’t an obligation or something you have to do. For example, doing Sudoku or crossword puzzles, spending time reading or playing with one of those apps that are like brain gyms and stimulate cognitive skills. And the more you fill your piggy bank, the more you will delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. In short, staying active is what protects the brain the most”.

4. Restorative rest

Finally, Vicente Mera, head of Internal Medicine and Anti-Ageing at SHA, says that “many studies that show that not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 25%. The brain is like a computer and, while we sleep, it deletes the files we have used during the day. If we don’t rest at night, the brain overheats, works more slowly and all the information is altered. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the only way we remember is by forgetting. To do this, we have to delete unessential files and store those that are essential in the right places. And this is achieved with a good night’s sleep. Because, during sleep, anti-inflammatory processes are activated in the brain that recycle and cleanse oxidising substances and molecules. If you don’t get enough sleep, these inflammatory residues are not eliminated, which impairs memory and increases the risk of dementia”.

SHA MAGAZINE

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