It’s a common misconception that Alzheimer’s disease is inevitable with age. This is one misbelief that is easy to understand, however. With so many older people experiencing memory loss, Alzheimer’s can seem to be the norm.

The most recent statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association report that 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. More than 5 million people in the U.S. are suffering with the disease today, and Alzheimer’s remains the 6th leading cause of death in the nation.

Memory Loss is Not a Normal Part of Aging

While memory problems are very common and do increase with age, it’s important to recognize that they are not a normal part of aging. Also, some researchers believe that people have some control over age-related cognitive decline.

Researchers have identified various risk factors that are associated with hypertension, diabetes, cancer and obesity. These risk factors make a person more likely to get these conditions, and they may also raise the risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to lower your risk for Alzheimer’s and other vascular diseases. The best preventative measures include:

  • Reducing psychological stress
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Eating a healthy diet

Why do these things matter? We take a look at these risk factors and their role in the onset of Alzheimer’s in the section below.

Managing Chronic Stress

Chronic stress has a negative impact on brain function. Studies show that people with Alzheimer’s have higher levels of cortisol in their brains, the hormone responsible for stress. To reduce the amount of cortisol in the brain, it’s helpful to have a socially active lifestyle, effective relaxation techniques and treatment for depression, if present.

Engaging in Physical Activity

Physical activity plays an important role in both physical and mental health. Not only does regular physical activity lead to improved health and wellness, but also it improves blood flow to the brain, boosts learning and enhances the production of new brain cells. Recent studies indicate that people with Alzheimer’s tend to be less physically active than their peers, further confirming the importance of exercise.

Eating a Healthy Diet  

Finally, diet is a key component in healthy aging, as what you are is what you eat. Diet is probably the most effective way to reduce one’s risk of vascular disease, which is a direct factor for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The best diet is one that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and high-fiber carbohydrates. Also nutritious are omega-3s and lean meats. Refined sugars, high caloric foods, saturated fats and omega-6s should be avoided.

While Alzheimer’s is a scary disease that seems to be inevitable at times, you do have some control over your future. By managing stress levels, engaging in physical activity and eating a healthy diet, you may lower your risk for Alzheimer’s and other vascular diseases.