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The thought of developing Alzheimer’s disease is frightening, especially if you have a close family member with the condition. Researchers are looking for faster detection, better treatment and perhaps even a cure. Unfortunately, at the moment, there’s not much that can be done to stop Alzheimer’s and reverse the damage.

Despite no cure, there’s no reason to feel helpless against Alzheimer’s. Leading a healthy, active lifestyle that includes friends and hobbies is the best way to protect yourself. That’s why the Six Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention was developed. The goal of these six pillars is to keep your brain healthy and strong so that it’s less likely to experience cognitive decline.

Let’s explore the six pillars and what they mean for the future outlook of your cognitive health.

Pillar 1: Regular Exercise

You may get tired of hearing your doctors recommend daily exercise, but being physically active is vital. Research shows that regular physical activity can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 50%. Exercise is important because it stimulates the brain, maintaining old connections and growing new ones.

Pillar 2: Social Engagement

Humans are social creatures, and while you don’t need to be the life of the party, you still need face-to-face interaction with others. If you have friendships, do your part in maintaining the relationships. Or, consider growing your circle of friends by volunteering, joining a club or taking group classes at your park district.

Pillar 3: Healthy Diet

You are what you eat. Inflammation and insulin resistance inhibit communication between brain cells. Research also shows a connection between metabolic disorders and the signal processing systems. Eat foods that will reduce inflammation in the body (fruits, vegetables, omega-3s) and avoid sugar and trans fats.

Pillar 4: Mental Stimulation

By challenging your brain and learning new things, you can keep your brain strong. In one study, older adults who received mental training sessions improved daily functioning and showed long-term improvements 10 years later. Some of the best activities include strategy games, puzzles, riddles, memorization and taking up new hobbies.

Pillar 5: Quality Sleep

Research shows a link between sleep problems and higher levels of beta-amyloid, a sticky protein that clogs the brain and interferes with sleep. And, as you know, sleep is important for thinking, mood and flushing out brain toxins. If you’re not sleeping well, talk to your doctor. You may need to be tested for sleep apnea.

Pillar 6: Stress Management

Chronic stress takes a toll on the brain, leading to shrinkage in key areas. Fortunately, stress management techniques can help keep the brain healthy and stress-free. Simple exercises such as meditation and deep breathing work wonders when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Also take time to have some fun in your life. Play outside with the grandkids. Watch the stars at night.

These six pillars allow you to take control of your health and decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.