Brain Defense

Find out which healthy habits can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s


Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to jump by 40 percent, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, a voluntary health organization devoted to Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

To combat at-risk behaviors, professor Gary Small developed a seven-day jump-start program that he outlines in his book “The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program” (Workman, 2011). As part of the program, he advocates daily exercise, healthy eating habits, stress reduction and mental stimulation. The short program is meant to instill healthy habits for life.

“One week is not enough to protect your brain, but it does create brain healthy habits for your lifetime,” Small says. “So it’s a bit like going on a diet and losing a pound – you step on a scale and see that and that motivates you to continue.”

Small encourages people to make healthy lifestyle choices as early as possible, but recognizes that most people don’t actively change old habits until they start to show symptoms of cognitive decline. The good news is, even if you have begun to experience memory loss, you significantly can improve memory capability by making positive changes with regard to exercise, diet and brain stimulation.

A specific technique he uses to improve memory is called “look, snap, connect.” “Look” refers to focusing attention on whatever you’re hoping to remember. “Snap” refers to taking a visual snapshot of the item you’re trying to remember. “Connect” is the act of connecting the two so that they have meaning. So, let’s say you’re running an errand and need to remember to pick up eggs, stamps and shoes. You might imagine yourself holding a large egg with a stamp on it that drops and gets yolk on your shoe, Small says. The more absurd, the easier it will be to remember.

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