Tips to Fend off Alzheimer’s Disease

WHAT YOU CAN DO: While there is no cure yet for Alzheimer’s, here are some ways to reduce the risk of developing the disease.

“A lot of people feel that there’s nothing we can do [about Alzheimer’s],” says Robert S. Wilson, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center since it opened in 1985. “We don’t have a cure, but we do have treatments and ways to prevent complications and crises.” Dr. Julie Schneider suggests that simple lifestyle changes (to diet and exercise regimens) may help reduce the risk of developing the disease. “If you keep your brain and your body healthy,” she says, “you’re less likely to get Alzheimer’s.” A few other suggestions from Rush specialists:

Don’t skip your annual physical. People wait too long to see their primary-care doctor about memory loss, says Wilson. “People think it’s a normal part of aging. It’s not.”

Stay mentally active. Doing crossword puzzles and reading books can delay the onset of symptoms, says Wilson. “Having a cognitively active lifestyle tends to compress the part of your life that you spend in a demented state.”

Build and maintain friendships. Rush studies have shown that socially active people are less likely to experience a decline in cognitive and motor skills. And corny as it may sound, it helps to have a reason to be alive. “Can we get purpose in life in a bottle and take it as a pill?” asks David Bennett, the center’s director, only half-joking.

Join a book group. “It’s one of the most effective things to do,” says Wilson, since it promotes both cognitive and social well-being.

Sign up for studies. Look under “Clinical Trials” at rush.edu/radc for links to the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative and ASPREE. You can also call the clinical trials number: 312-942-8264.

Read up on the disease. Check out information on the National Institute on Aging’s website. (Rush collaborated on the organization’s manual for caregivers.) Also visit the Alzheimer’s Association website.

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