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This Common Habit Makes Your Alzheimer's Risk Soar

Doctors reveal what bad lifestyle choices can lead to Alzheimer's disease. 

Nearly 6 million people live with Alzheimer's disease, which is defined as "a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks," by the National Institute on Aging. While younger people can get Alzheimer's, it is more common to start noticing signs after age 60. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, "The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060." As of now there is no cure and researchers are still learning about the various causes of the disease, but there are certain lifestyle choices that can lead to Alzheimer's. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who explained what habits can increase the risk of getting Alzheimer's. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs COVID is Hurting You—Even After a Negative Test.


Lifestyle Habits that Can Lead to Alzheimer's

Unhappy senior woman patient and psychologist

Percy Griffin, Ph.D., Director of Scientific Engagement at the Alzheimer's Association explains, "Research on lifestyle factors that affect an individual's risk for developing Alzheimer's is inconclusive. However, smoking, lack of exercise, lack of mental stimulation, not protecting your head, eating a diet poor in nutrients, poor control of blood pressure, not treating depression and lack of socializing are all habits that may contribute to higher risk."

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Binging TV

Woman Wearing Pajamas Watching TV in her Room

Dr. Sam Zand, psychiatrist and the Chief Medical Officer of Better U says "Living a passive lifestyle. Continuously binge watching television or mindlessly repeating daily tasks can slow down our brain's regenerative abilities." 

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Poor Sleep Habits

Girl in a dark room on the bed with the phone

"Staying up late on the smartphone, not taking the time to relax, and having a disruptive morning awakening can all negatively affect our brain's ability to heal and grow properly," Dr. Zand states. 

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Losing Purpose or Passion in Life

Mature woman sitting on the sofa.

According to Dr. Zand, "The widow who passed shortly after their loved one has much to do with underutilizing the brain's ability to adapt. Without any purpose, whatever that may be, our brain is uninspired and underactive."

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Age Makes a Difference

Portrait of worried senior man sitting on sofa in living room

Griffin explains, "The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is age. After age 65, the risk of Alzheimer's doubles every five years. After age 85, the risk reaches nearly one-third."

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senior woman with adult daughter at home.

"Another common risk factor is genetics," says Griffin. "Those who have a direct relative like a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer's are more likely to develop the disease. There are also risk genes that increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's, but do not guarantee it will happen. APOE-e4 is the first risk gene identified and remains the gene with strongest impact on risk. Different from risk genes, there are also deterministic genes that — while incredibly rare — guarantee that people with these genes will develop Alzheimer's."

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What Causes Alzheimer's?

Doctor examines MRI scan of head, neck and brain of patient

Griffin says, "Researchers believe there isn't a single cause of Alzheimer's disease. It likely develops from multiple factors, such as genetics, lifestyle and environment. Alzheimer's disease leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all its functions. Scientists are not absolutely sure what causes cell death and tissue loss in the Alzheimer's brain, but amyloid plaques – abnormal clusters of protein fragments outside brain cells – and tau tangles – twisted strands of another protein inside brain cells – are prime suspects." And to live your healthiest life, don't miss this life-saving advice I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You Have Cancer.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather