9 things you didn't realise could increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease

In the past, researchers connected Alzheimer’s, a leading cause of dementia, to dental fillings, flu shots, aluminium cans and artificial sweeteners. Luckily for fans of diet soda, none of those things have been shown to really increase risk of disease.

[Read more: Fiona Phillips: ‘I wake in the night with anxiety over Alzheimer’s’]

However, there are several factors that make you more likely to contract Alzheimer’s. Some may surprise you.

1. Age

We can’t stop time, but it is important to note the link between getting older and dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK calls age: “The biggest factor in developing late onset Alzheimer’s.”

2. Genes

Researchers have determined several genes associated with Alzheimer’s, meaning that family history can increase your risk. However, in many cases, a family member with the disease only means a ‘slightly higher’ risk of developing it.

3. Lack of exercise

Some of the factors that increase risk of Alzheimer’s are the same as those for heart disease. So, exercising regularly can help reduce risk. The Alzheimer’s Society recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week. Cycling or swimming are great, but even going for a walk could help keep your brain healthy.

[Read more: 7 foods to help against Akzheimer’s]

4. Diet

Eating well is as important to your brain as it is to your body. Replacing sugar and red meat with fish, fruits and vegetables can help mitigate your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Since being overweight can also raise your risk, a proper diet is even more important.

5. Alcohol and cigarettes

Doctors now recommend people consume no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, and that those units are spread across three or more days. Cigarettes, they recommend, should be cut out entirely. Following these rules can help prevent a range of diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

6. Not stimulating your brain

Stimulating your mind daily can help stave off dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society suggests reading, doing puzzles, playing cards or learning a new language to keep your mind strong.

[Read more: 9 helpful hints for people with Alzheimer’s]

7. Stress

New research from the University of Wisconsin suggests traumatic experiences can ‘age’ your brain. The study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, identifies 27 experiences that could contribute to dementia risk, which range from a death in the family, to bankruptcy, and even dropping out of school. The damage can show itself years after the stressful event, and the study claims each event ages the brain by up to four years.

8. Head Injuries

Head injuries, especially repeated concussions, are linked to a higher risk of dementia.  Wear a helmet while skiing, skateboarding, biking, or doing other sports that may lead to head injury. For older adults, falls are the biggest concern, but that can be helped by having handrails, lighting, and keeping frequently used items within reach.

9. Social activity

Maintaining an active social life can keep your brain active and fit. Regular social events can help prevent dementia from developing, and improve conditions for those already diagnosed. Even speaking with a taxi driver or sales assistant can help.

Are you worried about developing Alzheimer’s? Tell us about it in the comments below

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