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The 5 ways to avoid Alzheimer’s

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There are five scientifically proven ways to reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s disease—and deep breathing exercises is the latest to join the list

It takes around 20 years after brain changes begin before the signs of Alzheimer’s disease—such as memory loss and confusion—start to appear. The vast majority of cases are among over-75s, which suggests there’s plenty we can be doing now to reverse the disease’s neuron-damaging processes before it’s too late.

The latest is perhaps the simplest of them all: breathing. Yes, taking deep breaths every day for 20 minutes reduces levels of amyloid-beta peptides in the blood that eventually deposit as plaques in brain tissue and seem to play a part in Alzheimer’s.

Researchers from the University of California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology tested the effectiveness of breathing with two groups, young and old, who were instructed to breathe deeply for 20 minutes twice a day for four weeks. The amyloid beta levels had dropped in both groups, and it’s all to do with our heart rate.1

During the exercises, the volunteers’ heart rate variability (HRV) increased, and that affects the nervous system and the way the brain produces proteins and clears them away. While we’re awake and being active, we use our sympathetic—”fight or flight”—nervous system, and the intervals between heartbeats are relatively constant. But as we get older, our ability to access our parasympathetic system—the “rest and digest” system that helps us relax—decreases, and our HRV decreases with it. We lose much of the ability to alternate between the two systems that we had when we were younger or more fit.

Aside from deep breathing, there’s more you can be doing. Amyloid plaques can also be reduced by eating seven servings of green leafy vegetables every week, say researchers from the University of Chicago.2

Researchers in China agree. They have concluded that a healthy diet—consuming the recommended amounts of at least seven of 12 food groups, including fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, legumes, nuts and tea—is the single best way to reduce your Alzheimer’s risk, followed by regularly engaging your brain, exercising and having an active social life.3


Start these good habits today to avoid Alzheimer’s tomorrow

1. Breathe

Inhale for a count of five. Exhale for a count of five. Repeat for 20 minutes every day, twice a day.

2. Eat well

Eat seven servings of green leafy vegetables every week and follow a healthy diet, consuming the recommended amounts of at least seven of 12 food groups—fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy, salt, oil, eggs, cereals, legumes, nuts and teas

3. Stay sharp

Engage your brain, such as reading or playing games like Sudoku or Wordle every day

4. Exercise

Be active every day, such as taking a brisk 20-minute walk and doing household tasks

6. Be social

Regularly meet with friends and family


  1. Scientific Reports, 2023; 13: 3967
  2. Neurology, 2023; 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207176
  3. BMJ, 2023; 380: e072691
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