It's been over 100 years since Dr. Alois Alzheimer identified and studied the characteristics of the disorder we now call Alzheimer's disease. While there is no cure, we now know more than ever about the disease, how it progresses, who is at risk and even what steps might help us avoid it later in life.

Alzheimer's is a brain disorder that eventually devastates a person's memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities. People with Alzheimer's can undergo a complete change in personality and behavior. Those with a parent, brother, sister or child with the disease are more likely to develop it, as are those with a specific gene.

But by far the greatest risk factor is age. The risk of developing Alzheimer's doubles for every five years of life after age 65, but that doesn't mean you should wait to think about this disease until then. Keeping your brain healthy as you age may reduce your risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

Make brain-healthy choices

The Alzheimer's Association recommends the following brain-healthy choices as possible ways to reduce your risk of the disease.

  • Keep your mind active - be a lifetime learner, attend plays and take classes, read, write and do crossword and other memory puzzles.
  • Develop and maintain social ties - keeping in touch with others is fun and it reduces stress and protects the brain.
  • Stay physically active - exercise is not just good for the body, it's good for the brain too - it increases blood flow to the brain and helps new brain cells develop.
  • Eat for your brain - a diet that's low in cholesterol and saturated fat is also good for the brain. Protect brain cells with dark-skinned vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and red pepper, cold water fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, and nuts high in vitamin E.

For more information, call Riverside Community Hospital at (951) 788-3463.