Alzheimer's disease is the only one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, treated or even slowed down. The greatest risk factors -- age, genes and family history -- are beyond our control. But that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to improve your odds against cognitive decline or dementia.
A new report published in Alzheimers & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association outlines the latest evidence that certain modifiable risk factors play a role in who's most likely to develop memory and thinking problems as they age.
"There's a lot of things we don't understand about Alzheimer's disease," study co-author Heather Snyder, Ph.D., the director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer's Association, told CBS News. "We don't know the cause of Alzheimer's, we have some hints but we don't really know the cause. We also don't have a way to stop or slow the progression of the disease."
But she said research is providing more and more evidence that "brain-healthy habits" can make a difference as we age: "We talk a lot about heart-healthy habits, and it's the same kind of idea about brain-healthy habits."
The report assesses the latest science on 14 health and lifestyle risk factors that may impact the risk of cognitive decline or dementia. Cognitive decline, Snyder explains, is the mild memory loss associated with normal aging, while dementia involves "more severe memory, confusion and functioning issues" that interfere with a person's independence. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia.