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Study: 4 Or 5 Healthy Lifestyle Practices May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer's, Other Dementias

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There are things you can to do help prevent Alzheimer's and other dementias.

With 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer's, anything that can be done do to ease that huge healthcare burden is important.

That number is expected to grow to 14 million by 2050.

CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez said his father died with Alzheimer's, so he's like most people who want to do whatever they can to stave off the memory-robbing disease. It turns out there are some lifestyle changes that can help.

Looking through photo albums means a lot to Kristen and Glenn Hemanes. Kristen's father recently passed away from Alzheimer's disease.

"It's draining for the families and it's just such a debilitating disease for everybody," Kristen said.

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Her husband, Glenn, lost his grandfather to Alzheimer's. With that family history, the couple wants to try to lower their chances of developing the disease.

"It's one of the worst things to experience, because you lose that connection with somebody," Glenn said.

Now, new research from the Alzheimer's Association International Conference suggests adopting four or five healthy lifestyle practices may reduce risk for Alzheimer's and other dementias by 60 percent. The study focused on healthy diet, moderate to vigorous physical activity, not smoking, light-to-moderate drinking, and engaging in activities that stimulate the mind.

"Everyday activities can really impact your risk of Alzheimer's disease and these are things that everybody can do every day," said Dr. Maria Carrillo, chief science officer for the Alzheimer's Association.

A separate study shows healthy habits may counteract a person's genetic risk for dementia. Researchers looked at people that had the same genetic risks, but different lifestyles.

"People that had a healthy lifestyle actually had less chance of developing dementia. That's really exciting because it means there is something you can do today even to overcome what you've inherited," Dr. Carrillo said.

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Kristen and Glenn are already eating right and getting plenty of exercise.

"It started several years ago for me, but it has changed even more so now," Kristen said.

"I think it's definitely one motivator of many that motivates me to stay healthy," Glenn added.

Do those anti-Alzheimer's recommendations sound familiar? They are a lot like what the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association have been recommending for years.

It's true. All those lifestyle habits help prevent heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Remember, what's good for your heart is good for your brain.

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