Here are some eye-opening statistics about Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. in 2017, courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Someone develops Alzheimer’s disease every 66 seconds. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. That number could more than triple by 2050.

One out of every three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of the death in our country.

The number of deaths from heart disease, the top cause of death, has dropped 14 percent since 2000. Deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased 89 percent.

Most people chalk up Alzheimer’s to bad genes and bad luck.

How to stay healthy

Scientific research suggests insulin resistance, vitamin D deficiency (often caused by lack of sun exposure), environmental toxins, lack of exercise, hypertension and heart disease all can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. These risk factors are largely based on lifestyle choices, not genetics.

Let’s examine what Alzheimer’s disease really is.

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease. That means brain cells gradually die, the total brain size shrinks, and remaining brain cells become disconnected. Alzheimer’s typically starts with short-term memory issues and becomes more severe with disorientation, depression, anxiety, mood and behavioral swings, confusion and difficulty speaking. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

Once a neurodegenerative disease sets in, there’s not much than can be done. However, we can slow the rate of dying brain cells by making better lifestyle choices.

Exercise your brain

Start by exercising your brain. That three-pound miracle of God between your ears needs to be maintained just like the rest of your body. Take a class. Learn how to play an instrument. Do puzzles. Learn a new language. Then get plenty of sleep so the brain can naturally detoxify.

Avoid inflammatory foods

Avoid heavily processed, inflammatory foods and beverages with added sugar and artificial sweeteners. Focus on a natural, plant-based diet and find out about nutritional supplements.

For example, scientific studies have linked increased magnesium levels to a decrease in Alzheimer’s symptoms. Talk to your health care provider about this option.

Intermittent fasting is a relatively recent technique that can help your body burn fat and correct insulin resistance issues. Always consult your physician before attempting any fasting regimen. A functional medicine practitioner or nutritionist can recommend proper clinical nutrition protocols.

Avoid environmental toxins

Avoid environmental toxins such as mercury and aluminum that are found in common household products. Replace plastics with glass containers. Detoxification is critical to maintaining hormonal balance, reducing inflammation, and slowing the neurodegenerative process.

Statin drugs

Recent scientific studies have linked statin drugs, which are often prescribed for high cholesterol, to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, high cholesterol can be treated through proper nutrition and customized exercise programs without affecting the brain. It’s worth discussing these lifestyle options with your physician.

None of these recommendations have anything to do with genetics. They have everything to do with making smarter lifestyle choices.

We can start making a difference today, by becoming better informed about our health and making better choices for ourselves and our families. Instead of waiting for a cure, let’s take control of our health.

Dr. James Proodian, DC, CCSP, CSCS is the founder of Proodian Healthcare and Natural Healthcare Center in New Jersey.

Dr. James Proodian, USA TODAY Network