Misplacing keys and glasses. Pausing to find words mid-sentence. Forgetting about an appointment. Making a wrong turn on a familiar route. Occurrences like these are often shrugged off as “senior moments.” However, a pattern of memory problems that worsens with time may be an early sign of dementia, most commonly Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is such a dreaded disease for good reasons. It’s debilitating, deadly, and has no cure so far. Currently available medications can only ease symptoms for a period of time. The disease not only slowly destroys mental functioning; it also leads to difficulty eating and moving and incontinence in the late stages. In brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease, two proteins, tau and amyloid-beta, accumulate to toxic levels. Tau forms fibrous tangles inside nerve cells, whereas amyloid-beta clumps into plaques in the spaces around the cells. These toxic deposits interfere with nerve cell communication, metabolism and repair, causing brain cells to die over time and the disease to progress.

What’s encouraging is that there are actually things you can do to help prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease. Only about one percent of Alzheimer’s cases have a definite genetic cause. Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, sleep, social connections and intellectual activity strongly influence the disease’s development. For example, the MIND diet—a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet—has been found to cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 53%. Similarly, regular aerobic exercise may reduce Alzheimer risk by as much as 50%.

Dietary supplements can make powerful additions to your Alzheimer’s defense arsenal. Research shows that certain nutrients and phytochemicals help preserve memory through a variety of mechanisms. Specifically, they can enhance vascular function, fight oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, support healthy cellular metabolism, boost nerve cell function and protect nerve cells from toxicity. In doing so, these supplements not only discourage the accumulation of toxic Alzheimer’s proteins, but also help the brain resist the toxic effects of such a buildup. Supplements that have been clinically shown to benefit Alzheimer’s disease include the following:

Vitamin EThis antioxidant vitamin is a fat-soluble free radical fighter. It protects nerve cells in the brain from oxidative damage, including that from amyloid-beta accumulation. Vitamin E has been found to reduce cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.
Alpha-GPCAlpha-GPC is the body’s preferred source of the essential nutrient choline. It’s used to produce a key neurotransmitter for memory, acetylcholine. Alpha-GPC can reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Huperzine AThis compound from the Chinese club moss inhibits the breakdown of the memory-related neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It also protects nerve cells from certain toxins. Huperzine A can improve cognitive performance in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Acetyl-L-carnitineThis amino acid takes part in energy production from fats in cells’ mitochondria, which is essential for nerve functioning. Acetyl-L-carnitine may slow cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.
DHAA long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, DHA supports and protects the fatty membranes of nerve cells as well as cardiovascular health. DHA may improve memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Panax ginsengA well-known booster of mental performance, energy and immunity, Panax ginseng has also been shown to improve cognitive abilities in Alzheimer’s patients.

When it comes to heading off Alzheimer’s disease, it’s never too soon to act. A healthy lifestyle, along with the right supplements, can offer the best chance of keeping the mind sharp for life.