ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - As people consider their 2019 New Year's resolutions, the Alzheimer's Association is encouraging people to include brain health.

Research suggests healthy lifestyle changes may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. The association stresses the importance of promoting brain health through its 10 Ways to Love Your Brain campaign. The list includes eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising.

If you're wondering if these steps can really help to prevent dementia or slow down the effects of Alzheimer's disease, one Albemarle County woman reassures you they can.

Hitting the gym and getting a good workout is part of Mary Ann Leeper’s daily routine: "Exercise, exercise, exercise so that you have to get your heart rate up to push that oxygen up there into the brain," she said.

Talking with Leeper, you'd never guess she's fighting a deadly disease. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease two years ago.

"One day I was driving my car, and I didn’t know how to turn it off, and that was a shock to me," Leeper recalled. "I'm a scientist, and so of course I had to burrow in and find out what was going on in my brain, and what does it mean now and into the future."

Doctors suggested Leeper focus on five of the Alzheimer's Association's 10 Ways: exercising, getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy, reading, and socializing.

Leeper has only lost about 10 percent of her brain capacity, compared to the 60 percent doctors though she would have lost by now.

"The evidence is becoming stronger to support that lifestyle choices will help to protect your brain," said Central and Western Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association CEO and Interim President Ellen Phipps.

Phipps says Leeper's routine is something everyone should start right now.

“What's really recommended is a combination of things. So not just pick one thing on the 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, but the more things that you can do, the combined effort is what's going to really help," she said.

“If you're scared, fair enough, I'm scared. But share the scared-ness, share with your friends, share with your family, don't hold back," said Leeper.

If you or someone you know is concerned about Alzheimer's disease or memory loss, the Alzheimer's Association offers general information sessions and one-on-one consultations for patients and families.