Tips for Alzheimer’s PreventionNovember 2, 2022
The odds are high that you know someone who has faced or currently is facing, Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, more than 6.2 million seniors currently live with the disease. That number is projected to more than double by 2060. We must know what the disease entails, its risk factors, and potential avenues for prevention.
While these are important details to familiarize yourself with all year long, there isn’t a better time to push that education further than November. This month is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Use this month to make sure you are familiar with these factors that may lead to the disease, and tips for Alzheimer’s prevention.
Risk factors for Alzheimer’s
Even with years of research by some of the best scientists in the world, we, unfortunately, cannot say exactly what the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is. However, the research hasn’t been for anything. Strong correlations have been found between the condition and certain risk factors. The primary connection? Poor health choices.
Proper blood flow is crucial to brain health, so it’s no wonder chronic conditions like blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol have an impact on one’s brain health over time. Studies show that as many as 80% of individuals with Alzheimer’s also have cardiovascular disease.
There are no concrete answers as to why this may be the case—however, it is common knowledge that the heart supplies the blood and oxygen the brain needs to survive. Vascular diseases can exacerbate the problems brought on by the brain’s already existing plaques. As a result, taking steps to improve one’s cardiovascular health may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.
To reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease:
- Stop smoking. Smoking leads to poor circulation of blood, as well as limited oxygen to the lungs.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Drinking too much too often exposes your brain to high levels of harmful chemicals. Avoid drinking more than one drink a day.
- Don’t skip doctor’s appointments. Keep up with any scheduled doctor’s appointment to make sure your health stays in top shape.
A sedentary lifestyle is precisely as it sounds: a lifestyle with little to no physical activity. It also includes activities that require little energy while awake, such as long periods of watching television or even taking the elevator instead of the stairs.
As we age, we may have more physical limitations than we once did. While this is a natural occurrence, older adults should do what they can to stay active. This could mean going on regular walks or practicing bodyweight exercises while watching the television.
Loneliness and isolation
Studies show that our social connections make a large impact on our cognitive decline. A stimulating conversation may help strengthen the neural connections in the brain, which fights cognitive decline.
Those who are isolated from their friends and loved ones are more likely to see that decline and have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Those who struggle with mobility are unfortunately more likely to experience isolation and loneliness.
Similar to other health conditions, when depression goes untreated it can have a serious impact on your overall health—including cognitive. This being said, around 40% of Alzheimer’s patients also suffer from significant depression. It can be difficult to tell which condition led to the other.
Tips for Alzheimer’s Prevention
There is no tried and true secret to preventing Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, less than 1% of cases are associated with genetic mutations. This leads researchers to believe that certain habits and lifestyles may help lower one’s risk of developing the condition.
Diet and exercise
Heart health is essential to your brain’s health, so it’s important you treat the former right to benefit the latter. Exercise increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, positively impacting its overall health. Heart-healthy eating—which includes limited saturated fats and sugars but an increased amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains— is also shown to be brain-healthy.
Two diets, in particular, may assist in lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- The DASH diet—emphasizes vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, lean protein, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils. It limits sodium, sweets, sugary beverages, and red meats.
- The Mediterranean diet—similarly, this diet includes little red meat and focuses on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats found in nuts and olive oil.
Scientists are still actively studying why sleep is so important to our overall function. That being said, there are links between poor sleep and the development of Alzheimer’s. Some studies say that sleep flushes out the toxins in our brains, while others say poor sleep leads to the development of a sticky protein that can disrupt memory formation.
If you find you suffer from poor sleep on a regular basis, you should consider establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a bedtime ritual, and, if problems persist, getting screened for sleep apnea.
Partake in mentally stimulating activities regularly
Keeping your brain healthy isn’t just about diet and exercise. Just like when you try to lose weight, you can’t focus on diet and think that will answer all your problems—for proper brain health, you have to exercise the brain. Partaking in mentally stimulating activities regularly will help keep your mind sharp.
The phrase “mentally stimulating activities” may sound more daunting than it actually is, but it partially relates to not living a sedentary life. Instead of partaking in passive activities, like watching television, you should do activities that challenge your brain. These might include:
- Reading regularly. Any amount of reading will help, but the more complex literature you read, the better.
- Playing instruments. No matter how long you’ve been playing an instrument, there is always something new to learn. If you’ve never played, joining a class, as learning something new is always fantastic for the brain.
- Learning a new hobby. As briefly touched on above, picking up a new hobby is fantastic for forming new connections in your brain. Whether it’s art, a new language, or complex jigsaw puzzles, your brain will benefit.
- Cultivating an active social life. Quality conversation, social support, and fun group activities are great for your mental health. Organize regular get-togethers with friends and family, and consider volunteering if you are able.
Home care aides can help you stay mentally active
At-home caregivers offer assistance with personal care, medication reminders, and meal planning, but they can also act as social companions. After reading these tips for Alzheimer’s prevention, your caregiver can help you gather whatever supplies you need for your hobby and even partake in them with you. They can also assist with other brain games and activities to keep you sharp.
If you find you need assistance with some of the activities of daily living, call us at 773-274-9262 for more information on our programs.
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