8 Ways to Combat Alzheimer’s Disease
We live in an exciting time for Alzheimer’s research, awareness, and advocacy. Considering just 25 years ago Alzheimer’s disease was taboo and widely stigmatized, there are new developments made regularly toward understanding how the disease develops and what interventions can slow the process. Global understanding is at an all-time high!
While there is a genetic component to Alzheimer’s disease that can increase your risk, research shows people can reduce their risk of memory impairment by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Treating our bodies right by fueling with nutritious foods and exercising our bodies and minds can make a huge difference when it comes to our brain health.
Protect Your Head
Certain types of head injuries can increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other dementias as you age. Doctors classify traumatic brain injuries (TBI) as mild, moderate or severe depending on if the individual loses consciousness, how long they remain unconscious, and the severity of the symptoms. Moderate and severe TBIs increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Protect your head by using helmets when riding a bike and wear a seat belt in a vehicle. If you’re a little wobbly on your feet, invest in a cane or walker to help you keep your balance. Fifty-six thousand seniors are hospitalized annually with head injuries sustained in falls. Some measures to reduce the risk of falls are:
- Using a walker
- Having vision checked regularly
- Avoiding medications that make you dizzy or off balance
- Keeping the household clear of hazards such as loose rugs, clutter, and poor lighting.
If lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma can’t convince you to quit smoking, maybe this will. Studies show that people who smoke are at a much higher risk of developing dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have proven that kicking the smoking habit can reduce the risk of dementia to the same as those who don’t smoke.
Sweat It Out
Prioritize your physical health! Regular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain reduces the risk of cognitive decline. Adults ages 18-64 should be exercising for 2.5 hours per week. Even low-impact exercise has a positive effect on your overall health.
Catch Some Zzz’s
A proper night’s sleep is imperative to protecting your brain’s health. Adults ages 26 to 64 should be getting between seven to nine hours a night, and those 65 and older should try to get seven to eight hours. Not only can lack of sleep negatively impact you, but oversleeping can also hurt brain health. Those who sleep more than nine hours per night increase their risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Limit disruptions as you sleep. Drown out noise with a white noise machine, or sleep-friendly music. If you’re sensitive to light, consider blackout curtains or an eye mask. Disrupted sleep contributes to poor memory and cognitive decline. Talk to your doctor if you’re having a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep.
Load up on those leafy greens and veggies! A balanced diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in fat will help to reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Researchers from Rush University in Chicago created the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet by combining elements from the Mediterranean Diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets. They found that seniors following the MIND diet reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by 53 percent. Even those who took a more lackadaisical approach to the diet reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by 35 percent.
The MIND diet is made up of ten healthy food groups, and five unhealthy food groups:
- Leafy green and other vegetables
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Butter or stick margarine
- Fast or fried foods
- Pastries and sweets
- Red meat
More good news? Dark chocolate is also considered a memory-boosting superfood.
Challenging your brain with stimulating activities can have short and long-term benefits for your brain health. Learning an instrument, taking a cooking class, and even calculating the tip for your meal in your head can help sharpen your mental skills.
If you’ve been interested in going back to school, your brain will thank you. Research of 872 brain donors following their death found that higher education levels correlated to greater brain volume and reduced incidence of dementia at the time of death. The study also found that while higher education didn’t protect the brain against changes from dementia, it did slow the cognitive decline.
Focus on Your Mental Health
Seniors with dementia often experience depression and anxiety as they cognitively decline. But do mental health disorders put you at higher risk for developing dementia? According to some studies, yes. Researchers found that depression doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Significant anxiety in midlife also increases the chances of developing dementia later in life. If you haven’t sought treatment for mental health disorders, chat with your physician about your options.
Social engagement has positive effects on both mental health and dementia. Interacting with others can help someone feel a sense of belonging, increasing their self-worth. Group gatherings, particularly those on a regular schedule, have a high impact on memory, strengthening the connection to time and place. Socializing also helps seniors maintain focus. Did you know older adults have a hard time transitioning between daydreaming and concentration? Keeping the brain engaged will make the shift less complicated, which is vital for performing daily tasks.
Curious about how Aegis Living prioritizes nutrition, brain games, and physical activity? Visit your nearest community to check out our menus, activities, and more!
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