Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia characterized by diminished cognitive functions leading to loss of independence by the patient. Besides affecting the patient mentally, the condition also causes physical issues like loss of mobility.
Alzheimer’s is progressive in nature, so the symptoms and their severity worsen with time. However, the first initial symptoms can appear almost a decade before the condition becomes move evident. This means that there is a lot of time in between that one could utilize to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. The problem is that these symptoms are typically very mild and could easily go unnoticed. Therefore, by the time one becomes aware of their presence, the condition is usually at a very advanced stage.
Scientists don’t fully understand how to treat Alzheimer’s. They also don’t know enough to provide a specific prevention strategy for Alzheimer’s. However, multiple studies have identified some of the key risk factors associated with the disease. Using this information, we can come up with some strategies that can reduce the likelihood or risk of getting Alzheimer’s. It’s not a full-proof prevention effort, but it’s a significant step towards supporting a healthy aging process free of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
Here are six ways you can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease:
- Regular Exercises
Studies show that regular exercises can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and also slow down the progression of the disease in people who already have it. The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation reported that physical exercises could lower the risk of this and other forms of dementia by as much as 50%.
How does that happen? Regular physical exercises stimulate the brain helping it to maintain and boost brain connections. It also promotes the formation of new connections. This allows your brain to continue functioning normally even as you age.
What exercises should you do? You’ll need a combination of different types of exercises. You need some good cardio, strength, and resistance training. Cardio and strength exercises reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s because cardiovascular diseases have been linked to Alzheimer’s and another form of dementia known as vascular dementia. Resistance training should boost your muscle mass, which helps pump blood to the brain.
You should try to spare at least 150 minutes of physical exercise each week. You could split your training sessions to cater for all the different exercises you need.
Another very useful exercise is on balance and coordination. A good form of coordination exercise is Yoga.
- Maintain a Healthy Diet
There is a strong connection between Alzheimer’s and metabolic disorders. Insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress can damage brain cells and affect signal processing systems, thereby increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, you need to adjust your diet and eating habits to reduce the risk of inflammation, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress.
How do you do that? Start by reducing your sugar intake. Cut down on white rice, white flour, pasta, and other refined carbohydrates and sugary foods to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of inflammation in the brain.
What Should you eat? Eat more veggies and fruits. This provides much-needed antioxidant protection. Add more cruciferous vegetables, green leafy vegetables, and berries to your diet. You should also eat more foods rich in omega-3 fats. Eat cold-water fish like tuna, salmon, and trout.
Studies show that Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia significantly. This means eating lots of fish, whole grain, beans, vegetables, and olive oil. You should also avoid taking processed foods as much as possible. Finally, make a point of limiting take-outs and instead cook your meals at home.
Excessive use of alcohol increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. So, limit your alcohol, and if you can, stick to moderate consumption of red wine only.
- Improve your Vascular Health
Improving your vascular health doesn’t just safeguard you from cardiovascular diseases, it also lowers your risk of getting both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, the two most common types of dementia.
How do you achieve this? The first thing is ensuring that you make important lifestyle changes by following the two recommendations made above, i.e., exercising regularly and sticking to a healthy diet. Remember to reduce the intake of caffeine and salt. Stop smoking and maintain low cholesterol levels.
- Increase Mental Exercises
Mental stimulation not only improves existing neurons and pathways, but it can actually increase the development of new ones. You need to challenge your brain with puzzles and tasks as much as possible by learning new things and taking part in different mental games.
How exactly do you challenge your brain? Try and learn how to play a new music instrument, learn a new language, play puzzle games, do crossword puzzles, read magazines and newspapers, take up bridge, etc. The opportunities are literally endless. Many such games and puzzles are also available online, so you shouldn’t have any problems finding a new challenge every day. Make it a habit and remember, the harder the puzzles, the greater the benefits.
- Increase your Social Engagement
Seniors who increase their social engagements are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who don’t. Maintaining face-to-face interactions with new friends helps engage the brain and is generally healthier than living a quiet, isolated life.
So, how can you increase your social engagements at an older age? Start by trying to know your neighbors. Do some research and find volunteer programs, social groups, social clubs, and senior/community centers near your area. Maintaining social networks is just as important as developing them, so make sure to plan face-to-face meetings or dates with your friends as frequently as possible. You should be interacting with a friend at least once every week.
- Stress Management
Chronic stress can dramatically increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and other medical conditions. Therefore, It’s in your best interest to manage your stress as much as possible.
How do you manage stress? One of the many ways of managing stress is through relaxation. Relaxation techniques like Yoga, reflection, meditation, and restorative breathing can help you control your stress. This is not as easy as it sounds, though. You probably won’t be able to manage your stress the first time you try meditation. Fortunately, with regular practice and effort, you’ll soon learn how to use these techniques to bring some peace into your life.
Another way to manage your stress is through prayer if you are spiritual. This can help you reduce stress and achieve inner peace.
Finally, maintain a good sense of humor and engage in fun activities. For instance, you could find a social club near you and learn how to play a new instrument with other people. In doing so, you will be developing a social engagement network, exercising your brain by learning a new instrument and having fun by learning in the midst of other friends.
You can also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by getting quality sleep and preventing head trauma by wearing protective gear when doing activities like riding a bike.
In the end, some risk factors of Alzheimer’s are beyond your control, e.g., genetics and age. Nonetheless, by practicing the above strategies, you’ll drastically reduce the risk of developing the condition. And if you already have Alzheimer’s disease, the strategies will slow its progression and allow you to live a more comfortable and independent life for longer.