A lot of people have relatives who have been victims of Alzheimer’s disease. A great percentage of those who suffer the affliction are those who are 65 of age and above. It often becomes a burden to the children who have to give special care to their afflicted parents. It’s a disease that can strike fear in all of us and the worse thing about Alzheimer’s is that there is no known cure although there are available treatments to slow down its progression.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia. The latter is a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long-term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember that is great enough to affect a person’s daily functioning. About 60-80% of dementia cases are of the Alzheimer’s form. In older days, dementia has been a scourge to the aged because there is not much to be done to alleviate the conditions of those who suffer. They were literally losing their minds. Thank God for the present, as research has found ways to slow down the progress of Alzheimer’s. Studies have also discovered the factors that can raise or diminish the risks of contracting Alzheimer’s disease.
Some reports state that a regular exercise routine can decrease the risk of contracting Alzheimer’s by as much as 50%. Also, studies concluded that the effects of the disease can be slowed down on people who have begun to show cognitive issues. Exercise protects not only those with Alzheimer’s but other forms of dementia too. Exercising can serve as a stimulus to the brain’s capacity to maintain any old connections and make some new ones as well.
Make Exercise Part of One’s Daily or Weekly Routine. If possible, one should involve himself with intense workouts for about 2-3 hours each week. Include in the exercise regimen both strength and cardio training. But don’t do it all too abruptly. For beginners, one can start with swimming and walking exercises.
Go to the Gym and Start Pumping up Those Muscles. This can be achieved through moderate-impact resistance and weight training. Remember that in doing these, one will not only start to build muscle mass. He will also be maintaining his brain health. Those 65 and over should start including 2 or 3 strength sessions in their weekly workouts as these will reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s by as much as half.
As People Grow Older, the Sense of Coordination and Balance Starts to Weaken. Older people aren’t as agile as they used to be. Sometimes, people can slip and stumble or fall on their heads uncontrollably. Such incidents can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia. There are exercises that can help improve our balance and coordination in order to avoid spills. Most popular among these disciplines are Tai Chi, yoga or even simple exercises with balance balls.
When we are facing a choice of involving ourselves in exercise to diminish the risks of Alzheimer’s, we could often time be intimidated, especially if we have lived an awfully inactive existence. But remember there is very little choice. One will need to exercise, even a little physical exertion is better than not having any at all. Start with the basics which could already do wonders for one’s health. Gradually incorporate into the routine exercises that can build one’s self-confidence and momentum. It will take patience and determination to transform the physical routine into a habit. After about a month or so, doing the exercise routine may start to feel more natural. Missing a session will even make one feel there is something missing for the day.
Follow a Healthy Diet
All of us should know that diabetes has its association with Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, some have referred Alzheimer’s as the “diabetes of the brain.” This is because the insulin resistance and inflammation brought about by diabetes injure the neurons, thus, inhibiting communication between the person’s brain cells. Many studies have indeed linked the signal processing systems with metabolic disorders. If adjustments were made on one’s eating habits, there can be a reduction of inflammations which can protect the brain.
Reduce Sugar Intake. There are foods that may lead to spikes in the levels of blood sugar and can cause damage to the brain through inflammations. Such foods should be taken off one’s list to ensure diabetes won’t set in. These foods include sugary foods, refined carbs, pasta, white rice, and the like. Read the labels on food products as there may be hidden sugars and ingredients that can be harmful to the health.
Try a Mediterranean Diet. Most of those who live around the Mediterranean Sea seems to be healthier. This is because their diets consist of beans, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and fish. And they aren’t too keen on processed foods. Sticking to a Mediterranean diet can significantly lower the risk of cognitive deterioration as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
Stay Away from Trans Fats. This type of fat can be very dangerous to brain health as they can produce free-radicals and cause inflammations. Such fats are found mostly in fast foods, fried, packaged, and processed foods. Also, anything that may contain partially hydrogenated oils, even though the label claims that they are trans-fat-free.
Get a Lot of Omega-3 Fats. Studies have indicated that the DHA in these fats can prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by lowering beta-amyloid plaque. The most common sources of omega-3 fats are cold-water fish and seaweed. One can also have his RDA of omega-3 fats through food supplements.
Eat a Lot of Fresh Vegetables and Fruits. There are many nutrients found in fresh vegetables and fruits with plenty of health benefits. Most of these contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all essential for healthy living. Stock up on leafy vegetables, cruciferous veggies, berries, and more to reduce the likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s.
Have a Cup of Tea Each Day. The contents found in several types of teas can enhance mental alertness, memory, and slow down the brain’s aging. Oolong and white tea, in particular, can promote brain health. Coffee too can contain health benefits but not as potent as tea.
Choose Home Cooked Meals More. Cooking meals at home will ensure that one will always be eating wholesome and fresh meals. Furthermore, one will have control over the healthy ingredients he wishes to add to his recipes. Cook healthy by choosing foods that have nutrients which are brain-healthy and are low in unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt. And of course, no need for additives.
Some Supplements Can Help Prevent Alzheimer’s. There are now supplements that you can take that can help in preserving brain health. Many believe these supplements have their benefits in preventing or slowing down the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Consult with a physician about any possible interactions with medication when planning to take supplements.
Stay Socially Active
As social animals, not one of us wants to be alone. We need to communicate with other people to keep our brain healthy. A brain in isolation would fall into an Alzheimer’s trap, especially in the later years. Make it a priority to maintain a strong network of acquaintances.
We aren’t talking about being the center of attention in gatherings. Plain and meaningful conversations with people who care about a person and vice-versa are good enough. It makes one feel good if somebody listens to his thoughts as he can also listen to them. As we get older and everybody starts to leave, don’t despair. One can always reconnect with old friends or make new ones. The main point here is to keep the mind busy without falling into solitude. Here are some tips to make new friends:
- Do volunteer work
- Join a social group or club where one can share the same interests.
- Visit the local community center or senior’s center.
- Get involved with group classes such as some gym classes or even a community college.
- Reach out through e-mail or over the phone.
- Connect with others, either old or new acquaintances, through social networks.
- Get acquainted with the neighbors.
- Make regular dates with friends.
- Get out more often. See a movie, visit a museum, take a walk in the park, and more.
Stay Mentally Active Too
Those who keep on meeting new challenges in life by continuously learning new things have a lesser likelihood of being candidates for Alzheimer’s disease. The brain needs constant problems to solve and if one remains idle for too long, the brain stagnates. A study showed that older people who received some mental training not only enhanced their cognitive functions in their daily activities but also showed long-term improvements after ten years. Get into activities that involve multiple tasks, communication, organizing, and interactions. These will ensure the best protection against brain stagnation. Make it a point to stimulate the brain every day by engaging in activities that will require the brain to function:
Learn New Things. There’s so much in life one may have missed and at this stage, it’s best to go back and meet these new challenges. Learn a new language, a new instrument, how to sew or paint, or surf the internet for some new challenges. The point here is not just to learn new things but to enjoy oneself. If one wants to get social, sign up with a new class that he is interested in. Then he can make a schedule to meet with people. The greater the newness and complexity of the new skill, the greater its benefit will be.
Raise the Bar Existing Activities. At times, especially for older people, learning new things could no longer arouse enthusiasm. New things no longer pause a challenge but more of a burden. In such cases, the person can always revert to the skills that he is already acquainted with or has a great interest in. For instance, learning to play a new musical instrument cannot get the person’s attention. But if he is already a master at playing the piano, he may learn new pieces or improve on his favorite one.
Practice Memorization. Even plainly memorizing things can keep the mind busy. If a person wasn’t good at geography in his younger years, now is the time to learn about the subject. Memorize and start with simple subjects. Or one can become innovative by making his own patterns and rhymes to strengthen his memory. Learning is never too late and at the same time, it can sharpen one’s memory.
Play a Lot of Puzzles and Games. Try some games that can challenge the brain. Strategy games and brain teasers provide some mental workout by building the ability to create and retain the cognitive associations. Simple crossword puzzles, number games, chess, checkers, cards, scrabble, and more are good exercises for the brain.
Practice the 5 W’s. Try doing some detective work even on simple problems at home or at work. This usually involves the 5 W’s: Who, What, Where, When and Why. Capturing details in problem-solving can keep the neurons busy in search of solutions.
Choose the Road Less Traveled. This one is interesting. Do things the unconventional way. If a person is right-handed, use the left. Rearrange the library this time by author and not by title. Eat food with a fork instead of the usual spoon. All these new habits will create new pathways in the brain.
Learn How to Manage Stress Better
Always keep this in mind, especially for those who worry too much. Chronic or persistent stress can make the brain work harder and will function less effectively. This can lead to the shrinkage in the memory area of the brain thus increasing the risk of getting Alzheimer’s. Some simple stress management exercises can lessen the harmful effects of constant stress:
Breathe. Take deep abdominal breaths. Inhale slowly, tuck in the abdomen, pause for a few moments, then release. This type of restorative breathing is effective, powerful, simple, and best of all, it’s free.
Schedule Relaxation Activities Each Day. Control stress by engaging in regular relaxing activities. Make this a priority in one’s daily routines. A walk in the park, reading a good book, listening to soothing music, spending time with family, yoga, a soothing bath, and more. All these will definitely make anyone relax.
Encourage Inner Peace. If one is a religious person, he may notice the calming effect of a church visit. If church visits aren’t a person’s cup of tea, try regular meditations, reflection, prayers, and even other religious practices. These can help against the damaging effects of daily stress.
Prioritize Fun. All work can increase the stress levels in a person’s brain. Always find time to do some leisure activities and give the brain a break. How about spending some time on the hammock just to while away the time and stress?
Maintain a Sense of Humor. Anything that could give a person a good laugh is good enough to fight stress. Spend a night out with friends, watch a comedy movie, and other fun activities. They say laughter is the best medicine and this is definitely true.
Get Enough Sleep
Studies have shown that those who suffer from Alzheimer’s usually also have insomnia or some sleep-related problems. More recent studies have also shown that interrupted sleep isn’t just an Alzheimer symptom, it’s also a potential risk factor. In these studies, there’s proof that associated poor sleep with high levels of the protein beta-amyloid. This is a brain-clogging protein that’s sticky and can interfere with the sleep cycle, especially when the person is experiencing deep-sleep which is necessary for the formation of memories. Uninterrupted sleep is essential in flushing out the toxins in the brain. The lack of sleep can slow down one’s ability to think and this can affect his moods. As a result, the person may find himself at an increased risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease. On the average, adults require at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
Get Tested for Sleep Apnea. The one a person sleeps with will usually know about his heavy snoring. In such cases, the person should have himself tested for sleep apnea. This illness is pretty serious where the breathing is interrupted during sleep. Treating this disorder could make a lot of difference to both the health and the quality of the person’s sleep.
Have a Regular Schedule of Sleep. If a person goes to bed then gets up the same time every day, the practice will establish your circadian rhythms. This is more commonly known as the “body clock.” The brain will respond to regularity and will always know how to respond based on regular habits. Taking naps, especially for the elderly, becomes a problem and can make insomnia worse. Avoid naps but if really needed, limit the nap to half an hour and do it early afternoon.
Create the Mood. Use the bedroom for what it was meant for, sex and sleep. TV and computers should be taken out of the bedroom as these devices offer stimulations which can lead to challenges in falling asleep.
Come up with a Relaxing Bedroom Ritual. Make the bedroom conducive to sleep and do some rituals to relax before going to sleep. A warm or hot bath is always relaxing, so are stretching exercises. Take time out to write down the thoughts for the day and dim down the lights. These habits, when repeated, can become part of the nightly ritual. When the body senses these, it knows that it’s already time for it to go into restorative sleep.
Quiet Inner Chatter. Sometimes, stress gets the better of a person. When one gets himself with internal dialogues that keep him awake, he should get up. Try something to break the cycle. Read a book or relax in a different room until the annoyance goes away, then you can hop back to bed.
Other Helpful Tips
As people age, it’s important for them to be more aware of their bodies. In doing this, they recognize any changes which may be indications of medical or health conditions. Here are other tips which may help prevent the onset or the development of Alzheimer’s disease:
Always Observe the Ankles. One sign that a person’s brain is in trouble is a low blood flow to his feet. Fortunately, there’s a simple test which can check the health of a person’s ankles to see if it’s getting enough blood. The ankle-brachial test or ABI is a type of medical exam wherein the doctor uses a blood pressure cuff and an ultrasound device to compare the blood pressure of a person’s arm and ankle. If the doctor discovers trouble in the person’s blood flow, he may recommend a change in medication or diet.
Consume Foods Which Are Rich in Antioxidants. Foods which contain a lot of antioxidants and these can infuse the brain with those healthy components which can slow down memory decline and prevent Alzheimer’s as well.
Raise the Levels of Good Cholesterol. Having healthy levels of good cholesterol doesn’t just keep the heart healthy but it can also help save a person’s brain. According to research, the good cholesterol can help block the proteins which destroy the brain cells. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce brain damage.
Drink a Lot of Coffee. Coffee is now being seen as a tonic for the brain as it goes through the natural process of aging. The drink can aid in the blocking of the adverse effects of bad cholesterol in the brain while also reducing the risk of diseases which promote the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Also, coffee contains a lot of antioxidants which can prevent neuronal death.
Watch out for Unexplained Weight Loss. After a person reaches the age of 60, unexplained weight loss may be an indication of Alzheimer’s disease. According to studies, women who have the disease experienced this symptom at least 10 years or so prior to the diagnosis. Because of this, one should consult with his doctor if he suddenly loses a lot of weight for no apparent reason.
Drink Some Wine. Drinking a glass of wine daily may help delay the onset or development of Alzheimer’s disease. Research shows that red wine has anti-inflammatory properties and helps raise the levels of good cholesterol. Also, it contains antioxidants which can relax the arteries, dilate the blood vessels, and increase the flow of blood which promotes cognitive functions.
Be Aware of the Early Symptoms. A lot of people believe that one of the early indications of Alzheimer’s disease is memory problems but this isn’t true. One early symptom is a decline in the person’s depth perception. For instance, he reaches out to pick up an object and he misses it. Or he misjudges the distance while walking across a street.
Other early clues include losing one’s sense of smell, getting confused while reading a map, asking the same question over and over again or even misplacing one’s belongings in unusual places.
Avoid Middle-Age Obesity. Studies have shown that those who are obese have fewer brain tissues which, according to scientists, increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, the brain shrinkage that’s caused by obesity occurs in the parts of the brain which are commonly targeted by the disease. Because of this, people should deal with the signs and symptoms of gaining weight early on especially if the person reaches middle age.
Care for the Teeth. When a person has unhealthy gums, this may lead to brain poisoning. Those who have gum and tooth diseases have a tendency to score lower on cognition and memory tests. This is because the infections which are responsible for gum diseases gives off byproducts which are inflammatory in nature and which may travel to the brain.
Get a Lot of Vitamin b12. As a person grows older, his vitamin B12 blood levels naturally go down. Because of this, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases. Also, the body’s ability to absorb the vitamin from the foods eaten weakens around the middle age which, in turn, sets the stage for the degeneration of the brain in the later years.
Keep the Eyes Healthy Too. Studies have shown that if people have good or even excellent vision as they age, their risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia drops by more than 60%. Therefore, it’s important for people to keep their eyes healthy along with everything else.
Avoid These Foods
We cannot always eat what we want. There are foods that need to be taken out of one’s diet regimen if he intends to reduce the risks of contracting Alzheimer’s disease. Conversely, one will also need certain foods that can give nutritional benefits and can prevent or slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s. Remember to strictly follow guidelines regarding which foods to avoid and which to include in the diet to ensure that Alzheimer’s will not get worse.
Foods That Contain Additives or Toxins. Any foods containing these substances are considered neurotoxic. Most non-organic fruits and vegetables can be coated with agricultural products that are neurotoxic. Studies conducted on people with high levels of organochlorine pesticides in their blood had a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Alcohol. Hard to admit but alcohol is a toxin that can cause brain-cell damage, causing them to die faster than normal. A research had shown that subjects diagnosed with alcoholism have the frontal lobes of their brain more susceptible to damage. Evidence of this damage included a marked decrease in neuron density, a shrinkage volume, an altered glucose metabolism and perfusion.
Tap Water. Spend a little more money on mineral water available at the grocery. Although tap water is the main source for our daily needs, it may not be suitable for drinking because it contains environmental toxins. One can also have your tap water checked and filter out any contaminants if present.
Sugar and Refined Grains. It has been discussed earlier that Alzheimer’s can be caused by insulin resistance similar to diabetes. The conclusion to this is keeping insulin levels low and this can be achieved by eliminating sugar and refined grains from the diet. This will ensure the maintenance of a healthy brain.
Foods Packaged in Aluminum Containers. Aluminum can be neurotoxic when the body is exposed to high levels of it. Therefore, it must be avoided altogether. Some research has shown that aluminum can enter nerve cells the way iron does and this could lead to the accumulation of aluminum in the cells which, in turn, could cause neurofibrillary damage. This type of damage is linked to the progression of Alzheimer’s. On the same subject, we should also avoid heating our foods in aluminum containers because the heat is known to release more toxic compounds.
Notable Breakthroughs Regarding Alzheimer’s Disease
There has been a lot of progress in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and some of these are very significant. True, there is still no cure but research has made progress in finding out the factors that can bring about the disease, especially among the aged. Furthermore, there are now natural treatments which may improve the condition of Alzheimer patients effectively. Breakthroughs in cure may just be around the corner and hopefully one day we might just find it.
Here are some of those breakthroughs regarding Alzheimer’s disease:
What a Person Eats, Matters
Food in itself could be the medicine. Of course, we are talking about the right foods. As early as 400 BC, Hippocrates already emphasized the relevance of food in the prevention and treatment of diseases. Modern science now confirms this.
Scientists found that Mediterranean diets seem to have protective properties against Alzheimer’s. Other related studies showed that the diet seems to prevent a person’s brain from developing the plaques and tangles which are toxic and are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s.
More recent studies confirm that lifestyle factors can directly affect the abnormal proteins in those who suffer from subtle memory loss and who haven’t been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s yet. Healthy lifestyle factors also indicated reduced brain shrinkage and lower atrophy rates in people who already have Alzheimer’s.
A Person’s Profession May Act like a Drug Against Alzheimer’s
A person’s job can protect him against the risks of developing Alzheimer’s. This is especially true for those who work with other people. As we have mentioned earlier, people are social animals and it’s in their nature to interact with others. Scientists have made studies where they worked with middle-aged people. They found out that people who worked closely with others in complicated work situations had a higher tolerance of brain damage than people who worked by themselves. Doctors and teachers do work in an environment where they have to communicate with other people. These jobs were better at maintaining cognitive functions.
Marijuana May Potentially Protect a Person’s Brain from the Disease
This should be good news for almost all who want some day-tripping. The most recent studies have indicated that THC, the main ingredient in marijuana aside from some other compounds, can truly hinder the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In laboratory experiments, it was discovered that marijuana’s plant compounds can block the disease by relieving cellular inflammations as well as eliminating toxic amyloid proteins in the brain cells. The milestone study showed that marijuana compounds, specifically cannabinoids, can affect both inflammations and the accumulation of beta-amyloid in neurons. The experiment has yet to be applied to humans but the tests have been very promising.
The Gut Plays an Important Role in Alzheimer’s Disease
The digestive tract is responsible for much more functions than just digestion. Scientists have discovered that long-term doses of antibiotics caused changes in the gut bacteria in such a way that it seemed to help in lowering the levels of amyloid-beta proteins in the brains. Of course, this is on an experimental stage, so don’t go rushing to your nearest drugstore for some antibiotic dosages. But in itself, the study is a breakthrough where it was found out that the digestive system has very close ties with the brain and other brain-related diseases. More research will be needed, including more natural ways to keep our guts healthy to protect our brains.
There Is Such a Thing as a Personalized Approach to Treatment
Personalized treatments were made in 2016 to test if such can reverse the Alzheimer’s of patients who are in its early stages. The program involved the following:
- Comprehensive changes in one’s diet
- Brain-stimulating activities
- Optimizing sleep
- Specific vitamins and pharmaceuticals
- Other steps which can affect the brain chemistry.
The scientists were able to make improvements in some of the patient’s symptoms to a point where the patients were able to get back to work. There was evidence that a person’s lifestyle really counts when it comes to the natural prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.