April 30, 2021
How to Prevent Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is a serious, debilitating condition that can make it difficult to perform everyday activities without caregiver help. Many people do not know they are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s until it’s too late. Knowing how to prevent Alzheimer’s or slow its progression can help you stay healthy and reduce your risk for this common form of dementia.
Here’s more about the causes and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and what you can do to prevent you and your loved ones from developing this chronic medical condition.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that begins with mild memory loss and can often progress to problems with thinking, memory, and behavioral and social skills. Alzheimer’s is a neurological disorder in which the brain becomes smaller, and brain cells die to cause a wide range of changes in the brain. Memory loss is often the main symptom of Alzheimer’s, though this disease also affects reasoning, decision making, personality, and behavior.
What Causes Alzheimer’s?
Scientists do not know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s but believe it may be caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Risk factors for Alzheimer’s include being at least 65 years of age, being female, and having a family history of Alzheimer’s. Down syndrome, heavy alcohol use, and exposure to air pollution are other common risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
What Are Signs of Alzheimer’s?
Memory loss is the most prominent sign of Alzheimer’s disease. This symptom may cause the person to repeat statements and questions and forget familiar people, places, and things. They may also lose and misplace items and experience difficulty with expressing themselves and engaging in conversations.
Other Alzheimer’s disease symptoms include:
- Impaired judgment and decision making
- Difficulty managing finances
- Wandering and getting lost
- Shortened attention span
- Changes in mood and personality
- Difficulty learning new things
- Difficulty performing everyday tasks
- Impulsive behaviors
- Increased anxiety and aggression
- Hallucinations and paranoia
- Physical health problems, including weight loss, incontinence, skin infections, and seizures
Ways To Prevent Alzheimer’s
Evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s may be prevented by practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors that are shown to reduce the risk. Exercise, quality sleep, and a healthy diet may be key to Alzheimer’s prevention.
Regular physical activity may reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50% and delay the progress of cognitive problems that may already have begun.
Aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week in the form of cardio activities and strength training. Walking, swimming, biking, and dancing are examples of fun cardio activities. Start small with short walks in your neighborhood if your activity level is relatively low, and gradually work your way up to a higher activity level.
Get Plenty Of Quality Sleep
Quality sleep can help rejuvenate your brain cells and boost brain health to prevent or slow cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Make changes to your sleep schedule and sleep environment as needed to get at least seven hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night. Avoid looking at television and cell phone screens at least one hour before bedtime and create a relaxing bedtime ritual that involves reading or listening to soothing music. Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day and seek treatment from a sleep specialist if you need treatment for sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
Eat Highly Nutritious Foods
Foods that contain lots of vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients can help reduce inflammation in the brain and ward off cognitive problems. Specifically, a Mediterranean diet has been shown to prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Aim to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole foods, including nuts, beans, fish, and whole grains. Consume moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, dairy, and red wine. Avoid or minimize your intake of red meat, sugars, and refined carbs, as these foods may drive inflammation and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Keep Your Mind Stimulated
Learning new things and keeping your mind engaged may delay or prevent Alzheimer’s. Evidence suggests that people who engage in a higher number of leisure activities—particularly those that are mentally stimulating—have a lower prevalence and incidence of Alzheimer’s disease than those who engage in few leisure activities.
Challenge your brain by doing crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, and board games. Consider taking on a major new hobby or skill such as learning a different language or how to play a musical instrument. Read plenty of books and engage with others who can introduce you to new, stimulating activities.
Manage and Reduce Stress
Chronic stress increases the risk of Alzheimer’s due to the way it causes inflammation and can damage memory and nerve cells in the brain.
Start practicing healthy ways to reduce stress, such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and yoga. Make fun activities a high priority in your life, and exercise on most days of the week to naturally reduce stress.
Increase Your Social Activity Level
Feelings of loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk for cognitive decline, as well as the risk of depression and anxiety that harm your mental well-being. Evidence suggests that staying socially engaged can help protect against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Stay connected to others, whether it be relatives, friends, and other community members. Join a book club or group exercise class, and do volunteer work in your community. Visit public places such as parks, and make weekly plans with your friends and neighbors.
Manage Your Vascular Health
Smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure are all vascular risk factors that can eventually lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Take steps to manage your vascular health by controlling your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes and working with your doctor to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol. Stop smoking as soon as possible, and ask your doctor about cessation treatments and forms of nicotine replacement if you need help quitting.
Is There a Cure For Alzheimer’s?
Presently, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s. Treatments for Alzheimer’s focus on reducing symptoms, delaying its progression, and helping patients learn how to live with their conditions.
Medications can be used to help with poor memory and cognitive decline and to reduce behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s. People with Alzheimer’s may also work closely with therapists or caregivers to develop routines and implement systems that simplify their lifestyles, such as automatic banking and bill pay services.