One of the primary concerns we have, as we grow older, is that of contracting Alzheimer’s disease. As is well known, the disease gets progressively worse and has no cure as of now.
There are, however, many types of research that go to show that Alzheimer’s can be prevented by putting into action some very basic steps. There has been promising scientific inquiry into understanding the effect of brain-healthy exercises on the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Researchers are positive that indulging in these few exercises and steps can ensure that this dreaded disease can be prevented, slowed down, or even reverse the process of deterioration.
While researchers are working tirelessly towards finding a cure for the disease, with increasing occurrence the focus has also come on prevention, over and above treatment.
The research has a definite positive outlook on preventing and delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia through a series of brain-healthy habits.
Alzheimer’s has a number of risk factors, which include genetics, age, and a variety of other factors. Some of these factors are out of our control, there are, however, factors that are easily manageable. Some of which are listed below:
The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation has been emphatic in stating that regular exercise can reduce the risk of contracting Alzheimer’s by up to 50%. Moreover, regular exercise can also help slow the deterioration of those that have already been diagnosed with the disease and are facing cognitive issues.
Exercise helps stimulate the brain’s ability to make new connections as well as maintain old ones.
Ideally, one should be investing at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. This should have a combination of cardio as well as strength training exercises. Beginners can start with simple exercises like walking or swimming.
Moderate weight and resistance training will not only help build muscles but also help maintain brain health. Those over the age of 65 should add 2 to 3 strength sessions per week to cut their Alzheimer’s risk in half.
Human beings are social creatures, isolation does terrible things to our brains. It has been found that being socially engaged is healthy for our brains and can even protect the brain against Alzheimer’s and dementia at later stages in life.
We should focus on developing and maintaining a strong network of friends as we grow older. It doesn’t matter if you are not a party person or a social butterfly. Instead, focus on regular face-to-face connections with the few people you really enjoy spending time with.
If you are introverted, make an effort to go out of your way to meet other people. It is never too late to develop meaningful relationships and friendships. Volunteer for social work, join a club, take group classes to learn something new, or even make weekly dinner dates with friends. These are just a few activities that can help keep you socially connected, fresh and brain-healthy.
Alzheimer’s disease, due to inflammation and insulin resistance, can injure the neurons and inhibit the communication between brain cells. This is why it is also at times known as diabetes of the brain.
Regulating your dietary habits can help you protect your brain and reduce inflammation. For starters, it would be a great idea to cut down on sugar. Sugary foods, and refined carbs like white flour, rice, and pasta, can cause a sudden increase in your blood sugar. This can cause inflammation in your brain as well.
Try and incorporate plenty of vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and olive oil in your diet. It has been found that Alzheimer’s risk is dramatically reduced if you follow a Mediterranean diet.
Trans fats are a no-no if you are looking to cut down your risk of Alzheimer’s. These fats can cause inflammation and create free radicals that damage your brain. Omega 3 fatty acids are also a great way to prevent this disease, it is found in cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, trout, and others. This can also be supplement with fish oil.
Tea has also been found to enhance memory and mental alertness. White and oolong tea is considered to be particularly healthy. Coffee, too, while not as powerful as tea, is also a good health booster for the brain.
The best way to ensure that you eat a balanced and healthy diet is to cook at home regularly and to include plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits in your diet.
Stimulate Your Brain
Make sure that you are constantly learning something new. The old adage, a rolling stone gathers no moss, holds true even for the brain. The NIH ACTIVE study found that regular brain stimulation is one of the best ways of keeping your mind active. Activities that involve organization, communication, interaction are the best bet for protecting your brain.
Try new things like learning a new language, an instrument, or even taking up a new hobby like sewing. If you enjoy any activity try and raise the bar for your performance in it.
A good exercise is also to memorize lists to help your brain stay fresh. There is a reason why senior citizen homes have a number of puzzles and riddle books, they are a great way to keep constantly stimulating their minds.
Simple things like taking a new route home every day, trying new food items, rearranging your computer’s filing system can help create new neural pathways.
Those suffering from Alzheimer’s also commonly suffer from insomnia. Research, however, has proven that lack of sleep is not just a side-effect of the disease it can also be a cause. A number of studies have shown that lack of sleep increases the levels of beta-amyloid in the body. This is a sticky brain-clogging protein that can further interfere with sleep.
If you snore regularly you may need to get checked for sleep apnea. A regular sleep schedule is crucial in ensuring that you are getting enough sleep through the night. It is important to keep your body on the clock.
Napping is a great way for older adults to refresh themselves, however, it is important to limit it to only 30 minutes and to keep it in the early hours of the afternoon.
Ensure that there is no television in the bedroom. Make sure that you do not indulge in any screen time at least an hour before bed. Read, or scribble in your journal, dim the lights, and set the mood for sleep. This will also help you calm your inner dialogue and alleviate anxiety and make room for sleep.
Chronic stress can take a heavy toll on the brain. This has been found to lead to shrinkage of the memory area in the brain and hampers the growth of new nerve cells, thus increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Simple stress management techniques have been known to work very well.
Practice mindful breathing, if need be download an app for the same at least three times a day for 5 minutes. Make sure that you have scheduled relaxing activities like yoga, playing with your pet, or a relaxing bath for yourself.
Fun activities are a great stress buster, spend time indulging yourself in some fun, be it sports, playing or listening to music, etc.
These are just some basic steps that can help you reduce the risk of contracting Alzheimer’s. One can also cut down on smoking, reduce weight, or control blood pressure and hypertension to reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s.