On average, people are living much longer than they could in the past. Increasing life spans are due in part to modern technology and improved medical care. However, even though medical interventions can extend people's lives, they cannot always prevent or cure the disorders and diseases associated with aging.
Alzheimer's disease is one such condition that many people develop later in life. Learning how to prevent Alzheimer’s is not a matter of surefire actions, but of implementing healthy lifestyle choices that can positively impact potentially modifiable risk factors, as well as maintain brain health. If you’d like to stay healthy and reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer's and other related cognitive disorders, consider implementing some of the below tips and techniques into your life.
Alzheimer's disease is marked by symptoms that progressively worsen over time. As the brain physically deteriorates, cognitive functioning declines. This decline occurs as a result of neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques that continually develop inside an aging brain.
Typically, people with Alzheimer’s disease first experience difficulties with their memory. They may have a hard time selecting words and lose some ability to speak fluently. Over time, the symptoms increase and become more severe. There are treatments to slow the progression of some Alzheimer’s symptoms, but there is no known cure for this condition. Eventually, people with Alzheimer's may lose their ability to care for themselves independently.
How To Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease And Other Types Of Dementia
Current research has not found any specific underlying causes for the brain changes that occur in people living with Alzheimer's. Genetics, particularly certain mutations, and environmental factors both appear to contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease.
It also appears there is no surefire way to avoid the development of Alzheimer’s. While there is no definitive solution to preventing this condition, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk, delay onset of symptoms, or slow the progression of the disease. Alzheimer's prevention relies mainly on lifestyle factors and healthy habits.
#1 - Exercise And Stay Active
Research has shown that having an active lifestyle and maintaining that lifestyle into one’s senior years can help maintain overall health. Regular exercise prevents health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease.
Researchers are still examining the extent of the connection between vascular health and the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in the brain that result in symptoms of Alzheimer’s. But studies have indicated that poor cardiovascular health can lead to increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, and clinical trials on the use of statins and blood pressure medications to slow progression of Alzheimer’s are being conducted. Another form of dementia separate from Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, is directly caused by poor blood flow to the brain, so there is a clear link between vascular health and brain health.
Physical activity can help improve cardiovascular health as well as overall physical health. Research suggests that physical activity that increases blood and oxygen flow seems particularly beneficial for the prevention of Alzheimer's because it may help maintain brain cells. Of course, physical exercise also prevents other health conditions, which can then further reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. Staying active also seems to help maintain cognitive functioning in older adults.
#2 - Eat A Nourishing Diet
Given that research has shown a link between high cholesterol, high blood pressure and Alzheimer's disease, it is also important to eat a nourishing diet. By controlling blood sugars, you can guard against heart disease and improve vascular health, which is linked to brain health.
One approach that has been particularly recommended for the potential prevention of Alzheimer’s is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet incorporates fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy, while limiting the intake of red meat. Research has shown that this dietary approach does seem to help slow the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms.
Another option is the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is considered heart-healthy eating. Like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables. Whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fish, and poultry are also included. Additionally, the DASH diet involves limiting the intake of sugars, saturated fats, fats, dairy products, and red meats. The DASH diet has proven health benefits, especially relating to heart health, which research indicates also helps maintain a healthy brain.
#3 - Sleep On A Regular Schedule
The brain needs sleep for many different functions. While you are sleeping, your brain encodes information from short- to long-term memory. Inadequate sleep can cause memory impairment and other cognitive symptoms for anyone, not just older individuals. Consistently irregular or limited sleep may cause lifelong physical or mental health problems. When cognitive symptoms are apparent, sleep becomes even more important.
Research suggests that sleep is particularly imperative for Alzheimer's prevention. Studies have found that adequate sleep is necessary to clear amyloid from the brain, which may help to prevent amyloid plaques. Seven to eight hours of sleep per night is recommended for most people.
#4 - Stop Smoking
People who smoke have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's compared to those who never smoke. If you smoke, consider stopping, as smoking cessation can have many positive impacts on your health. Quitting smoking can reduce risks for developing not only Alzheimer’s and related dementias, but lung disease and cardiovascular disease as well.
#5 - Prevent Head Trauma
Research has shown strong links between head trauma and the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease later in life. The risk is further increased if the head injury was associated with a loss of consciousness. Reduce your risk of Alzheimer's by preventing falls and defending your head. Wear a seat belt in the car and wear a helmet while riding a bike or participating in any sports activities.
#6 - Keep Your Mind Active
Research has shown that keeping the mind active can help preserve cognitive function during aging, possibly preventing disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease. There are many ways to keep the mind active and maintain or build connections between nerve cells. Research suggests that one of the most effective forms of mental stimulation is learning new information, which could be done through reading and other activities.
#7 - Stay Socially Connected
Just as continual physical and mental activity help to maintain cognitive functioning in older adulthood, so can social activity. It can sometimes be challenging for seniors to remain socially connected as they retire from their jobs, children leave home, and loved ones pass away. Still, it’s important for older adults to remain connected to family and friends. Seniors can stay socially active by picking up new hobbies and volunteering. These activities can also help them feel fulfilled and give their life a continual sense of meaning and purpose. In contrast, not being active can make older adults feel alone or that they are stagnating.
#8 - Receive Regular Medical Care
Receiving regular medical care is important for the maintenance of your physical and mental health and the prevention of various medical problems. Certain health conditions can increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's. Even something like hearing loss can contribute to a higher risk of cognitive impairment over time.
#9 - Manage Stress And Anxiety
Research shows that stress, especially when it is chronic or persistent, can lead to changes in the brain. Those changes can reduce nerve cell growth and increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Stress management is scientifically shown to reduce this risk. You can manage stress with breathing techniques and relaxation activities, among other methods.
Online Therapy With BetterHelp
Another way to optimize a healthy lifestyle is by tending to your mental and emotional well-being. To this end, many people seek out therapeutic support, which can be particularly helpful for coping with the changes associated with aging. You can have therapy online through BetterHelp and be matched with a licensed counselor.
Trained therapists can help improve the quality of life for seniors living with Alzheimer’s as well as people caring for them. Since Alzheimer’s can drastically impact a person’s daily life, finding the time to go to therapy may be difficult. Online counseling may be a more reachable way to receive care, as you can attend appointments from the comfort of your home. You can connect with your therapist in a way that feels comfortable to you, whether it’s through a phone call, video chat, or in-app messaging feature.
The Efficacy Of Online Therapy
Online therapy has grown in popularity as it becomes more readily available. Many people are turning to online mental health care because of its convenience and ease of availabilbity. Additionally, research supports the efficacy of online therapy. One study examined a telehealth intervention for caregivers of dementia patients. Results showed that participants experienced “significantly lower” rates of depression after engaging in online therapy, and that their risk of mental health impairment was also reduced. Telehealth may be a viable alternative to traditional face-to-face therapy for those seeking mental health support.
Aging naturally leads to changes in memory and cognitive functioning. When those changes are severe and negatively impact daily life, it could indicate a condition such as Alzheimer's disease. Despite ongoing clinical trials, there is no current cure for this chronic disease. However, by taking preventative measures, memory loss and cognitive decline can be significantly slowed down, and you can potentially avoid other harmful medical issues. Confiding in an online therapist may help you cope with a recent diagnosis or guide you in making healthy lifestyle choices that lower your risk of developing dementia as you age.
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