How To Prevent Alzheimer's: Tips And Techniques
On average, people are living much longer than they could in the past. This is thanks 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 that come along 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 and 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 the tips and techniques in this article into your life.
Alzheimer's disease is marked by symptoms that progressively worsen over time. As the brain physically deteriorates, cognitive functioning declines more and more over time. The brain does this as a result of neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques that continually develop. Typically, people first show difficulties with their memory. They may struggle to select 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 the symptoms, but there is no known cure for this condition. Eventually, those with Alzheimer's may lose their ability to care for themselves independently.
How To Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Currently, researchers are not sure of any specific underlying causes for the brain changes that occur in those 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 down the progression of the disease. Alzheimer's prevention relies mainly on lifestyle factors and healthy habits, which can be especially important to adhere to if you are in a high risk category.
#1 - Exercise And Stay Active
Research has shown that having an active lifestyle even into the senior years can help maintain health. The benefits extend from physical to mental and emotional health as well. Regular exercise helps to keep weight in the ideal range and prevents problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. While the connection of vascular health to the buildup of beta amyloid plaques is still unknown, studies show that each of these conditions is known to cause an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, and clinical trials are being run on statins and blood pressure medications to slow progression.
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 reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. Staying active also seems to maintain cognitive functioning.
#2 - Eat A Healthy Diet
Given that research has shown a link between high cholesterol and high blood pressure to Alzheimer's disease, it is also important to eat a healthy diet. By maintaining a healthy weight and controlling blood sugars, you can guard against heart disease and improve vascular health. An ideal diet will limit the intake of foods that would be unhealthy while including foods that are good for brain health.
One approach that has been particularly recommended is the Mediterranean diet. This approach does not depend on restriction. Rather, it consists of eating 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. This approach 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. It also involves limiting the intake of sugars, saturated fats, fats, dairy products, and red meats. The DASH diet has proven health benefits, especially heart health, which also helps maintain the brain.
#3 - Sleep On A Regular Schedule
The brain needs sleep for many different functions. While you are sleeping, your brain moves information from short to long-term memory. Inadequate sleep can cause memory impairment and other cognitive symptoms for anyone. 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. This is critical because amyloid contributes to the tangles and plaques found in the brains of those with Alzheimer's disease. Seven to eight hours of sleep per night is recommended for most people.
#4 - Drink Alcohol In Moderation
Presently, there is conflicting evidence on whether drinking or abstaining from alcohol can be helpful in preventing Alzheimer's Disease. It is thought that moderate alcohol intake could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. This equates to one drink per day for women. It equates to one or two drinks per day for men.
Not all forms of alcohol are considered beneficial, and wine seems the most effective. Although more research is needed, it is thought that wine may help due to resveratrol, which is a polyphenol from grape skins. Studies have suggested that these compounds may improve brain activity.
#5 - Stop Smoking
Smoking tobacco is shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. People who smoke have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's compared to those who never smoke. Smoking is also one of the most preventable risk factors. If you do not smoke and you want to manage your Alzheimer's risk, do not start smoking. If you do smoke, consider stopping, as this can have many positive impacts on your health. Quitting smoking can reduce risks for developing not only Alzheimer’s and related dementias, but can also reduce risk for lung disease and cardiovascular disease.
#6 - Prevent Head Trauma
Research has shown strong links between head trauma and the risk of later developing Alzheimer's disease. 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. To do so, wear a seat belt in the car and wear a helmet while riding a bike or participating in any sports activities.
#7 - 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. This cognitive stimulation seems to help maintain abilities in thinking skills but does not necessarily assist with the tasks or activities of daily living.
#8 - 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, while also keeping them mentally stimulated. In contrast, not being active can make older adults feel as though they are alone and stagnating.
#9 - Receive Regular Medical Care
Although there are many steps toward prevention that you can take on your own, reducing your risk of Alzheimer's also relies on general well-being. Receiving regular medical care is important for the maintenance of your physical and mental health and the prevention of various medical problems.
Having other types of 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.
#10 - 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.
Online Therapy With BetterHelp
Another way to optimize a healthy lifestyle is by tending to your mental and emotional well-being. To accomplish this, 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 get matched with a licensed counselor.
Trained therapists can help improve the quality of life for seniors living with Alzheimer’s as well as their caregivers. Since Alzheimer’s can drastically impact a person’s daily life, finding the time to go to therapy may be difficult. Online counseling allows you to still get care, and all from the comfort of your home. You can connect 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 are turning to online care because of its convenience and ease of access. One study looked at a telehealth intervention for caregivers of dementia patients. Results showed that participants experienced “significantly lower” rates of depression 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 through the Alzheimer’s Association and other bodies, there is no cure for this chronic disease. And while there are many ways to promote your physical and mental health for optimal aging, there is no singular way you can prevent yourself from getting Alzheimer’s. However, by taking preventative measures, memory loss and cognitive decline can be drastically 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 promote lower risk of dementia as you age.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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