Lifestyle Changes to Protect Against Dementia
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s include confusion, short term memory loss, mood swings, and difficulties using language. Eventually, the brain becomes so damaged that bodily functions become impaired, leading to death. While Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not fully preventable, some everyday actions can help reduce the risk of dementia. Full-body health that honors physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing plays a large role in protecting against dementia. There is currently NO CURE, but the following are some simple approaches to assist in combatting dementia through strengthening overall health:
Follow a healthy diet and eat foods that are low in saturated fat- eating a heart-healthy diet benefits both your body and your brain. This is a diet that is lower in saturated fats. Research in the area of the relationship between diet and cognitive functioning is somewhat limited, but it does point to the benefits of two diets in particular; the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet. These diets can help reduce heart disease and may also be able to reduce risk of dementia.
DASH diet- this diet aims to reduce blood pressure.
Eat foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy.
Consume whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts.
Decrease your intake of fats, red meats, sweets, sugared beverages and sodium.
Drink juice. A study found that drinking juice may prevent Alzheimer’s. Those who drank at least three servings of fruit or vegetable juices had a 76% decreased risk. Scientists theorize that the results may come from the vitamins in the juices, as well as the antioxidants.
Enjoy coffee. Coffee is packed with antioxidants which have been shown to fight the onset and progression of this disease.
Reduce sugar. Some scientists refer to Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes. The hormone that regulates glucose in the blood is directly linked to brain function, and a diet high in excess sugar can create resistance. When brain cells become resistant to the hormone that regulates glucose in the blood, amyloid plaques may form and create the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Mediterranean diet- The Mediterranean diet incorporates different principles of healthy eating that are typically found in the areas bordering the Mediterranean Sea:
Focus on fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains.
Berries are considered superfoods. This is due to the fact that they deliver a boatload of antioxidants in each bite.
Replace butter with healthy fats, like olive oil.
Limit red meat.
Use herbs to flavor food rather than salt.
Eat fish and poultry at least twice a week.
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish have been shown to slow the progression of the disease.
Engage in physical activity especially activities that include mental or social engagement and improve strength and balance to avoid falls.
Exercise may directly benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow in the brain. Because of its known cardiovascular benefits, a medically approved exercise program is a valuable part of any overall wellness plan.
Have a healthy BMI- Maintaining a healthy body weight through your life can help prevent the onset of the disease. One study from the American Academy of Neurology showed an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease in correlation to higher body weight. Keeping your brain healthy starts with your entire body.
Maintain mental health though social activities and intellectual challenges, like working on puzzles or learning new skills.
A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Experts are not certain about the reason for this association. It may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.
Play sudoku, crossword puzzles, and short digital games.
Video games provide more mental stimulation than reading a book. Try to find games that require a variety of mental processes- puzzles, strategy, and roleplaying are good video game activities.
Be social- Get active by attending family events, enjoying the company of friends, and attending club activities like card games and hobbies are good ways of preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Meditate- Regular meditation or prayer could keep Alzheimer’s at bay. Meditation for just 12 minutes a day for over two months can improve vascular circulation in seniors. This will help improve blood flow to the brain. Meditation has other great benefits, like lowering stress levels, balancing emotions and moods, and getting in touch with your mental and physical body.
Get some sun- A study found that getting increased levels of vitamin D along with eating omega-3 fatty acids could help prevent Alzheimer’s. The study found that people who had high levels of both nutrients were able to clear their brains of amyloid plaques; the plaque that has been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Get a full night’s rest- Preventing the formation of amyloid plaques is an important step in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have found that proper levels of melatonin throughout your life can help prevent the plaque from forming. Melatonin cannot clear the plaque, so long term prevention is necessary.
Try to get to bed at the same time every night.
Remove all light sources from your room when sleeping.
Make sure you sleep at least 7 hours each night.
Get your flu shot- Getting your vaccines can help lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers claim they have seen a connection but the cause is not fully understood.
These lifestyle changes have been shown to lower the risk of other diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, which have been linked to Alzheimer’s. With few drawbacks and plenty of known benefits, healthy lifestyle choices can improve your health and possibly protect your brain. Taking care of your health now may help improve your outcomes in the long term, such as reducing your risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.