Alzheimer’s disease is reaching almost epic proportions in North America. In fact, if it was infectious, it would be classified as an epidemic. ABC News recently reported an estimated 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease. That’s one in every eight persons over the age of 65. The increase in prevalence rates, and the failure in finding a real cure, is making doctors and researchers rethink their strategy. And get inspired by the old saying, prevention is better than cure.
Researchers are learning that it may be possible to prevent or delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease through a combination of healthy habits. They have broadly divided these into six groups that show you how to avoid and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The good thing is, all of them are well within your reach, so you easily incorporate them into your lifestyle and lower your risk of developing this scary condition.
1. Exercise your body
To prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the most compelling evidence points to physical exercise. In fact, according to Dr. R. Petersen of the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise is even better than medication for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation has studies to prove physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent.
In one study, researchers bred mice to develop a specific plaque in the brain seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these mice were then allowed to exercise. The brains of the sedentary mice were riddled with the plaque. But the brains of the physically active mice showed 50 to 80 percent less plaque. Further research showed that the exercise produced more of a certain chemical in the brain that prevents plaque buildup. Exercise also resulted in improved circulation in the brain, taking the plaque away from the brain to the liver where it is destroyed.
Any exercise that can increase your heart rate for 30 to 40 minutes, three to four times a week, can reduce your risk of this dreaded disease.
You don’t have to take up jogging or sign up for a gym membership. Look for small ways to add more movement into your day. Park at the far end of the parking lot, take the stairs, carry your own groceries, or pace up and down while talking on your cell phone.
Even routine activities such as gardening, cleaning, or doing laundry count as exercise. Try yoga, tai chi, or exercises using balance discs or balance balls. Stick to your routine for a month. After a month, it will become your second nature and you won’t even realize you’re doing it.
2. Exercise your brain
This is not only the easiest of the six tips. It is the most fun. Research shows that those who keep learning new things throughout their life and challenging their brains are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so make it a point to stay mentally active.
Set aside time each day to stimulate your brain cells. There are lots of fun things you can do. Try and learn a new language, pick up a musical instrument, learn to play a few basic tunes, try using the fork or spoon with your other hand while eating.
Practice your memory. See if you can remember all the states in your country. And their capitals.
If you cannot, no problem. You now have something to devote your mind to learning. When you’re tired of brain work, switch to brain play. Brain teasers and strategy games provide a great mental workout and build your capacity to form and retain cognitive associations. Do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku, or play board games or cards. Remember, when it comes to your brain, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
The importance of this one activity cannot be overlooked. Our brain needs regular, restful sleep in order to function well. Lack of sleep reduces your ability to think, solve problems, and remember things. If nightly sleep loss is slowing your thinking and affecting your mood, you may be at a greater risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
As we grow older, it might become more difficult to get the required eight hours of sleep nightly, so here are a few tips to help you sleep better:
Establish a regular sleep schedule. For a change, set your alarm to go to sleep.
Eliminate napping. If you cannot completely eliminate it, nap for no more than 30 minutes in the early afternoon, as far away from your sleep time as possible.
Maintain sleep ambience. Your bedroom is for sleeping (and sex). Throw that TV out.
Relax your body. A hot bath before sleep relaxes your muscles and preps your body for sleep.
4. De-stress to reduce Alzheimer’s disease risk
Repeated stress, or even continued stress can become a chronic malady and take a heavy toll on the brain. It can hamper nerve cell growth and also cause the shrinking of the hippocampus – the key memory area of your brain. Keeping stress at bay plays a huge role in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. But as you all know, keeping stress away is easier said than done, so here are a techniques that might help you de-stress:
Breathing. Deep, abdominal breathing can help counteract your stress
Daily relaxation. Whether it’s taking a walk in the park, playing with your dog, doing yoga, or relaxing in a soothing bath, a regular schedule goes a long way in helping you distress.
Cosmic healing. Regular meditation, prayer, reflection, and religious practice may immunize you against the damaging effects of stress.
5. Be social
As we grow older, we tend to withdraw into a shell. This could be because of our health, our financial status, or because of the loss of a loved one. It is during these times that we need to be more socially active.
Remember, human beings are highly social creatures. We cannot thrive in isolation, and similarly, your brain needs social support for avoiding Alzheimer’s. Studies show that the more socially active we are, the better we fare on memory tests and cognitive function tests. So make your social life a priority. You can increase your contacts through volunteering, joining a club, or trying online dating. Or just invite your neighbor for a chat. A lot can happen over a cup of coffee.
6. Nourish your brain
Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs a nutritious diet to operate at its best.
As you can see, if we have to avoid another generation of this dreaded disease, there is something that can be done. So, as one famous company says… Just Do It!