Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia associated with aging but it’s not actually caused by aging. The most common symptom appears as a difficulty remembering new information, and this only worsens with time. Late-stage Alzheimer’s sufferers lose the ability to interact with and respond to the environment around them.
Cases of Alzheimer’s disease are predicted to nearly triple in the next 30 years in the developed world. Some are predicting as many as 100 million cases by 2050 in the U.S. And Alzheimer’s is currently the sixth-leading cause of death nationwide.
The importance of protecting oneself from the disabling effects of chronic diseases associated with aging cannot be exaggerated. Here’s how to tweak your current lifestyle and take a more proactive approach to fend off the onset of Alzheimer’s.
1. Exercise the body
New research published in The Lancet has found that exercise lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Staying physically active is vitally important for brain function. Physical activity promotes blood flow and oxygen consumption, which improves brain function while reducing other risk factors like heart attacks and strokes.
The Journal of Alzheimer’s Research recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Researchers have found that embarking on a new program derives significant memory improvements within 12 weeks. What’s more, a correlation has been found between cognitive ability and walking in nature regularly due to the benefits in enhanced stress management, coordination, and movement. So exerting oneself outdoors has added benefits.
2. Be sociable
Studies suggest that having a network of friends can lower the risk of dementia by as much as 60 percent. Being social keeps the mind active, as well as enhances meaning, motivation, and life purpose.
Human beings are sociable creatures and require engagement from other people to feel purposeful. Sociable activities may include phoning an old friend on the phone, meeting your grandchildren for dinner, attending a weekly book club, and regularly attending religious ceremonies if you are so inclined.
3. Exercise the brain
Mental activity keeps brain function intact and lack of stimulus leads to degeneration, so it’s essential to keep one’s mind active. Maintaining cognitive acuity is a simple matter of keeping oneself thinking all the time. This has been shown to be particularly true of those who take up new or challenging activities as they age.
Thousand-year-old Asian practices like Qi Gong and Tai Chi involve moment, variety, and brain stimulation. Incorporating new activities and changing one’s routine is important. If you always walk the dogs around the same park, try a new route instead. Learning new things has the added benefit of stimulating the development of new neural pathways, literally changing the brain’s physiology.
4. Have a life purpose
Dr. Patricia Boyle of Rush University Center in Chicago led an Alzheimer’s study that found a statistically significant difference between those who lead a purposeful and meaningful life, and those who are less active.
In her research, 246 subjects were examined for up to ten years. The group of senior citizens underwent cognitive testing to gather neurological data. Eventually, brain autopsies were conducted in the post-mortem. The researchers discovered that a positive mental attitude and the pursuit of passions requiring mental focus did a lot of good for the aging brain in spite of physical deterioration. In fact, dementia was completely avoided by being active and having an adventurous and positive attitude.
5. Maintain blood sugar levels
As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (August 2020), any elevation in blood sugar may increase the risk of dementia. A fasting blood sugar level of 70-85 is recommended by some experts in the field, though a narrow range is definitely better than the average of the population, which is unhealthy. Dietary factors are key in lowering blood sugar, particularly via the quality and quantity of carbohydrates. Key recommendations include eating whole foods high in protein and fiber and low in carbohydrates with a moderate amount of fat.
6. Clean up the environment
The U.S. Center for Disease Control has ranked toxic metals as a key environmental health threat to particularly to fragile population segments like the elderly. According to U.S. Government agencies, it’s best to avoid and eliminate heavy metal toxins like mercury, aluminum, lead, arsenic, chromium, manganese, and cadmium in the environment. These heavy metals have been shown to cause adverse health effects.
Flu vaccines accumulate mercury and aluminum in the brain. Over time, these heavy metals can build up in soft tissue cells in the brain, creating plaque and promoting inflammation. As well as being the most toxic metal to the brain, mercury also decreases levels of neuroprotective Lithium, which can lead to neurological disturbances.
Aluminum is also found in the kitchen in pots and cooking tools and deodorants. Mercury is also found in amalgam fillings and in fish. Overall, it’s recommended to monitor and evaluate environmental toxins and avoid acute exposures. But, rather avoid seafood altogether, take a mercury-free omega-3 supplement instead, along with omega-3 rich Chia seeds.
7. Reduce stress
As we age, we naturally become less resilient to stress, and yet, the importance of being less stressed increases. A five-year study showed that “stress junkies” had double the risk of getting Alzheimer’s versus more relaxed people. In effect, the key to optimal health is the flexibility of all kinds. This requires releasing all negativity including anger, resentment, jealousy, frustration, grumpiness, etc.
Some options for pursuing a stress-relieving lifestyle include religious and spiritual practices like prayer and meditation, lovemaking, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, yoga, golf, massage, walking, and social outings. Any activities that uplift the spirit will help to reduce tension.