Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It plays havoc with a person’s memory and cognitive abilities, eventually robbing them of their ability to function normally in everyday life. Alzheimer’s accounts for between 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. While some people may think that losing one’s memory is a normal part of aging, the extreme loss of memory and cognitive function that comes along with Alzheimer’s disease is not typical.
While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s means that the patient will eventually succumb to the full effects of the disease, there are things that we can do to reduce our risk of being diagnosed.
1. Know the early warning signs
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s right now, it’s important to learn to recognize the early warning signs. There are ways that it can be managed that will make life easier for both the patient and their family. The first sign of Alzheimer’s is mild memory loss, forgetting where they put something down or forgetting obvious words. Then, the disease will progress to a stage where the person finds themselves forgetting things often, and becoming muddled and confused when trying to make plans. If you notice these signs, it’s important to consult a doctor immediately.
2. Use coffee wisely
Some clinical trials have shown that the sparing use of caffeine can have positive effects on the prevention of Alzheimer’s in trials on mice. Too much caffeine later in the day disturbs sleep, but drinking caffeine in the morning or early afternoon has been shown to help people consolidate memories and take in memories more easily.
3. Use interactive games to keep your memory sharp
Many researchers have found that playing challenging games that focus on the player’s ability to both use their memory and strategize are useful for keeping the brain active and engaged. These games engage the proteins in the brain, and by studying how these proteins work during normal gameplay, scientists have been able to look at the various reasons that they operate incorrectly, which is a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s.
4. Interact socially
One of the most troubling side effects of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is that often if the person is isolated, they become unable to take care of themselves. Being social is not only a good way to keep the brain active, it makes sure that we go out in the world and maintain our community ties, giving us more of a support network.
5. Talk to strangers
Talking to strangers is one thing that we dread, but usually turns out to be more rewarding than if we stayed clammed up by ourselves. It opens us up to new points of view, and it shows us (most of the time) that we aren’t as alone as we think we are.
6. Be a regular
The more that you’re known within your community, the more people can observe your behavior and be alert to something going wrong. Sure, online shopping is nice, but without getting off your couch and talking to people, you run the risk of people not noticing if there are small changes in your daily behavior.
7. Make your plate a rainbow
One thing that will help minimize the risks of Alzheimer’s is to make sure that you’re getting enough vegetables and fruit. Both brightly colored and leafy green vegetables have been shown to slow the rate of cognitive decline in adults over 65. In a study done on over 1800 Japanese-Americans, consuming fruit and vegetables was shown to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s for up to 9 years after the initial testing.
8. Eat more berries
Berries contain a relatively large amount of a type of compound called anthocyanosides, which helps fight memory loss. By eating these delicious little berries every day, you can cut down on your risk of memory loss associated with free radicals and plaque in the brain. If it’s not a great time of year for berries where you live, make sure you get your recommended daily amount by buying fresh frozen berries in bags from the grocery store, and whipping up some delicious smoothies.
9. Make sure you’re getting enough folic acid
Homocysteine is a chemical that has been associated with the increased risk of cognitive impairment. By taking folic acid supplements or by making sure that you’re getting enough folate-rich foods, you can reduce your levels of homocysteine and ensure that your cognitive function stays on track. Some folate rich foods include dark leafy greens, avocado, citrus, and asparagus. These foods are all delicious, but if you find yourself too busy to prep homemade veggies, folic acid supplements are easy to find at any drug store.
10. Follow the Mediterranean diet
There have been plenty of studies out there about different populations around the world and how their traditional foods affect their lifestyle. One common conclusion is that the Mediterranean diet — rich in olive oil, vegetables, and lean protein — has been the most beneficial in helping prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s. The Mediterranean diet has also been shown to be super heart-healthy, as well as tasty! It proves that you don’t have to skimp on flavor in order to be healthy.
11. Keep on top of your blood pressure
There are tons of reasons why people have high blood pressure such as stress at work or at home which can cause gradual hypertension. But a severe condition like adrenal tumors or sleep apnea can cause secondary hypertension, which will spike your blood pressure quickly and is much more damaging to your body. It’s important to manage the symptoms of hypertension as quickly as possible, to prevent damage to the vascular system which can heighten your risk for Alzheimer’s.
12. Join a laughter club
This isn’t a joke — there are actually social clubs that you can join that bring people together under the guidance of a certified laughter leader. These leaders help their pupils laugh together. Laughter has been shown to have all sorts of benefits to both the body and mind as it reduces pain, stress, and agitation, and it can also help reduce blood pressure.
13. Drink more tea
Both black and green tea have been shown to contain antioxidants called catechins, which help the body fight off oxidative damage that can be a contributing cause in the development of Alzheimer’s. Tea has also been shown to help lower blood pressure. Whether it’s actually drinking the tea or taking the time to go through the ritual of brewing it, it helps relax us and brings a calm that can reduce high blood pressure.
Dancing may be about butts now (according to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) but it remains one of the best ways to keep both your body and mind in tip-top shape. Learning new steps helps you exercise your brain and memory, and tying that knowledge to movement makes it easy to absorb. Dancing is fun, generally social, and can help people make new friends if they feel awkward making conversation.
15. Cook with cinnamon
Using cinnamon in your cooking and baking can help reduce your blood sugar if you have Type-2 Diabetes, and has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol and inflammation. Cinnamon has many uses — both savory and sweet — and can be used in place of sugar for some heart-healthy sweetness.
16. Learn to meditate
Taking a moment to meditate every day — whether it’s for a few moments or for hours — allows you to take valuable time for yourself, and encourages you to become more familiar with the sensations in your body. This way, you’ll be aware if something is wrong faster than if you usually speed through life with no thought to the present moment. Meditation also helps reduce blood pressure throughout your day.