Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia affecting more than 6 million Americans of all ages. It’s a progressive brain disease that causes a decline in memory, reasoning, and thinking skills.
Alzheimer’s symptoms can begin with simple forgetfulness and eventually lead to severe cognitive issues making it difficult to carry out daily activities. Many Alzheimer’s patients also experience mood and behavior changes, disorientation, and difficulty talking, swallowing, and walking.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth-leading cause of death among Americans age 65 and older. It’s estimated that one in nine people age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s.
Lifestyle Habits to Protect Your Brain
There is currently no cure for this debilitating disease. However, research has shown that adopting key healthy lifestyle habits can help to prevent Alzheimer’s or help to slow down pending cognitive decline. Establish these habits to help keep your brain sharp and healthy.
Eat a Balanced Diet
For years, studies have suggested that what we eat affects our brain. Certain foods can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation – two of the main culprits of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, along with lean protein – particularly protein sources containing omega-3 fatty acids – may help improve memory and prevent Alzheimer’s. This type of diet is often referred to as the Mediterranean diet and is known for improving cardiovascular health and lowering high cholesterol.
When planning your meals, try to include foods with a variety of vitamins and nutrients. Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, and berries, such as blueberries, are packed full of antioxidants that help fight off free radicals – unstable molecules that attack your healthy cells and lead to disease and illness.
Walnuts and fish, such as salmon and sardines, are high in omega-3 fat, which helps to reduce inflammation and increase brain health. You should limit your red meat intake, saturated fat, and sugar, all of which can lead to inflammation.
We all know that physical exercise is good for your overall health, but it is crucial to brain health. It actually helps increase the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Exercise also elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to your body and brain. Proper blood flow ensures that your brain is receiving its much-needed oxygen and nutrients in order to function. The World Health Organization recommends that older adults participate in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity every week. This can include walking, swimming, or cycling.
Staying socially engaged with others is an essential factor for a healthy and balanced life. It not only improves your mental health, but it can help stimulate your brain as well. Studies show that people who suffer from loneliness have less cognitive function.
A great way to be social is by being active in your community or volunteering. Exercise classes are also a great way to develop a social network. Activities such as dancing get your heart rate up, allow you to meet new people, and strengthen your brain because they require mental focus to learn steps and routines.
Smoking doesn’t do you or your body any favors. It not only increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung disease, and other health conditions, it also negatively impacts your brain. This dangerous habit has been found to literally shrink your brain.
Of course, not everyone who smokes will get Alzheimer’s; however, several studies show a correlation between smoking and dementia. Smoking deprives the brain of oxygen while also causing oxidative stress and inflammation throughout the body. Smoking is one habit you definitely want to break.
Get Enough Sleep
Just as the rest of your body needs sleep, so does your brain. However, when you’re asleep, your brain is still very much active. Your nighttime slumber allows your brain to cleanse and wash away toxins and waste that have formed throughout the day.
When you’re in a deep sleep, your body temperature drops, and the brain begins to produce slow, rhythmic electrical waves. It’s during this stage of sleep that the brain can reduce the accumulation of precursor proteins known as beta-amyloid and tau, two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
Try to get at least seven to eight hours of rest nightly. Establish a good sleep schedule and nightly routine that promotes a healthy sleeping environment. Quality is just as important as quantity when it comes to sleep.
Improve Your Lifestyle Improve Your Brain
Even though there’s still a lot to learn on whether or not we can prevent Alzheimer’s, there are still many measures you can take to reduce your risk factors of developing it. Living a healthy lifestyle and making good choices is always a good idea, and it is never too late to start. For more information on Alzheimer’s or disease prevention, contact a VIPcare provider near you!