Alzheimer’s is a disorder that has been identified as the leading cause of dementia. It is a progressive degenerative brain disease. That means it starts off slowly but progresses rapidly. Brain cells start dying and this leads to declining cognitive abilities and loss of memory and bodily functions. Forgetfulness, difficulty in completing and focusing on otherwise easy tasks, confusion, inability to make decisions, a decline in problem-solving skills, problem with language, social withdrawal and behavioural changes are some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. People often ignore these early signs considering them a normal part of ageing.
Despite extensive research, the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown. However, genetics, old age and certain lifestyle disorders are considered to be risk factors for dementia. While genetics and ageing are beyond your control, there are a few things that you can do that can help with Alzheimer’s disease prevention.
Lifestyle problems that could make you susceptible to Alzheimer’s
Our lifestyle today is fraught with both psychological and physical problems that can open the doors to more serious illnesses. Even the air we breathe in is responsible for a number of illnesses.
Here are a few ways you could be increasing the chances of the onset of Alzheimer’s:
1. Cardiovascular issues
Studies have found that cardiovascular disorders and factors leading to heart diseases such as high cholesterol levels or hardened arteries or hypertension are closely linked to Alzheimer’s.
Since cardiovascular diseases can become life-threatening, by managing/preventing such diseases, you can not only guarantee better heart health but also reduce the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Just like heart disorders, elevated blood sugar levels have also been found to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Diabetes causes changes in the brain’s chemistry that can slowly trigger dementia. Diabetes is also associated with Mild Cognitive Impairment or MCI which is characterized by problems of memory, speech and other cognitive issues. MCI can aggravate and progress to dementia if diabetes is not managed effectively.
3. Anxiety and depression
Arguably, the most common mental state for most humans today, anxiety, stress and depression. Some studies have found a connection between anxiety/depression and dementia. There is a lot of research that needs to be done but most doctors believe that clinical anxiety and depression can lead to many other psychological complications.
A Harvard University survey found that the onset of depression in one’s middle increases dementia risk by 80% and the development of depression later in life raises the risk by 70%.
In this context, it is important to state that mid-life or late-life loneliness, feelings of rejection and hopelessness can also be linked to dementia because these feelings trigger depression and anxiety.
4. Drinking too much alcohol
Drinking in excess (2 or more alcoholic drinks a day) can lead to brain damage, which may, in turn, trigger the onset of cognitive problems and Alzheimer’s.
However, moderate drinking is not linked to Alzheimer’s. Neither does it offer any protection against dementia.
5. Sedentary lifestyle
A lifestyle devoid of physical activities makes the onset of Alzheimer’s more likely. Obesity increases the chances of vascular dementia (dementia caused by interrupted blood flow to the brain). Exercise helps to lose weight and it also keeps other risk factors such as stress, hypertension and blood sugar levels in balance.
According to some studies, regular exercise can lower Alzheimer’s risk by as much as 30%.
Rising levels of air pollution can cause brain atrophy that may eventually lead to Alzheimer’s.
How to prevent Alzheimer’s disease?
Try the following activities that can help with Alzheimer’s prevention:
- If you have been diagnosed with heart disorders, hypertension, high LDL levels or diabetes, manage the health conditions scrupulously. Take your medicines on time and follow the diet recommended by your doctor. Monitor the disorder at regular intervals with medical devices or diagnostic tests.
- Eat healthily. Focus on whole grains, fruits, fresh vegetables, lentils, beans, soya and dairy products, eggs and fish. Avoid red meat, refined flour, deep-fried foods and desserts.
- Exercise at least 5 times a week. Jogging, brisk walking, jumping rope, squats, lunges are good for your overall health and can keep obesity, heart disorders and diabetes at bay.
- Practise meditation, yoga, take walk in nature, spend time with your loved ones and indulge in your favourite activities to deal with stress and anxiety. Meditation has also been shown to improve memory and reduce cognitive decline, when practised together by the patient and the caregivers, it can act as a de-stressor for both.
- Wear a mask to minimize the volume of pollutants that enter your respiratory system.
- If you are going to smoke or drink, do it in moderation
- Take a good quality sleep of at least 7-8 hours. Sleeping and rising up at the same time every day is beneficial for your health.
Alzheimer’s is a very real threat. It impacts the quality of life, confidence and overall health of the patient and is also stressful to handle for the family members. Every one of us should be aware of the dangers that this disorder poses to ourselves and our loved ones. Do not ignore the early signs as early diagnosis and management can be very helpful in slowing the progression of this disease. Some studies show the positive impact of diet and lifestyle changes that can go a long way in Alzheimer’s prevention and you can start implementing them today!
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.