Can Alzheimer’s be prevented?

Published 5:51 pm Monday, June 25, 2018

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and while researchers know some of its major causes, there is no “silver bullet” that prevents, successfully treats or cures Alzheimer’s disease. 

Clinical research tells us that exercise, diet, sleep, mental stimulation and staying socially connected can all have an impact on our health and quality of life. Since the body and mind are very much connected, taking care of your body can make your brain more resilient to the onset of dementia.

Like many diseases and ailments, there are some basic steps that we can take to stay healthy or at least hold many health problems at bay, particularly those related to aging. Not surprisingly, you will recognize that the steps listed below have often been mentioned in my previous articles. They remain key lifestyle factors that have a tremendous impact on your health, longevity and quality of life. 

Physical exercise 

According to Dr. Gad Marshall, associate medical director of clinical trials at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment, “The most convincing evidence is that physical exercise helps prevent the development of Alzheimer’s or slow the progression in people who have symptoms. The recommendation is 30 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise, three to four days per week.” 

Walking is the easiest way to begin, but the list of available exercises is lengthy so there is little reason not to find something that gets you moving.

Diet 

We’re not talking about weight loss, but nutrition.  

Two programs, the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet both include fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, olive oil, beans, fish, some poultry and dairy have been proven to protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Studies now suggest that they can promote cognitive health, mitigating the risks of Alzheimer’s disease, by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

Sleep 

As we age, sleep patterns change. However, experts claim we need seven to eight hours a night. 

Dr. Marshall states, “Growing evidence suggests that improved sleep can help prevent Alzheimer’s and is linked to greater amyloid clearance from the brain.” 

So, if you don’t get enough sleep, and protect your brain by establishing a bedtime routine, maintaining a regular sleep schedule it may increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also helpful to avoid eating or exercise within two to three hours of bedtime, excessive alcohol consumption and overuse of sleeping pills.

Manage your stress levels

We can’t avoid stress, but stress and hypertension increase the risk of both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s best to learn how to keep hypertension under control and help protect yourself against cognitive decline.

Mental stimulation 

Use your brain!  

Read, do puzzles, play card games or do something that keeps your brain active challenged and active. The rule remains: active body and active brain.

Stay socially active

Many Alzheimer’s experts believe that social engagement promotes healthy aging and can help prevent the disease. It keeps your mind engaged and reduces isolation, depression and cognitive decline.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert speaker on issues of aging. His wife’s geriatric management practice serves clients in Henderson, Polk and Brevard counties. He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease,” available as a Kindle book on Amazon.com. He and his wife may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or by email at drron561@gmail.com.