November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. When someone close to you is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it can be scary. You worry – will you get it, too? Are you predestined to get ALzheimer’s because your mother or grandmother had it? There are steps you can take to prevent Alzheimer’s right now. Keep reading to learn more about the basics, the risk factors, and the signs before diving into how you can take a holistic approach to Alzheimer’s.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease and the most common form of dementia that can affect behavior, thinking, and memory. About 5.8 million people in the United States were estimated to be living with the disease in 2020.
However, even though Alzheimer’s is well-known, it is not very well understood. Understanding the symptoms can help you identify it in others, and knowing the risk factors may cut down your own chances of the disease, however.
It’s important to note though that there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments available.
What Are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
One of the first signs of Alzheimer’s is memory lost that can impact daily activities. An individual may become lost in an area they’re very familiar with, repeat questions, or have trouble remembering to pay bills. They could also struggle with tasks they’ve done for years, experience poor judgment, misplace items, and have small or drastic changes in mood and behavior.
Since Alzheimer’s is progressive, these symptoms will become worse with time and the individual could lose the ability to have a conversation or even respond to the environment around them.
If you believe you have Alzheimer’s or you know someone who is showing the symptoms, it is important to talk to a doctor. Some of these signs can actually be due to vitamin deficiencies.
What Are the Risk Factors of Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, but risk does increase with age, especially over the age of 65. It is possible for a younger person to be diagnosed with the disease, but it is rare.
As stated previously, it is not entirely understood what causes Alzheimer’s, but these are believed to play a role in addition to age:
• Family history
◦ While your genetics will not condemn you to Alzheimer’s necessarily, they could
play a role in your risk.
• Changes in the brain
• Lifestyle and behaviors
◦ Certain behaviors, such as unhealthy choices regarding diet and smoking, could
increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s
Studies are still underway to help identify what exactly causes Alzheimer’s and how risk can be reduced.
How Can You Take a Holistic Approach to Alzheimer’s?
Even though Alzheimer’s isn’t fully understood today, there are still steps you can take to reduce your risk from the things we do know. And, in fact, new approaches are still being developed.
Focus on Your Diet
It has been found that eating patterns could impact your risk for Alzheimer’s. The Mediterranean diet, for example, has been shown to lower risk. As has MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). These diets include plenty of fruit, vegetables, seafood, and olive oil, and have been known to lower high blood pressure.
It has been shown that physical activity can benefit the brain, not just the body! And studies have actually shown cognitive decline in those who are less physically active. Exercise could help keep thinking sharp, improve memory, and even delay the start of Alzheimer’s for those who are already at risk.
Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can, understandably, bring on stress. However, stress can actually progress the disease further, so it creates a vicious cycle. It is also believed that stress has an impact on its development. Lowering your stress levels can improve your mental health and reduce inflammation, on top of lowering your risk for Alzheimer’s.
Talk with Your Doctor
Having regular appointments with your doctor regarding your mental and physical health can prove fruitful when keeping Alzheimer’s at bay. Vitamin deficiencies, for example, could have an impact on your risk, but tests with your doctor can identify those early.
Your doctor can also help you incorporate healthy habits into your life, recommend options like acupuncture that have been shown to improve cognition, and keep an eye on your heart health.
Incorporate Other Healthy Habits
Other healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep and taking care of your oral health, may all have major impacts on your risk for Alzheimer’s. It’s highly recommended that you
• Get at least 8 hours of quality sleep a night
• Stay social with loved ones and maintain friendships
• Learn new activities
• Challenge yourself
• Get regular checkups with your dentist
• Steer clear of toxins such as mold, pollution, and heavy metals
Alzheimer’s disease is no doubt scary. Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed or you’re worried about the risk factors due to family history, it can certainly be a weight on our minds. However, there are small changes we can start making today that will have big impacts on our future. If you want to know more about how Alzheimer’s can be prevented or even reversed, I highly recommend you read The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline by Dale Bredesen as it’s changing how we look at the disease as a whole.
If you want to start focusing more on healthy habits going forward, I invite you to schedule an appointment with us. Call us today to get started on a healthier and optimal you.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Can Exercise Prevent Memory Loss? – Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/alzheimers-disease/faq-20057881.
Justice, Nicholas J. “The Relationship between Stress and Alzheimer’s Disease.” Neurobiology of Stress, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 21 Apr. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5991350/.
“What Do We Know about Diet and Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease?” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-do-we-know-about-diet-and-prevention-alzheimers-disease.
“What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Oct. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm.
“What Is Alzheimer’s?” Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers.