For the past 40 years, researchers have been trying to find ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or slow down its progression. Despite exhaustive research, we still do not have a treatment that can prevent this disorder. The only treatments available are to treat the symptoms of the disease, such as behavior, mood, anger, and cognitive dysfunction. Unfortunately, these drugs can also have adverse side effects, which are often not tolerable. How to avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s? While researchers continue to develop newer agents, medical experts suggest that one of the ways to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is by lowering the risk factors. Observations from large population studies reveal that communities who have good control of their blood pressure, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly tend to have much lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease than communities that do not control these parameters. In addition, numerous anecdotal reports and small case studies show that healthy living is linked to low rates of dementia.
What is the Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Unfortunately, after decades of research, we still do not know the exact cause of AD in the vast majority of cases. Most experts believe that it is most likely due to a combination of factors, including advancing age, lifestyle, genetics, other associated medical conditions, and the environment. While some of the risk factors, such as genetic makeup and advancing age, cannot be controlled, other factors, such as lifestyle, can be modified. Though research is still evolving, early studies show that lowering these risk factors can result in a dramatic reduction in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Heart-to-Brain Connection
The most significant observation over the years has been the heart-to-brain connection. A fair amount of research now shows that if heart health is poor, it can adversely affect the health of the brain. It has been observed in large population studies that people who have heart disease or disease of the heart and blood vessels are also at high risk for developing brain problems, including dementia and vice versa. Factors that increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also known to increase the risk of developing AD. Several autopsy studies have shown that a significant number of Alzheimer’s patients also have marked heart and blood vessel disease. So now we have come full circle and the question is, “if people reverse their risk factors for heart disease, can this also be included in ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease?” While the answer to this question is not yet within reach, there is a growing trend among healthcare advocates who believe that people who adopt a positive lifestyle can not only prevent heart disease, but it may also be how to avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you want to reduce your risk factors and find ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, here are some tips from experts:
- Exercise. It is never too late to start exercising. Some type of physical activity is better than nothing at all. For most people, walking is the best exercise as long as it is done regularly. Walk for 45-60 minutes every day, at least 4-5 times a week. Walking requires no equipment, is free, allows you to enjoy the outdoors, clears the mind, and is devoid of complications. Other exercises that are recommended include cycling, jogging, or swimming. The key is to do an exercise that you like; this way, you will continue doing it.
- Lose weight. If you are overweight or obese, start on a weight loss program. There is no need to join an expensive gym or use some type of diet program. If you walk for 1 hour every day, you can expect to lose 300 calories. In one week’s time, that amounts to 1,500-1,800 calories, which equals half a pound. In one month, you can easily lose 2 pounds and that amounts to about 20-24 pounds a year. Most people do not realize the benefits of regular walking; it can help you lose a significant amount of weight.
- Lower your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high, take your medications as prescribed. In addition, if you walk regularly, this activity can also help lower your blood pressure, and you may be able to reduce the amount of medication needed to help that situation.
- Eat a healthy diet. There are hundreds of diets on the market, but the two which have been clinically proven to be healthy and well balanced are the DASH and Mediterranean diets. Both these diets can lower your blood pressure and reduce your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The diets tend to focus heavily on plant-based foods, rather than red meats. Consult with a nutritionist to determine the right diet for you. This can be a way as to how to avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Stop smoking. One of the biggest risk factors for heart disease and atherosclerosis is smoking. By discontinuing smoking, you not only reduce the risk of heart and brain disease, but you also reduce your risk of developing cancer. There is no magical aid to stop smoking; some believe cold turkey works best.
- Lower your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels are a major risk factor for heart and brain disease. Hence, cut down on saturated fats and adopt a healthy diet. If you exercise regularly, you may also start to see a drop in your cholesterol levels.
- Control your diabetes. Diabetes can cause several serious complications that are permanent. Blood sugar control is vital. Be compliant with your diabetic medications, monitor your blood sugar closely, and follow up with a diabetic nurse.
- Maintain links with your family and friends. Evidence shows that individuals with good social support are often mentally active for a much longer time than those who lead a solitary life.
- If you are into contact sports, wear a helmet to protect your head. Considerable evidence shows that repeated head trauma can result in early dementia.
- Get vaccinated. Early data show that seniors who get vaccinated against the flu tend to have a lower risk of developing behavior and cognitive problems.
- Keep your brain active. In general, seniors who continue to challenge their brain with puzzles, reading, mind games, etc. tend to have a very low risk of developing dementia. These are great ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
- See a healthcare provider. If you have any type of chronic illness, follow up with a healthcare provider so that you can be closely monitored.
Current evidence indicates that a healthy lifestyle can protect the brain and delay or even prevent the onset of AD. The key is to make the lifestyle changes as early in life as possible, and the dividends will pay off later in life. Getting old itself isn’t exactly fun, but developing Alzheimer’s disease at the same time can be very frustrating for both the individual and everyone around him/her. By being proactive, you can significantly lower your risk of developing AD and, at the same time, enhance the quality of your life.
Cano Health consists of a group of dedicated doctors and staff who specialize in providing seniors with optimum healthcare. They offer multiple options to help you take better care of yourself. Call 1-855.975.5119 today to learn about the many programs and plans available on how to avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.