How to reduce the risk of Dementia/Alzheimer’s

How to reduce the risk of Dementia/Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is among the group of symptoms commonly referred to as dementia, and which includes vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy Bodies and Frontotemporal dementia. While there’s no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s,1 current research  suggests you can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by adopting certain lifestyle practices.2 Here, we look at the things you can do or restrict in your life to reduce your risk of dementia.

1. Stay physically active

Regular exercise is one of the top lifestyle factors that can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, by up to 50%.2

One study involving 153,000 participants showed that running 24 kilometres or more a week could reduce Alzheimer’s mortality by 40%.3

For those who have already developed cognitive issues, exercise can slow the rate of deterioration. Sufficient exercise should include at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week,2 which includes cardio exercise and muscle strength training,4 along with anything else that accelerates your heart rate. Weight and resistance training, along with balance and coordination exercises can also be good options.2

2. Stay mentally active

Staying mentally active is also linked with lowered risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.2 By continuing to learn new things and staying challenged mentally, you could stimulate your brain and prevent or slow deterioration, by lowering the accumulated damaging proteins in the brain.5

For example, one study saw bilingual or multilingual participants developing and being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at least four years later than monolingual participants.6

Mental activities that required multi-tasking, communication, interaction, and organisation offer the most protection from Alzheimer’s.2 Learning a new language, mastering a musical instrument, cultivating a new hobby, playing memory and mind training games, and doing something new and challenging are all ways to keep mentally active.

One study has shown that just ten sessions of mind training can lead to sustained results for not only months but an entire decade after the training.2

3. Eat a healthful diet

There’s a strong mind-body connection, so in taking care of your body, you are taking care of your brain. Start with a healthy diet. Alzheimer’s has been termed the diabetes of the brain, which in practical terms refers to the fact that if you eat a diet that supports lower inflammation and normal energy production, you are eating well for your brain.2

Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet high in omega 3s, vegetables, beans, whole grain, fish, and olive oil and low in dairy and meat is linked with lower cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s.7 The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) could also be beneficial, as it is rich in vegetables and fruits and low in red meat, salt, and sweets.8

Glial-cell-protective foods such as ginger, green tea, white tea, oolong, soy products, and berries can help remove toxins from the brain.9

Fresh fruit and vegetable juices could also protest against brain decline, with one study finding that drinking fruit and vegetable juices three time a week can cut the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 76%.10

4. Eliminate the negatives

Avoid trans fats, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and sugar, which can have a negative impact on brain health.2 Similarly, smoking in those aged over 65 is linked with nearly 80% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s when compared with people who have never smoked.2

5. Supplement

Consult your doctor about the possibility of benefiting from supplements. Vitamin K,11 vitamin D and omega-3 fats may have a positive impact on brain health.12 Other supplements that could also be beneficial for the brain include vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, coenzyme Q10, and turmeric.2

6. Manage your stress

A level of stress can be good for you,13 but chronic and severe stress can have a detrimental impact on brain health by shrinking the hippocampus (a core memory area of the brain), impeding the growth of nerve cells,2 and heightening the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by as much as 135%.14

Keeping a few simple stress-management tips in mind for managing your stress levels, for example, deep breathing could help you calm down. So learn to take time out for some deep abdominal breathing if you are feeling overwhelmed during the day. Break throughout the day to do something relaxing, whether it’s walking your dog, taking a hot bath, doing some yoga, or spending time in meditation.

7. Be socially engaged

Studies have shown that cultivating and having a strong social network can also reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.8 This could be because social networks provide mental stimulation, which in turn strengthens nerve cell connections in the brain. Social activities that combine both mental and physical activity – such as team sports and dancing – could have an even bigger impact on encouraging brain health and keeping dementia at bay.15

8. Follow a quality sleep program

For good health, sleep is just as important as a good diet and exercise.16 Most adults need eight hours or more of sleep each night.2 A lack of quality sleep has been identified as potentially heightening the risk of Alzheimer’s. People who have poor sleep patterns have greater levels of beta-amyloid, a brain-clogging protein that can further damages sleep quality.2

In addition, poor sleep can impact stress levels and lead to the increased production of the hormone cortisol, both of which are linked to the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Similarly, poor sleep has been linked to weight gain, depression, and Type II diabetes.16

If you have problems getting enough quality sleep, start by following a regular sleep schedule. Avoid using your phone, tablet, or computer in your bedroom, and do something relaxing – like taking a bath or reading – before you switch off the lights. Some research suggests that humans might have adapted to sleep in two distinct chunks of time rather than the standard eight hours in a single block, so there might be little reason to be worried if you find it hard to sleep right through the night.16

If you still have trouble getting to sleep after trying these tips, it’s recommended that you schedule an appointment with your doctor.

9. Have hearing loss treated

There’s a growing body of scientific evidence that has linked hearing loss with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.17 John Hopkins has released information on a study by Frank Lin, M.D., P.H.D on this subject.18 The findings stated

Although the brain becomes smaller with age, the shrinkage seems to be fast-tracked in older adults with hearing loss, according to the results of a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging.18

Speak with your doctor

Early diagnosis is important to assist with making changes to your diet, lifestyle and any relevant medication, so it’s recommended that you have annual physical exams with your doctor to take any necessary tests.


Sources

  1. Research into Dementia Treatments and CureAlzheimer’s Australia
    https://fightdementia.org.au/research-publications/research/areas-of-dementia-research/research-into-dementia-treatments-and-cure
  2. Preventing Alzheimer’s DiseaseHelpguide
    https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia/alzheimers-and-dementia-prevention.htm
  3. Running 15 Miles a Week Could Slash Alzheimer’s RiskThe Daily Beast
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/12/running-15-miles-a-week-could-slash-alzheimer-s-risk.html
  4. Step 2 – Do Some Kind of Physical ActivityYour Brain Matters
    http://yourbrainmatters.org.au/5-simple-steps/step-2-do-some-kind-of-physical-activity
  5. Step 3 – Mentally Challenge Your BrainYour Brain Matters
    http://yourbrainmatters.org.au/5-simple-steps/step-3-mentally-challenge-your-brain
  6. Bilingualism May Delay Alzheimer’s by More than 4 YearsAlzheimers.net
    http://www.alzheimers.net/12-11-14-bilingualism-delays-alzheimers
  7. Mediterranean Diet Might Help Stave Off DementiaHealthDay
    http://consumer.healthday.com/senior-citizen-information-31/misc-aging-news-10/mediterranean-diet-might-help-stave-off-dementia-675873.html
  8. Prevention and Risk of Alzheimer’s and DementiaAlzheimer’s Association
    http://www.alz.org/research/science/alzheimers_prevention_and_risk.asp
  9. Six Steps To Avert Alzheimer’s DiseaseAlzheimer’s Disease
    http://alzheimerdisease.tv/six-steps-to-avert-alzheimers-disease
  10. Juicing for Alzheimer’s PreventionAlzheimers.net
    http://www.alzheimers.net/2014-07-18/juice-for-alzheimers-prevention
  11. How Vitamin K is Good for the Brain and Alzheimer’s PreventionAlzheimers.net
    http://www.alzheimers.net/2014-07-09/vitamin-k-alzheimers-prevention
  12. 15 Resolutions to Reduce Your Dementia Risk in 2015Alzheimers.net
    http://www.alzheimers.net/1-1-15-resolutions-reduce-dementia-2015
  13. Researchers find out why some stress is good for youBerkeley News
    http://news.berkeley.edu/2013/04/16/researchers-find-out-why-some-stress-is-good-for-you
  14. Anxiety May Increase Cognitive DeclineAlzheimers.net
    http://www.alzheimers.net/11-24-14-anxiety-increase-cognitive-decline
  15. Step 5 – Enjoy Social ActivityYour Brain Matters
    http://yourbrainmatters.org.au/5-simple-steps/step-5-enjoy-social-activity
  16. Lack of Sleep May Cause Alzheimer’sAlzheimers.net
    http://www.alzheimers.net/2013-10-29/lack-of-sleep-may-cause-alzheimers
  17. Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month: What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive function?Better Hearing
    http://www.betterhearing.org/news/alzheimer%E2%80%99s-brain-awareness-month-what%E2%80%99s-link-between-hearing-loss-and-cognitive-function
  18. Hearing Loss Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue LossJohns Hopkins Medicine
    http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_accelerated_brain_tissue_loss_