Pillar #: Quality Sleep
There are a number of links between poor sleep patterns and the development of Alzheimers and dementia. Some studies have emphasized the importance of quality sleep for flushing out toxins in the brain. Others have linked poor sleep to higher levels of beta-amyloid in the brain, a sticky protein that can further disrupt the deep sleep necessary for memory formation.
If nightly sleep deprivation is slowing your thinking and or affecting your mood, you may be at greater risk of developing or deteriorating symptoms of Alzheimers disease. To help improve your sleep:
Establish a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time reinforces your natural circadian rhythms. Your brains clock responds to regularity.
Set the mood. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex, and ban television and computers from the bedroom .
Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. Take a hot bath, do some light stretches, listen to relaxing music, or dim the lights. As it becomes habit, your nightly ritual will send a powerful signal to your brain that its time for deep restorative sleep.
Quiet your inner chatter. When stress, anxiety, or worrying keeps you awake, get out of bed. Try reading or relaxing in another room for twenty minutes then hop back in.
Brain Tissue Study Sheds Light On How Exercise Can Fight Dementia
A new post-mortem brain tissue study is offering clues as to how exercise in old age can improve brain health and prevent cognitive decline. The research found late-life physical activity was associated with higher levels of presynaptic proteins, molecules previously found to support healthy brain functions.
It is, of course, no newsflash to suggest exercise can help keep your brain healthy. For years scientists have consistently found physical activity can improve cognitive function, particularly in elderly subjects experiencing the early stages of Alzheimers and dementia.
But exactly how exercise can improve brain health and prevent cognitive decline is still a bit of a mystery. Several animal studies have pointed to certain mechanisms that may be playing a role but validating those findings in humans can prove challenging.
This new research focused on a collection of proteins known to play a role in maintaining healthy synaptic functions. A study published last year reported a correlation between high levels of these presynaptic proteins and reduced accumulations of toxic proteins associated with neurodegeneration and cognitive decline.
The prior study tracked levels of these presynaptic proteins in spinal fluid from living elderly subjects and in post-mortem brain tissue samples. The new research set out to investigate whether physical activity could be linked to presynaptic protein levels in the brain.
What Are The Symptoms Of Early
For most people with early-onset Alzheimer disease, the symptoms closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer disease.
Withdrawal from work and social situations
Changes in mood and personality
Severe mood swings and behavior changes
Deepening confusion about time, place, and life events
Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers
Trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking
Severe memory loss
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Does Exercise Help With Alzheimers Disease Prevention
Much research has investigated the role of exercise in regards to Alzheimers disease and the evidence suggests that a regular exercise regimen can be a beneficial strategy to reduce the risk of Alzheimers and other forms of dementia. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain and increases an important brain growth hormone called brain derived neurotrophic factor. All forms of exercise are beneficial for preventing Alzheimers disease: cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, and mobility. At the Amos Institute, we help you curate an exercise regimen that will optimize your cognitive health.
Targets Of Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Research
Researchers are exploring these and other interventions that may help prevent, delay, or slow Alzheimer’s dementia or age-related cognitive decline. Other research targets include:
- New drugs to delay onset or slow disease progression
- Diabetes treatment
- Blood pressure- and lipid-lowering treatments
- Sleep interventions
- Vitamins such as B12 plus folic acid supplements and D
- Combined physical and mental exercises
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How To Prevent Alzheimers: Strategies For Early Prevention
Its one of the most-asked questions in current medicine: How do I prevent Alzheimers disease?
Early prevention shows great promise for lowering the risk of cognitive decline. The sooner prevention can start, the better the outcome.
Whats more, these methods can result in a boost in wellness starting right now. Here are the top research-backed strategies to prevent Alzheimers.
Obesity And Dementia Risk
Research shows people who are obese are more likely to develop dementia later in life. Some researchers say obesity should be considered premature aging, as it is strongly linked to chronic health problems in old age.
According to Adesola Ogunniyi, an author of the report and a professor of medicine at University of Ibadan, Nigeria, obesity is a risk factor for chronic cardiovascular diseases, which damage blood vessels in the brain and reduce blood flow. This leads to a cascade of inflammation and oxidative stress an imbalance between oxygen-containing molecules and antioxidants which would eventually lead to the death of brain cells.
Heres what you can do:Ogunniyi recommended losing weight, avoiding excess calories and reducing sugary beverages along with staying active and exercising.
Read more about past research on the link between obesity in midlife, body mass index and dementia
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High Blood Pressure And Dementia Risk
High blood pressure can cause blood clots in arteries, blocking blood flow to the brain. Stroke and the loss of brain cells may follow, and the brain could subsequently shrink.
People with high blood pressure in midlife are more likely to develop dementia later in life .
Heres what you can do:Make sure you know your blood pressure if you are 40, Livingston said. The Lancet team recommended aiming for a systolic blood pressure the pressure of the blood against artery walls as the heart beats of 130mm Hg or less in midlife, though Larson cautioned against reaching an overly low blood pressure.
Experts say managing stress and sleeping well, maintaining a stable weight and eating a healthy diet of less sugary foods, exercising regularly and refraining from smoking can help control blood pressure.
Read more about past research on the link between hypertension and dementia, and insights on how hypertensive treatment may reduce risk of cognitive decline
Take Your Brain For A Walk
Getting up and moving helps to keep your body and brain strong. Research is unclear on whether exercise prevents dementia, but there are many studies that suggest regular activity is good for your brain. One even showed low dementia risk among very fit women. Physical activity helps prevent other health conditions linked to dementia including:
- High blood pressure
Action Strategy: Just do it. Start small but make sure you start. Add a small activity, depending on your level of physical fitness. This could be as simple as walking up and down a hallway a few times or as challenging as a 5-mile hike with friends. Aim to fit 150 minutes of physical movement that gets your heart beating faster into each week.
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Give Your Brain A Strong Heart
Your heart and brain are strongly connected. A healthy heart gives you a better chance for a healthy brain. 80% of people with Alzheimers disease also have heart disease. It is possible that the decline in the brain is not noticed unless it is paired with poor heart health. Evidence suggests that controlling high blood pressure could be key to better brain health.
Action Strategy: Have your blood pressure checked by a health professional regularly. If you have high blood pressure, discuss steps to improve your heart health. For example, take 5 deep breaths every hour to reduce stress. Make sure to exercise regularly and eat a heart-healthy diet.
Pillar #: Regular Exercise
According to the Alzheimers Research and Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimers disease by up to 50 percent. Whats more, exercise can also slow further deterioration in those who have already started to develop cognitive problems. Exercise protects against Alzheimers and other types of dementia by stimulating the brains ability to maintain old connections as well as make new ones.
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. The ideal plan involves a combination of cardio exercise and strength training. Good activities for beginners include walking and swimming.
Build muscle to pump up your brain. Moderate levels of weight and resistance training not only increase muscle mass, they help you maintain brain health. For those over 65, adding 2-3 strength sessions to your weekly routine may cut your risk of Alzheimers in half.
Include balance and coordination exercises. Head injuries from falls are an increasing risk as you age, which in turn increase your risk for Alzheimers disease and dementia. As well as protecting your head when you exercise , balance and coordination exercises can help you stay agile and avoid spills. Try yoga, Tai Chi, or exercises using balance balls.
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Why Are Social Activities Good For The Brain
Having a conversation with someone can also exercise a wide range of your mental skills, for example:
- actively listening to and communicating with the other person
- considering the meaning of what someone is trying to tell you and how they feel
- finding the right way to express what you want to say and putting words together in the right order for someone to understand
- recalling things that have happened which are relevant to what youre talking about.
Pillar #: Mental Stimulation
Its important to continue learning new things and challenging your brain throughout life. Whether youre looking to prevent the onset of dementia or delay its progression, when it comes to your brain the key is to use it or lose it. In the groundbreaking NIH ACTIVE study, older adults who received as few as 10 sessions of mental training not only improved their cognitive functioning in daily activities in the months after the training, but continued to show long-lasting improvements 10 years later.
Activities involving multiple tasks or requiring communication, interaction, and organization offer the greatest benefits. Set aside time each day to stimulate your brain:
Learn something new. Study a foreign language, practice a musical instrument, or learn to paint or sew. One of the best ways to take up a new hobby is to sign up for a class and then schedule regular times for practicing. The greater the novelty, complexity, and challenge, the greater the benefit.
Raise the bar for an existing activity. If youre not keen on learning something new, you can still challenge your brain by increasing your skills and knowledge of something you already do. For example, if you can play the piano and dont want to learn a new instrument, commit to learning a new piece of music or improving how well you play your favorite piece.
Follow the road less traveled. Take a new route or eat with your non-dominant hand. Vary your habits regularly to create new brain pathways.
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Who Has Alzheimers Disease
- In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimers disease.1
- Younger people may get Alzheimers disease, but it is less common.
- The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
- This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
- Symptoms of the disease can first appear after age 60, and the risk increases with age.
Give Your Brain Strong Relationships
Your brain thrives when you are talking and spending time with those you love. Building and maintaining strong relationships with others is vital to your health and may even reduce your risk of dementia by 26%, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health.
Action Strategy: Make healthy relationships a priority. Feeling safe and connected can improve your brain health so offer your love and time freely but also set limits on spending time with people who may be toxic.
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What About Vitamins And Supplements
Observational studies and clinical trials have looked at many over-the-counter vitamins and dietary supplements, including vitamins B and E and gingko biloba, to prevent Alzheimers disease or cognitive decline. The idea is that these dietary add-ons might attack oxidative damage or inflammation, protect nerve cells, or influence other biological processes involved in Alzheimers.
Despite early findings of possible benefits for brain health, no vitamin or supplement has been proven to work in people. Overall, evidence is weak as many studies were too small or too short to be conclusive.
Take DHA for example. Studies in mice showed that this omega-3 fatty acid, found in salmon and certain other fish, reduced beta-amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimers. However, clinical trials in humans have had mixed results. In a study of 485 older adults with age-related cognitive decline, those who took a DHA supplement daily for 24 weeks showed improved learning and memory, compared to those who took a placebo. Another study of 4,000 older adults conducted primarily to study eye disease concluded that taking omega-3 supplements, alone or with other supplements, did not slow cognitive decline.
Can Eating Certain Foods Or Diets Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
People often wonder if a certain diet or specific foods can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The recent NASEM review of research did not find enough evidence to recommend a certain diet to prevent cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s. However, certain diets and healthy eating patterns have been associated with cognitive benefits. Studies of diets, such as the Mediterranean diet and the MIND dieta combination of the Mediterranean and DASH dietsare underway. Learn more about what we know about diet and the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information, read What Do We Know About Diet and Alzheimer’s Prevention?
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Is Dementia Hereditary And Can It Be Prevented
Speak A Second Language
Learning a second language can help you out during your next international trip and help you feel empowered because you are learning something new. But learning a new language can also help improve your cognitive skills, helping to keep dementia at bay. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America reports that lifelong bilingualism can prevent cognitive decline and may help delay the onset of dementia.
If you havent been speaking a second language for your lifetime, dont despair. You can still reap significant benefits from learning a new language in your senior years. The Glasgow Memory Clinic states that people who learn a new language tend to have lower rates of dementia and memory issues later. While direct reasoning is not yet determined, it appears that learning a new language can cause resiliency in the brain, helping to reduce the chance of dementia or even delay its onset.
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What Is Known About Alzheimers Disease
Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease. There likely is not a single cause but rather several factors that can affect each person differently.
- Age is the best known risk factor for Alzheimers disease.
- Family historyresearchers believe that genetics may play a role in developing Alzheimers disease. However, genes do not equal destiny. A healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimers disease. Two large, long term studies indicate that adequate physical activity, a nutritious diet, limited alcohol consumption, and not smoking may help people. To learn more about the study, you can listen to a short podcast.
- Changes in the brain can begin years before the first symptoms appear.
- Researchers are studying whether education, diet, and environment play a role in developing Alzheimers disease.
- There is growing scientific evidence that healthy behaviors, which have been shown to prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, may also reduce risk for subjective cognitive decline. Heres 8 ways.
Eating Mushrooms Can Help To Protect The Brain And Prevent Dementia
A study has found that elderly people who eat more than 2 standard portions of mushrooms every week may have a 50% lower risk of mild cognitive impairment. The 6-year study collected data from over 600 Chinese individuals older than 60 residing in Singapore.
A portion was determined as 3 quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms with an average weight close to 150 grams. Two portions would be comparable to about half a plate. Although the portion sizes serve as a guideline, it was shown that even 1 small portion of mushrooms weekly could still be beneficial in reducing mild cognitive impairment risk.
Mild cognitive impairment is generally considered as the stage between normal aging cognitive decline and the more serious dementia cognitive decline. Individuals suffering from mild cognitive impairment often display some kind of memory loss or forgetfulness and could also exhibit other cognitive function deficits like visuospatial abilities, attention, and language. The changes can however be subtle, as disabling cognitive deficits that impact everyday life activities typical of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are not experienced.
A 2-hour standard neuropsychological assessment was then carried out, together with a dementia rating. The combined test results were comprehensively discussed with expert psychiatrists who were involved with the study in order to get a diagnostic opinion.
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Reducing Your Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
- keeping alcohol to a minimum
- eating a healthy, balanced diet, including at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day
- exercising for at least 150 minutes every week by doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity , or as much as you’re able to
- making sure your blood pressure is checked and controlled through regular health tests
- if you have diabetes, make sure you keep to the diet and take your medicine