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.
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
Dementia Symptoms Caused By Alzheimers
One of the tricky things about dementia is that it has many varied, co-occurring symptoms. Typically they dont all emerge at once, and you might not experience them all, but the symptom spectrum includes:
- Disorientation and confusion
- Feelings of being overwhelmed by routine tasks and obligations
- Forgetfulness, even around the familiar
This symptom list may frighten you at first, but its important to know that if youre armed with forethought, knowledge of your family history, and an openness to our counseling on prevention, you can become an empowered patient.
As to the specific cause of Alzheimers, it remains unknown. However, theres growing thought that lifestyle factors may contribute to the development of this disease.
Tips For Cutting Down On Alcohol
- Set yourself a limit and keep track of how much youre drinking.
- Try low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks.
- Try to alternate between alcoholic and soft drinks.
- Take advantage of particular dates and events to motivate you. For example, you could make a new years resolution to drink less.
Risk factors you can’t change
Discover how age, genetics, gender and ethnicity can affect your risk of developing dementia.
Final Word From The Doctor
The bottom line is that many aspects of your health, now and in your future, are completely under your control, so those are the ones to focus on. I can think of few things more important than caring for your brain, and you can start by working on these five lifestyle changes today. You could not only ward of Alzheimer’s in your future, but you are likely to notice major brain benefits, like quicker thinking, better memory, and better concentration, almost immediately. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
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Add Fish To Your Diet
Thats right. An interesting study found out you could reduce the risk of dementia just by eating fish once a week.24 This is because omega-3 fatty acid can protect your brain cells from damage.
If you cant have fish, nuts are another option to load up on omega-3 fatty acids. One study revealed people who ate a lot of veggies and nuts had dipped their Alzheimers risk by 70%.25
Pillar #: Healthy Diet
In Alzheimers disease, inflammation and insulin resistance injure neurons and inhibit communication between brain cells. Alzheimers is sometimes described as diabetes of the brain, and a growing body of research suggests a strong link between metabolic disorders and the signal processing systems. By adjusting your eating habits, however, you can help reduce inflammation and protect your brain.
Manage your weight. Extra pounds are a risk factor for Alzheimers disease and other types of dementia. A major study found that people who were overweight in midlife were twice as likely to develop Alzheimers down the line, and those who were obese had three times the risk. Losing weight can go a long way to protecting your brain.
Cut down on sugar.Sugary foods and refined carbs such as white flour, white rice, and pasta can lead to dramatic spikes in blood sugar which inflame your brain. Watch out for hidden sugar in all kinds of packaged foods from cereals and bread to pasta sauce and low or no-fat products.
Enjoy a Mediterranean diet. Several epidemiological studies show that eating a Mediterranean diet dramatically reduces the risk of decline from cognitive impairment and Alzheimers disease. That means plenty of vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and olive oiland limited processed food.
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How Are They Different
When a person is diagnosed with dementia, they are being diagnosed with a set of symptoms. This is similar to someone who has a sore throat. Their throat is sore but it is not known what is causing that particular symptom. It could be allergies, a common cold or strep throat. Similarly, when someone has dementia they are experiencing symptoms without being told what is causing those symptoms.
Another major difference between the two is that Alzheimers is not a reversible disease. It is degenerative and incurable at this time. Some forms of dementia, such as a drug interaction or a vitamin deficiency, are actually reversible or temporary.
Once a cause of dementia is found, appropriate treatment and counseling can begin. Until a proper diagnosis is made, the best approach to any dementia is communication, engagement and loving care.
Can Cognitive Training Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Cognitive training involves structured activities designed to enhance memory, reasoning, and speed of processing. There is encouraging but inconclusive evidence that a specific, computer-based cognitive training may help delay or slow age-related cognitive decline. However, there is no evidence that it can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s-related cognitive impairment.
Studies show that cognitive training can improve the type of cognition a person is trained in. For example, older adults who received 10 hours of practice designed to enhance their speed and accuracy in responding to pictures presented briefly on a computer screen got faster and better at this specific task and other tasks in which enhanced speed of processing is important. Similarly, older adults who received several hours of instruction on effective memory strategies showed improved memory when using those strategies. The important question is whether such training has long-term benefits or translates into improved performance on daily activities like driving and remembering to take medicine.
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What Do We Know About Reducing Risk For Dementia
The number of older Americans is rising, so the number of people with dementia is predicted to increase. However, some studies have shown that incidence rates of dementia meaning new cases in a population over a certain period of time have decreased in some locations, including in the United States. Based on observational studies, factors such as healthy lifestyle behaviors and higher levels of education may be contributing to such a decline. But the cause and effect is uncertain, and such factors need to be tested in a clinical trial to prove whether they can prevent dementia.
A review of published research evaluated the evidence from clinical trials on behavior and lifestyle changes to prevent or delay Alzheimers or age-related cognitive decline. The review found encouraging but inconclusive evidence for three types of behavioral changes : physical activity, blood pressure control, and cognitive training. The findings mean that interventions in these areas are promising enough that researchers should keep studying them to learn more. Researchers continue to explore these and other interventions to determine whether and in what amounts or forms they might prevent dementia.
Watch a video below that highlights conclusions and recommendations from the research review.
Avoid Drinking Smoking And Stress
Alcohol: Drinking too much of alcohol is a known risk factor for dementia. Long-term heavy consumption could lead to brain impairment, this is known as alcohol-related dementia. On the other hand, one study pointed out a moderate amount can lower your rate of dementia.46
Smoking: Heres another reason to quit smoking. When you smoke, you are gradually allowing the arteries in your heart to narrow down. This increases blood pressure and the chance of dementia, along with cancer and heart disease.47
Stress: Several studies reveal there is a strong link between stress and dementia. Highly anxious people shoot up the risk of Alzheimers by 135% and moderate anxiety can result in 78% increase. Even mild anxiety raises the risk by 33%.48
Midlife Personality: One interesting research found out people who were neurotic during their midlife heightened the chance of getting Alzheimers.49 Being jealous, moody, and distressed, does increase the risk.
So, get on board the program. Tweak your lifestyle and diet to keep your brain healthy. Not only are you reducing the risk of dementia but also of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Heres to a healthy dementia-free life!
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Does Dementia Run In The Family
As dementia is so common, many of us will have a relative living with the condition but this does not mean we will get it too. Directly inherited dementia is rare.
If you have a parent or grandparent with Alzheimers disease, your risk may be higher than someone with no family history. However, in most cases, the genes we inherit from our parents only have a relatively small effect on our risk of developing dementia.
In very rare cases, someone may inherit a faulty gene that causes a specific form of dementia. Some rare forms of early-onset Alzheimers disease and frontotemporal dementia are caused by faulty genes, and these can run in families. Symptoms of these genetic forms of dementia often start in the 30s, 40s or 50s.
More Useful Links And Resources
Risk factors.Alzheimer Society of Canada, 2021. Read about risk factors for dementia in our downloadable, print-friendly infosheet. This sheet also contains strategies and lifestyle changes that can help you reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Understanding genetics and Alzheimer’s disease.Alzheimer Society of Canada, 2018.In our downloadable, print-friendly infosheet, learn more about the role that genetics plays as a risk factor for dementia, and find out whether you should pursue genetic testing.
Risk factors and prevention. Alzheimer’s Society UK. This comprehensive webpage from the Alzheimer’s Society UK has some helpful nuggets of research and advice related to reducing your risk of dementia.
Tobacco use and dementia. World Health Organization , 2014. This report from the WHO details the evidence behind smoking tobacco as a risk factor for dementia.
Women and Dementia: Understanding sex/gender differences in the brain. brainXchange, 2018. This webinar discusses understandings of sex and gender, sex differences in Alzheimerâs disease, how the higher number of women with Alzheimer’s may be due to both, and a discussion of the role of estrogen in the health of brain regions associated with Alzheimerâs disease. In partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Canada and the Canadian Consortium of Neurodegeneration in Aging .
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Aluminum In The Environment
Aluminum has a non-metallic form that makes up eight per cent of the earth’s surface. In small amounts, aluminum is referred to as “trace elements”, and occur naturally in the foods we eat, in our drinking water and are even added to the water treatment process in some municipalities.
Trace elements of aluminum may also be found in:
- Many processed foods
- Cosmetics and personal hygiene products, such as deodorants and nasal sprays
- Some drugs in order to make them more effective or less irritating
- The air we breathe from dry soil, cigarette smoke, pesticide sprays and aluminum-based paint.
Outlook For People With Dementia
The outlook for patients suffering from dementia depends completely on the direct cause of dementia. The available treatments are used to make the symptoms of dementia manageable, but there is no sure-fire way of stopping the deterioration of the mind due to this disease.
Although vascular dementia can be slowed down in some cases, it can still shorten a patients lifespan. Some dementia variants are reversible, but most of them are irreversible and can cause physical and mental impairments, over time.
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What Are Risk Factors
- Risk factors are aspects of your lifestyle, environment and genetic background that increase the likelihood of getting a disease.
- Risk factors on their own are not causes of a disease. Rather, risk factors represent an increased chance, but not a certainty, that dementia will develop.
- Similarly, having little or no exposure to risk factors does not necessarily protect a person from developing dementia.
There are some risk factors that can be changed, and some that cannot â read on to know which are which!
Read about risk factors for dementia in our downloadable, print-friendly infosheet.
This sheet also contains strategies and lifestyle changes that can help you reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Understanding What The Age Bracket Means
It should be made clear that all three factors can and will have an impact on our chances of developing the disease, irrespective of our age at the time of exposure. Despite that, these age brackets were identified as the most vulnerable points in a persons life, with respect to the linked risk factor.
For example, a concussive head trauma at any age can damage the brain, while also increasing the victims chances of getting dementia. However, 35 to 45-year-olds are at a much greater risk of developing the disease later on account of a head trauma, as compared to younger adults. Similarly, seniors exposed to polluted air have shown an abnormally accelerated rate of decline in cognitive faculties, while the effect is not as severe in younger patients.
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How Common Is Dementia
Research shows there are more than 850,000 people in the UK who have dementia. One in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, and the condition affects 1 in 6 people over 80.
The number of people with dementia is increasing because people are living longer. It is estimated that by 2025, the number of people with dementia in the UK will be more than 1 million.
Mental Activity And Wellbeing
Research has linked staying mentally active to a lower risk of memory and thinking problems. Other studies have linked spending more time in education with a lower risk.
Its not clear which activities may be most beneficial but doing things you enjoy, whether thats reading, crosswords, singing or playing an instrument, will help to keep you mentally active.
Research has linked social isolation to a higher risk of dementia, although we still need to understand why. Keeping socially active by connecting with other people or joining clubs can be a good way to feel happier, healthier and more positive in life.
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Ace The Right Amount Of Sleep
If you arent taking those well needed hours of sleep, you are setting yourself up for Alzheimers. But thats not all. Even sleeping for more than 9 hours daily can increase your chance of dementia. The quality of your sleep is also important to maintain brain health.43
Aim for 6-8 hours of deep sleep every night.
Be Aware Of The Symptoms
If you are aware of the symptoms of dementia, it would help you to recognize them in other people. Early diagnosis is always helpful. This, in turn, could be used to find the exact cause of dementia and some causes are reversible. Sometimes dementia could occur from vitamin deficiencies, a tumor, or even as a response from certain medications. Two of the main causes under this category are from vitamin B12 and an underactive thyroid .
Be Cautious About Alzheimer’s Cures
Because Alzheimer’s disease is so devastating, some people are tempted by untried or unproven “cures.” Check with your doctor before trying pills or any other treatment or supplement that promises to prevent Alzheimer’s. These “treatments” might be unsafe, a waste of money, or both. They might even interfere with other medical treatments that have been prescribed.
Low To Moderate Amounts Of Alcohol
This is a somewhat controversial one since there are some risks associated with drinking alcohol, but multiple research studies demonstrated a cognitive benefit for those who drank light to moderate amounts of alcohol. Some of this may be related to the resveratrol in red wine, but other research found this benefit in other kinds of alcohol as well.
Keep in mind that there are some people who should never drink alcohol, such as alcoholics, those with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and those for whom it will interact with their medications.
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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.