November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Many assume Alzheimer’s disease only effects those of old age, but nearly 200,000 Americans under 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Another common misconception is that Alzheimer’s is an unavoidable, normal part of aging. In fact, there is an ongoing worldwide effort to find was to treat the disease, delay the progression, and prevent it from developing at all.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder that damages and eventually kills brain cells. Consequently, short-term and long-term memory are compromised, normal thinking patterns change, mood and behavior changes, and everyday brain functions are greatly affected. At its worst, the disease ultimately turns fatal.
The Good News
Neuroscience research is proving beneficial in finding effective treatments although as of now, there is no cure. Research is also helping us better understand how to best care for individuals and families experiencing the effects of the disease.
Can Alzheimer’s Be Prevented?
Research is supporting the fact that mental health practices may prevent or delay the onset of the disease. Alzheimer’s is complicated; caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors over time. The key to prevention or delaying onset is keeping the brain sharp.
How To Keep The Brain Sharp
Control Blood Pressure
High blood pressure hardens the walls of the arteries making it difficult for blood to flow to all parts of the body including areas of the brain. High blood pressure also increases risk of white matter hyperintensities which are associated with cognitive impairment, triple the risk of stroke and double the risk of dementia.
Control Blood Sugar
Type II diabetes is a strong risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Manage your blood pressure by reducing intake of sugar. Check the nutrition label and ingredient list and aim to have less than 35 grams of sugar each day. Fill your plates with more whole plants and vegetables. Lastly, lower blood sugar by making exercise your routine.
Use Your Brain
The term cognitive reserve describes the mind’s resistance to damage of the brain. Cognitive reserve is achieved by continued involvement and practice of mentally stimulating activities. Sitting watching TV would be an example of little to no stimulation. Whereas reading a book, doing a crossword puzzle or Sudoku, would be an activity of high stimulation. Keep your brain stimulated by continuing to learn new things; go to a cooking class or art class, learn a new cooking recipe, buy a word or puzzle book to do before bedtime, read a new book or join a book club.