“Prevention is better than cure” sure is cliche, but whether we like it or not, when it comes to certain diseases that have no cure in sight, prevention is the only way to go.
For a lot of seniors and for the children of a lot of seniors, Alzheimer’s is the most dreaded of all diseases that tend to develop as one ages. That’s because it is mental and progressively degenerative and worst of all, because there is no cure.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a progressively degenerative disease affecting the brain. In patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, the very brain cells start to degenerate, as do the vital connections between brain cells. This results in memory loss, that is most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s but also in loss of reasoning, time and space disorientation and much more.
Alzheimer’s is sometimes confused with “dementia” but dementia is just a symptom of Alzheimer’s. The clinical name sometimes used for Alzheimer’s is Anosognosia.
In all likelihood, the patient will not be aware that they have Alzheimer’s and might not remember their “episodes” of confused behaviour.
Now that you know what Alzheimer’s is and how it manifests itself, you are ready to begin reducing the risk of your parent (or other beloved senior) getting it.
The 4 pillars of optimal brain function
There are several moves that can be made to lower one’s risk of ever getting Alzheimer’s. These practices can be divided into 4 main categories or we would like to label them as pillars of one’s lifestyle.
Think of these as the pillars that uphold brain function. You need to strengthen and maintain all four pillars to protect your brain from Alzheimer’s.
One can think of it as “Ugh why does diet come in everywhere” or you can see it as “By simply maintaining a good diet, I can keep yet another problem at bay”. Either way, you’ll need to watch what you eat if you want to avoid heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
You definitely want to avoid these in any case and by avoiding them, you could also lower your risk of getting Alzheimer’s because there is a correlation between Alzheimer’s and heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Well look at that! One stone and five birds. A 5-in-1 benefit. Buy 1, get 4 free. We’re not overselling here. Marketing spiel aside, a healthy diet is the number-one way to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Avoid reaching for
- Processed and preserved foods (that includes pickle/ achar folks)
- Food with added sugar
- High sodium snacks and foods
- Deep fried anything
- Full fat dairy and fatty dairy
- High carb, low fibre foods
Have a diet that comprises of
- Several servings of fruits and vegetables (whole. Not juiced. Never juiced.)
- Lean protein
- Vegetarian protein
- Whole grain foods
- Low fat dairy
- Nuts and berries of the right variety and in moderation – do further research
This is another of those 5-in-1 benefits, plus, you look great and feel happier when you exercise. You have a variety of options depending on your age, surroundings, lifestyle and family situation.
We’ve rounded up a few options below, but anything works if it gets you up and moving about.
Some of these are fairly commonly suggested such as:
- Simple bending, stretching and rotating
- Any group-based exercise for your age group
- Taking your grandchildren to the park
- Following an age-appropriate online fitness routine
Alternatively, get creative with your activities. These qualify too:
- Using an old-school sewing machine
- Taking the dog out/ feeding strays in the neighborhood
- Climbing stairs (but consider the pressure on your knees)
- Walking to a place of worship nearby, performing your preferred form of worship and returning walking
Any of these activities performed for 30 minutes a day and 5 days a week, gives you your physical fitness quote to reduce your Alzheimer’s risk.
When you notice cracks in a wall, you will typically reinforce the wall, right? In the same way, if Alzheimer’s causes degeneration of brain cells and their connections, a good way to counter it might be to activate brain cells and spark new connections. Or at least keep existing connections going.
What better way to achieve this than to keep the brain challenged, active, striving, stretching and moving?
When your brain is active, you enjoy yourself and are also typically happier. Looks like we obtain a 3-in-1 benefit here too!
Try mentally stimulating games like:
- Other exciting board games that have come out today
- Card games – mix it up with new versions of them
You can also engage in solo activities when everyone is at work or school
- Learn something new or pick up an old hobby (there’s a reason why healthy seniors in the old days sewed, knitted, baked, did safe and minor carpentry and repairs – it’s not about saving money, it’s about staying sharp)
- Crossword puzzles
- Entertainment shows that stimulate the brain (avoid slapstick and definitely avoid mindlessly scrolling through short videos)
- Learn a new language
- Play a musical instrument
One way to keep the brain active is to help younger grandchildren with their homework and project work, help with maintaining a record of family expenses and other records (or at least your own) and staying in the ball with regards to your finances.
Staying social and having conversations also helps to keep your brain healthy, alive and buzzing. Here are some activities that could be very good for you:
- Have a routine of chatting with certain friends and family, neighbours and any others
- Volunteer and give back with community service
- Be sure to step out or have people over a few times in the week
Avoid isolation because it allows your brain to become lazy.
All of these well calculated moves – practiced not sporadically, but as a way of life – can help reduce risk of Alzheimer’s.