Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting millions worldwide. With the increasing number of Alzheimer’s cases, scientists are striving hard to unfold enigmas revolving around its causes and treatment. To date, no treatment is known for it, implying prevention is the most effective strategy.
As your parents are slowly getting old, you might feel concerned if they might develop Alzheimer’s, especially if the disease runs in your family. Earlier, researchers considered Alzheimer’s genetic, but continuous research has made it clear that heredity is not the only factor. Instead, several other lifestyle and environmental factors are also involved in its development. That means if we cannot control aging or genes, we still have a chance if we modify our environment and lifestyle factors. That said, you can help your aging parents stave off dementia. But how? Here we have a list of research-backed tips that you can follow to keep your parents from developing this ailment.
1. Keep the heart healthy
Research has already suggested a connection between a healthy heart and a healthy brain. According to scientists, keeping the heart and vascular system healthy can help stave off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in later life. Since the heart is responsible for keeping your brain nourished and working well, it is understandable how crucial it is to maintain it’s health.
You should keep an eye on conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and high cholesterol, especially if Alzheimer’s runs in your family. Proper nutrition and regular exercise have a significant impact on many health conditions. Make it a point to sit down with your parents and discuss the importance of heart health. Tell them to write down their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers after each appointment to monitor any noticeable changes.
2. Maintain a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is doubtlessly one of the most critical factors for preventing Alzheimer’s since it helps keep the brain and heart active and healthy. Fruits and vegetables contain bioactive compounds that have a high capacity to neutralize free radicals, staving off the deterioration of aging and degenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s).
The diet should have limited saturated fats, sweets, and red meat. Consuming less red meat and more unsaturated fats can aid in the prevention of heart disease, which, in turn, helps reduce Alzheimer’s risk. Furthermore, a healthy diet helps the natural healing process and minimizes brain inflammation. So, make sure that your parents are maintaining a proper diet.
3. Encourage Regular Physical Exercise
Another significant factor that studies have found to be particularly helpful in staving off Alzheimer’s disease is exercise. Exercise helps maintain your parents’ hearts healthy and enhances blood and oxygen flow to the brain, keeping it active and cells well nourished.
According to experts, seniors should strive to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day unless otherwise prescribed by their doctors. The idea is to gradually boost the heart rate without overstressing the body. Now, what can your parents do to get some exercise? Activities like walking, cycling, dancing, swimming, or yoga are good exercises for the elderly. See which one they find most enjoyable and ensure they stick with it.
4. Make Social Plans
Keeping your parents socially active is also an effective strategy that can help prevent Alzheimer’s. Since isolation is harmful to physical and mental health, socialization is essential. When we are socially engaged, our brains remain more active. It stimulates activity by encouraging new nerve cell connections in the brain at the molecular level, also suggesting that social engagement can help avoid cognitive decline.
Alzheimer’s is more common in those who live alone and have minimal connection with others. According to a study, isolation and constant feelings of loneliness4 increase the risk of developing the disease. Whatever the case, make an effort to see your parents as frequently as possible. If you reside out of state, try to ensure that they meet their friends at least once a week, encourage them to join a senior center, or persuade them to relocate into a neighborhood with other people their age.
5. Ensure Quality Sleep
Studies have suggested that quality sleep every night is vital and may have a role in Alzheimer’s prevention. According to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, sleep deprivation may accelerate the formation of plaque-forming beta amyloid5 in the brain. Furthermore, sleep disturbances may be the first indicator of Alzheimer’s, emerging 10-20 years before disease discovery and even before memory loss and cognitive decline manifest. Therefore, you should ensure that your parents are having a good night’s sleep.
Early identification of any disease is critical for the best possible treatment. Request that your parents keep a diary next to their bed and record how many times they woke during the night and the approximate times they went to bed and awoke. Take it with them to their doctor’s appointments so that any unusual sleeping habits can be recorded and adequately monitored.
Alzheimer’s Research Association is committed to helping caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by providing the latest news and research about Alzheimer’s, tips to cope with the challenges of caregiving, and financial assistance. You can also become a part of our endeavor by donating: https://www.alzra.org/donate-now/#donate.
If you are a caregiver to your elderly loved one with Alzheimer’s and dementia, feel free to reach out. You can apply for caregiver grants here: https://www.alzra.org/grant-applications/.
- Carrillo, J.Á., Zafrilla, M.P. and Marhuenda, J., 2019. Cognitive function and consumption of fruit and vegetable polyphenols in a young population: Is there a relationship?. Foods, 8(10), p.507.
- Farina, N., Rusted, J. and Tabet, N., 2014. The effect of exercise interventions on cognitive outcome in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. International Psychogeriatrics, 26(1), pp.9-18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23962667/
- Hsiao, Y.H., Chang, C.H. and Gean, P.W., 2018. Impact of social relationships on Alzheimer’s memory impairment: mechanistic studies. Journal of biomedical science, 25(1), pp.1-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5764000/
- Lucey, B.P., Hicks, T.J., McLeland, J.S., Toedebusch, C.D., Boyd, J., Elbert, D.L., Patterson, B.W., Baty, J., Morris, J.C., Ovod, V. and Mawuenyega, K.G., 2018. Effect of sleep on overnight cerebrospinal fluid amyloid β kinetics. Annals of neurology, 83(1), pp.197-204.