If you ask people what medical ailment they fear the most, many will say that diseases which affect the mind – like Alzheimers – are top of the list. Alzheimer’s diminishes brain function, resulting in memory loss and difficulty accomplishing simple tasks, like recognizing loved ones, getting dressed, or using the bathroom. If you know someone who has been affected, then you understand how difficult the disease can be not only for the individual, but for those around them.
These debilitating symptoms are caused by buildup of plaque in the brain. This plaque disrupts the connections between our brain’s neural receptors, and results in decreased control of our cognitive functions. While it’s true that genetics can play a part in developing Alzeimers, new research has shown that this is not the only cause of Alzeimers. We now know that a number of factors can contribute to this plaque buildup, and many of them are under our control.
In fact, a 2017 study discovered that 1 in 3 cases of Alzheimers were found to have been preventable!
These preventable factors, like poor diet, lack of exercise, and low brain stimulation will be explored in this article, as well as simple ways to accomplish them. Start today and live better!
What we eat has a huge impact on our brain, and a poor diet can make you more susceptible to Alzheimer’s. Too many carbohydrates (yes, even complex carbs), simple sugars, and overly-processed foods can cause inflammation and plaque buildup that promotes the disease.
Research has shown that the MIND diet, a program specifically designed to prevent cognitive decline, is the ideal eating plan for those focused on maintaining a healthy brain. It consists of ten foods that are known to increase brain function and decrease the risk of diseases like Alzheimers. Consider giving it a try – you definitely wont regret it later in life!
Adults who exercise regularly reduce their chances of developing Alzheimers by 50%, according to a 2019 Norwegian study. Researchers believe this is due to the increase in oxygen flow to the brain, as well as the stimulation of new neural connections.
Even though any exercise is beneficial, research suggests that the type of exercise is an important, too. Most recently, a 2018 study suggests that aerobic exercise is the most effective when it comes to delaying cognitive decline in people at risk of developing Alzheimers.
The World Health Organization suggests that anyone over 65 should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week (or an average of 20 minutes per day!) to help prevent cognitive decline. This could include activities such as brisk walking, running, or swimming. In the case of individuals who have joint issues – like arthritis or chronic inflammation – machines like the elliptical are a great option.
Continuing to learn and develop new skills is perhaps the most important thing you can do to maintain a strong brain. Similar to how weightlifters must constantly stress their muscles in order for them to grow, our brains need to be challenged and stimulated to grow stronger.
If we don’t put in the effort to strengthen our brain, it can atrophy and weaken. Alzheimers and other forms of dementia are much more likely to develop in an unstimulated (or under-stimulated) brain like this.
By forcing ourselves to learn and develop new skills, new neural pathways are formed in our brains, making them stronger, and more able to remain flexible as we get older. Individuals with this high “brain plasticity” have been shown to be at a significantly lower risk of Alzheimers. Dr Sanjeev Kumar, senior author of a 2017 study stated, “Impaired brain plasticity may be a future target for treatment or prevention of dementia”.
Try learning a new language, or taking up a musical instrument to stimulate your brain. Just keep in mind that you need to continue making a conscious effort to try harder and more challenging things. You don’t have to be great, or even good, at these activities… that’s the point. You’re learning!
In addition to the physical things listed above, recent advancements in CBD research show that its anti-inflammatory and anxiety prevention benefits could help with Alzheimers prevention and treatment. Even more interesting, a recent study suggests that supplementing CBD could possibly promote the growth of new brain cells.
While these things can help deter and slow the development of Alzheimers, there is no cure to totally prevent or reverse its effects. This makes it even more important to adopt proactive measures like these. By doing so, you’ll not only keep cognitive decline at bay, you’ll also be enjoying the tremendous benefits that diet, exercise, and mental stimulation have on your daily life.