While the medical world has urgently been seeking to cure Alzheimer’s disease with pharmaceuticals, studies in this field have discovered that prevention is also worth exploring. Researchers have found that everyday behaviors, which unlike genetics are within our control, can boost brain reserves and therefore help delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
1. Exercise regularly
Research reveals that your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced by 50% with regular exercise. Exercise also helps slow down deterioration when you have already begun developing cognitive problems.
Start small. Exercise can be overwhelming for those who don’t do it regularly. You can start by taking the stairs or walking when you are talking on your cell phone.
30 minutes, 5 times a week. This seems like a lot, but it can include activities that get your heart pumping, such as cleaning, gardening or doing laundry. You can also walk, try an aerobics class, or swim.
Protect your head. Trauma to the head increases your chances of developing cognitive issues. Sports such as football and boxing are more extreme examples, but even a fall from a bicycle can have an effect. Wear the correct headgear and fasten your seat belt in cars.
Balance and coordination. Similarly, you can help prevent future head injuries caused by falling by including exercises that help you focus on balance and coordination. Yoga, Tai Chi or any exercise using balance balls or discs can help keep you agile.
2. Be well-rested
Restful sleep on a regular basis helps your brain work best. Deep sleep is necessary for memory formation and retention. Sleep deprivation slows your thinking and has been shown to increase the chances of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.
Regular sleep schedule: Our brain’s clock responds well to regularity. Make sure to go to sleep and wake up at a similar time each day to correspond to our natural circadian rhythms.
Smart napping: Napping can interfere with your regular sleep and make your insomnia worse. If you do nap, make sure it’s for no more than 30 minutes and do so in the early afternoon.
Bedroom sanctity: Ban computers and televisions from the bedroom as these stimulators distract you from sleep.
Relaxing bedtime routine: Having pre-bedtime activities such as having a bath, light stretching, dimming the lights, praying or writing in a journal help signify to your brain that it’s time for restorative sleep.
3. Keep mentally stimulated
People who are mentally active have been found to be more protected against developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Any activities requiring communicating, interacting or organizing have proven tremendously helpful.
Learn a new skill. Learning a new skill helps make larger deposits in the brain reserves. Try studying a new language, learn to play an instrument, read the paper or books, or take up a new hobby.
Memory exercises: Memorization builds your memory connections. Start with memorizing something small like capital cities or a poem, then progress to rhymes and mnemonics.
Brain games: Try riddles, crossword puzzles or strategy games. Play board or card games, word games like Scrabble or Boggle, or number puzzles like Sudoku. All of these help build your capacity to retain cognitive associations.
The 5 Ws: Keep your neurons firing by asking yourself ”Who, what, where, when and why?”. Follow this up by writing down your daily experiences.
Go off routine: Varying habits helps create new brain pathways. Take a new route, use your non-dominant hand, or rearrange a storage system in your home.
4. Eat healthily
A nutritious diet optimizes your brain’s performance. Changes to your diet can help keep you protected against brain deterioration.
Skip trans-fats and saturated fats. Choose lean meats, less processed foods, skim or fat-free dairy products, and reduce your intake of fried foods.
Adopt a Mediterranean diet. This diet, consisting of fish, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, fresh fruit and vegetables, with the occasional glass of wine or piece of dark chocolate, is good for your heart. A healthy heart helps lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Eat fish and avocado. Both are filled with omega 3, a good fatty acid, which researchers have discovered may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Opt for 4-6 small meals. Eating more regularly helps maintain a consistent blood sugar level.
Think rainbow: Eat an abundance of colorful fruits and vegetables to achieve a diet high in antioxidants and vitamins. Reduce the white shades of your diet too: Carbohydrates high in sugar or refined flour lead to higher glucose levels which can inflame your brain.
Drink tea: Green tea has been shown to be excellent for a focused memory and mental alertness which can slow the aging of the brain.
5. Maintain an active social life
Research has found those with a socially active life are better protected against Alzheimer’s. Often as you get older, your support system shrinks and you’re unlikely to seek new relationships:
6. Limit Stress
Stress can lead to the brain shrinking in the hippocampus, where memory is retained, and impede nerve cell growth, increasing your chances of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Take a breath: when you’re feeling stressed your breathing rate changes, which can impact the brain’s oxygen levels. A good practice to lower a rapid heart beat is to focus on restorative breathing.
Schedule daily relaxing activities: making sure to engage in enjoyable activities can help keep your stress levels low. These can be simple activities such as going outside for a walk, playing with a pet or attending a yoga class.
Get some inner peace: studies have found that a strong mind-body connection makes for better brain health. Activities involving religious practices or reflection, prayer, and meditation help protect you from the damaging effects stress causes.