Nurse and elderly woman

Fight Alzheimer’s by Keeping Your Brain Sharp

September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day. At AltaMed, we’re dedicated to helping our members do whatever they can to fight this debilitating disease. Take a few minutes to learn more about what you can do that may protect your precious brainpower.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Graphic Representation of a Brain

Alzheimer’s is a devasting disease that destroys memory and other brain functions, and makes people behave in abnormal, and sometimes dangerous and unpredictable ways. Early symptoms may be quite mild – for example, the inability to remember names, places, or common words. As the disease advances, the confusion can become more pronounced, and there may be significant changes in ability to reason, make sound decisions, and safely navigate activities of daily living. Over time, it robs its sufferers of their independence.

It is a disease that usually affects older people, but Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process. Scientists believe that Alzheimer’s is caused by several different factors – including genetics, which you can’t change, but also lifestyle and environmental factors – which you absolutely can change.

Unfortunately, you can’t test for Alzheimer’s the same way you’d test for diabetes or other common diseases. Doctors typically diagnose Alzheimer’s by evaluating reports of behavior, testing memory and cognitive function, and then possibly with an MRI or a CT scan to rule out other conditions.

The good news is that fewer than 5% of cases are truly familial Alzheimer’s, or a type that runs in the family. Besides helping you reduce your risks for Alzheimer’s, many of these tips will help you feel sharper and can improve your overall health. Get started today!

Eat More Brainfood

Healthy Diet

Because there is no miracle cure to prevent Alzheimer’s, most doctors recommend focusing on nutrition – healthy eating can make a big difference. In one promising study, a diet high in leafy veggies, lean meat, and healthy fats was shown to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 53%.


  • Fatty fish – oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring may protect your brain cells, so try to add two servings to your diet each week
  • Green, leafy vegetables – enjoy hearty salads made from kale, broccoli, spinach, and romaine, and you’ll also get a hearty helping of antioxidants
  • Berries – this delicious fruit can play a sweet role in protecting your brain function
  • Nuts – walnuts, in particular, have shown promise for improving your memory
  • Coffee and tea –a little jolt of caffeine (in moderation) may improve your mental function

Cut back on:

  • Cheese
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Fried/fast foods
  • Butter/stick margarine

Start Exercising Now and Stay Active

Exercise Time

We already know that exercise is good for your heart and reduces the risk for almost every type of cancer, but physical exercise also slows down the brain drain that comes with aging and lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Studies show that exercising as few as 10 minutes a day can boost brain function, but you should still aim for at least 30 minutes, three to four times a week.

Sleep Easy

Woman Sleeping

There’s increasing proof that getting a good night’s sleep can help protect your brain from this devastating disease. Those who suffer from impaired sleep on a regular basis are also more likely to have heart attacks, stroke, arthritis, and other serious health conditions. To learn more about how to get those Zzzzzs, read these 10 easy tips.

Keep Challenging Your Brain

Elder Man Using a Computer

Challenging your brain can help you hold onto what you’ve got. Structured, complex courses were shown to have the biggest benefit. Taking a class at a community college is an excellent way to learn something new, increase your social circle – and you can even pick up skills to help you get a new job. You can also take free online classes from platforms like Coursera and Udemy.

It doesn’t need to be a rigorous, academic class, either. Try learning a dance routine or new cooking skills. Choose a subject you’ll enjoy or are curious about, so you’re more likely to stick with it.

Be Bilingual

Happy Family Eating in the Morning

Good news for those English/Spanish households: research has found that speaking two or more languages, even if you learned the second language as an adult, may slow down your brain’s aging. No matter if you’re not 100% fluent in the second language, continue to practice and speak it – it helps your brain!

Stay Social

Family Smiling

The experts at Harvard Medical School say that maintaining a network of strong social connections is as important in protecting your brain as exercise and a healthy diet. Spending time with friends and family in real life can help protect your memory and brain performance. Having strong ties with friends and family also prevents loneliness that can lead to depression, which has been shown to speed up cognitive decline.

Aging with Independence and Dignity

Senior Couple Holding Hands

If you have a senior loved one who may need a little extra help to maintain their independence, AltaMed PACE may be an easy solution to helping them stay healthy at home. Learn more about the program, including eligibility requirements and locations.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

Learn More

Sad Woman On Bed

Mental Health Matters

Mental Health is Part of Your Health

Couple at a Doctor's Appointment

The first step is recognizing that your mental health is your health. Your mental health can also affect your physical health in some serious and surprising ways. When you’re feeling down, you may be less likely to take care of yourself: you may skip dosages of a medication or not get enough sleep. You may also engage in riskier behavior, such as drinking or eating to excess, taking drugs, or acting out aggressively.

It goes both ways: people with chronic conditions may be more likely to suffer from poor mental health. And if you have a physical condition AND you suffer from depression, you may have worse health outcomes.

Understand the Difference Between Sadness and Depression

Tired Man

You’re probably no stranger to sadness: it’s an emotion that makes you feel bad or down, usually following an unfortunate or unpleasant event, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or ending a relationship. Sadness is a common, and even appropriate reaction to these circumstances.

But in some cases, the sadness becomes something more, and can manifest in intense and even physical symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue/loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness

If you have any of these feelings that last almost all day, for at least two weeks, and it’s gotten to the point that it interferes with your daily activities, you may actually suffer from depression.

Depression is a serious condition. It may have its roots in an event, such as a major life change (getting fired, moving away from family and friends…even the stress from a happy event like getting married may trigger it). It can be a physical condition, or it may run in your family. Even getting less daylight can cause depression.

There’s a common myth that you can just snap out of it; perhaps if you just get some fresh air, talk to a friend, or treat yourself to a nice meal, you’d be able to cheer yourself up. But that’s not how depression works. It’s not a matter of will power, commitment, or positive thinking. Unless you get help, depression can last for months or even years.

Seek Out Professional Help

Woman Listening to Her Doctor

If you think you’re suffering from depression or mental illness, talk to a doctor. Under the Affordable Care Act, all health care plans are required to provide coverage for mental health care.

Your primary care doctor is a good place to start, since they already know you and your health care history. It may be easier for you, since you’re already familiar with them.

Getting Tested and Treated

Young Man Talking To Her Doctor

Once you’ve found a doctor, they can help you determine if you do have depression or another mental health disorder, its underlying causes, and the best treatment to help you feel better.

You may be given a physical exam and lab tests to help rule out other conditions. For example, if your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough hormone, you may experience depression-like symptoms, such as a low mood, fatigue, and weight gain or loss.

At this point, your doctor may recommend medication or refer you to another doctor for additional testing and treatment.

If your doctor recommends medication, you may need to try different medications before you find the one that works for you. Having bloodwork and a history of your symptoms will help your doctor tailor your treatment, but not every patient responds to every drug. If that’s the case, communicate your feelings to your doctor, be patient, and follow their advice about your prescription.

You Don’t Have to Suffer – and You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

Women Embracing Each Other

AltaMed is here for you, and we’re committed to your mental and physical well-being. To learn more about AltaMed’s behavioral health services, call 855-425-1777.

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

Woman Smiling at 50

Health Screenings After 50

Even if you’ve lived a healthy life, as you enter your 50s, your risk of developing chronic diseases, such as arthritis, heart conditions, cancer, diabetes, and even depression increases. These diseases can take years off your life, as well as affect the quality of your life.

Getting regular screenings can help you:

  • Lower your risk of chronic disease or illness
  • Save money on your medical costs, since chronic diseases require additional medical care
  • Delay or prevent illness or disease by catching them early and treating them

Basically, there’s every reason for you to take charge of your health, especially since most preventive services and screenings are covered by most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare!

Know What Tests You Need

These are a few of the most common screenings you need starting at age 50:

  • Women should get a mammogram every 2 years
  • Colorectal cancer screenings every year
  • Regular diabetes screenings
  • Lipid disorder screenings to monitor blood cholesterol
  • Osteoporosis screenings should start at age 60 to screen for healthy bones

The best way to stay healthy and keep up on your screenings is to get regular health checkups. Depending on your gender and your family health history, your doctor may recommend additional screenings for you.

Call us for more information about the health screenings you need at (888) 499-9303.

Fight Alzheimer’s by Keeping Your Brain Sharp