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?
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
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:
- Pastries and sweets
- Fried/fast foods
- Butter/stick margarine
Start Exercising Now and Stay Active
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.
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
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.
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!
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
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.