There are very few disease processes that strike more fear into our hearts than Alzheimer’s.
The idea of losing connection to the world around us and the most important people in our lives is devastating. Because of this, how to prevent Alzheimer’s naturally is a question most people want to be answered.
The healthcare experts at Healthy Directions aim to help our readers understand this disease better and offer suggestions on ways to help maintain brain health.
What Is the Main Cause of Alzheimer’s?
One of the difficult parts about Alzheimer’s is how little scientists know about what causes it. Although we have been aware of the disease since 1906, when Dr. Alois Alzheimer first noticed changes in brain tissue during a post-mortem examination, what triggers those changes is still a focus of significant research.
The Alzheimer’s Prevention Foundation continues to lead the charge and look for potential breakthroughs.
What is known is that direct examination of the brains of those who have exhibited Alzheimer’s symptoms revealed a few common findings — beta-amyloid plaques (abnormal “clumps”) and neurofibrillary tangles (bundles of fibers).
These anomalies slow down and eventually stop the old connections from firing appropriately, which leads to many of the cognitive symptoms of the disease.
Unfortunately, that means that the leading cause of the disease is not known. We know that medical professionals recognize it as a brain disorder that slowly destroys thinking skills, memory, and the ability to perform simple tasks.
The disease most commonly impacts older people (over the age of 65), and advancing age is the most significant factor in developing Alzheimer’s.
Through research, scientists have also linked a specific gene (allele) to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease — apolipoprotein E (APOE). This gene is located on chromosome 19, and it significantly increases the risk of developing the disease. However, APOE itself does not “cause” the disease, which is an important distinction to make.
Interestingly, there is also a connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s, as there is a significant overlap between the two disease processes. Specifically, diabetes may increase the risk of developing vascular dementia, a form of disease triggered by a change in blood flow that carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
What Are The Warning Signs of Dementia?
Recognizing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can help you get a jumpstart on slowing down the progression of the disease. In most cases, these symptoms are signs of cognitive decline, and they may start small and subtle.
In its early stages, it’s common to see memory loss, frequent misplacement of items, forgetting names (of both objects and people), and repeating themselves often.
As the disease progresses out of mild cognitive impairment, those symptoms worsen. There may also be sleep disturbances, mood changes, increasing confusion, and even potential delusions.
Once Alzheimer’s reaches its late stage, the cognitive problems are undeniable. People with late-stage dementia need full-time care and can no longer live on their own safely. They may experience significant weight loss, trouble moving on their own, and a gradual loss of their ability to speak or be oriented to reality.
Although age is a major risk factor, Alzheimer’s disease does not always impact the elderly. Young- or early-onset Alzheimer’s impacts people under 65, so staying vigilant about recognizing the signs is critical.
How Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented?
Developing potential ways to reduce the risks of developing Alzheimer’s has to start with an awareness of the risk factors. It comes down to doing what you can to maintain your brain health, which you can do using a combination of cognitive training and lifestyle changes.
Common suggestions to lower risk and keep both your body and mind functioning at their optimal level include:
Commit to a Regular Exercise Routine
Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise like walking or running, helps increase circulation, maintain weight, and decrease the risk of certain diseases. However, exercise is also great for the brain and the mood as it triggers the release of endorphins and other “happy” hormones like serotonin into the body.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Opt for diets like the Mediterranean diet, full of fresh fruits, berries, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Try to reduce your consumption of red meats, carbs, and dairy products and focus on foods with vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. Beans and poultry are good protein sources, and olive oil is full of healthy fats.
A healthy diet can not only help protect your brain health, but it can also help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Smoking can damage your entire cardiovascular system, and quitting is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Nicotine leaves the system just 1 - 3 days after quitting, which means many of the adverse effects of smoking start to fade quickly.
Keep Your Brain Engaged
Crossword puzzles, reading a book and expressing your creativity help keep the neurons firing. Brain cells are “use it or lose it,” so keeping them active is excellent for brain health as well as overall mood.
Call your friends and family regularly and arrange a time to see them face-to-face. Often, loved ones recognize the signs of cognitive decline, plus having social support is great for everyone, no matter the situation.
Get Quality Sleep
Sleep is when both our body and our brain repair themselves, so when we don’t give ourselves time to do that, we leave ourselves far more vulnerable to disease.
Developing a bedtime routine and minimizing distractions can help. Aim for a solid seven to eight hours a night.
The risk of Alzheimer’s increases as we age, but science still hasn’t found what may trigger it. Learning how you can prevent the risk of developing Alzheimer’s naturally involves finding ways to identify the risks and make healthy lifestyle choices. Don’t wait until the signs show; start making interventions to protect your brain health today.