Changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s Disease start long before any symptoms emerge. However, certain lifestyle choices can reduce your risk of developing the disease. For example, diet, exercise, and mindset influence your mental wellbeing. Current research suggests a holistic approach to Alzheimer’s prevention, focusing on the body, mind, and soul.
Nutrition is a critical element of brain health because the brain needs a healthy diet to function correctly. During metabolism, your body produces free radicals. These unstable molecules attack brain cells, causing oxidative stress. What you eat affects free radical production. For example, antioxidants like Vitamins C and E combat oxidative stress. So, a brain-healthy diet reduces free radicals and increases antioxidant intake. For instance, you can combat memory loss by avoiding trans and saturated fats and enjoying Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, limit cooking oil, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and red or processed meats.
These superfoods for the brain have high levels of brain-boosting properties:
- Caffeine (in moderation)
- Dark Chocolate (in moderation)
As you age, an active lifestyle is essential for a healthy brain and body. Physical and mental exercise can prevent and reverse memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s. The build-up of amyloid plaques and other harmful nerve cell junk leads to cognitive decline. Fortunately, physical activity can slow or prevent this change by cleaning up brain junk and stimulating cell growth. You see, exercise promotes a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which is associated with brain health. Researchers studied mice with Alzheimer’s and found that active mice had more BDNF than sedentary ones. You can also increase this molecule with pharmaceuticals. So, evidence suggests that a combination of exercise and medication can slow or prevent dementia.
Have you heard of Brain Aerobics? Brain Aerobics does three main things: engage attention, activate multiple senses, and break the routine. For example, you can activate your senses by attaching a color, sound, or smell to your memories. Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, President of the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, suggests doing Brain Aerobics at least 20 minutes, three times a week. “For example, you and your spouse or significant other can discuss a newspaper article, magazine article, movie you saw, or book you are both reading. I call this activity ‘headline discussion,’” said Dr. Dharma
Just like physical activity challenges your body, mental activities challenge your brain. You stimulate your brain by engaging in novel tasks. Try a different brain-building activity each day, for example:
- Playing board games
- Discussing current events
- Doing jigsaw and crossword puzzles
- Singing or listening to music
- Learning a language
- Playing computer brain-training games
Stress levels in the U.S. are higher than ever, and chronic stress takes a significant toll on your health. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol damages brain cells and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. In addition, older adults have a reduced ability to regulate cortisol levels. So, keeping stress under control is a vital part of protecting your brain. Regular relaxation practices can improve health and prevent cognitive decline. For example, different relaxation methods have worked for some people. So, explore what stress management techniques work for you, such as:
- Kirtan Kriya yoga exercise
- Guided visualization
- Deep breathing
FAQ: Can meditation slow Alzheimer’s?
Yes! Meditation creates biological changes in the brain that can prevent, slow, or stop the progression. Research shows that just 12 minutes a day protects against memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. In fact, long-term, regular meditation increases brain volume in areas that control executive function and memory.
Memory loss is not a “normal” part of the aging process. Take a proactive role in brain health and work on Alzheimer’s prevention throughout your adult life. Start with small behavior changes like diet, exercise, and stress management. It’s never too early to make these lifestyle changes. The best time to start is now.
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