As a person who has had the opportunity to interact with many Alzheimer’s patients, it’s difficult for me to ignore the elephant in the room: the sometimes overwhelming and life-changing impact the disease has on loved ones of the patient, especially those who take on full-time caretaking duties. As caretakers, I see these selfless people sometimes drift into depression not only because of the changes they see occurring in their loved one, but in the feeling that they are somehow glimpsing their own inevitable future.
Although there is still much to be done and understood about Alzheimer’s, research has begun to shed light on potential ways to prevent Alzheimer’s. There are many genetic components to Alzheimer’s that obviously cannot be prevented, but that’s only part of the story. Alzheimer’s needs both genetic and environmental ingredients in order to occur. As a relative of a person with Alzheimer’s, I know how important it is to recognize these factors and do everything possible to prevent them from encouraging the development of Alzheimer’s.
Keep talking: Recent evidence has shown that people who are engaged in social networks regularly have decreased cognitive impairment later in life, decreasing development of Alzheimer’s.
Keep moving: Studies have shown a relationship between exercise and dementia: the more you exercise, the less risk you are at for developing dementia. One study showed that just walking 2 miles a day can significantly decrease risk for dementia. Not to mention moderate activity with your loved-one with Alzheimer’s can also help prevent them from wandering and improve their mood.
Keep cross-wording: Activities that keep your brain busy like reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching a play or playing chess, which you do regularly, have been found to prevent dementia later on in life.
Keep watching your weight: Being obese or overweight at middle age may increase your risk for dementia. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight with BMI
Keep saying no to smoking: The more we learn about smoking, the worse it gets. It’s possible that smoking actually damages blood vessels in your brain, which may increase your risk for dementia later on in life. Just say no!
Although many of these preventive measures still need more research to determine just how protective they are against dementia and Alzheimer’s, they continue to all be healthy life choices that will benefit your body.