Alzheimer’s disease was first identified in 1906 by German scientist Alois Alzheimer. Today, it’s one of the leading causes of dementia, a disease of the brain which affects cognitive ability. Worldwide, there are nearly 35.6 million people living with dementia, according to the World Health Organization. Up to 70 percent of these are thought to have Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation (ARPF), there are now 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and it is the sixth leading cause of death in America.
Researchers at the University of Columbia, New York and the Norwegian University of Science and technology in Trondheim, reported findings that could change the course of how we treat Alzheimer’s. They proved that it spreads through the brain from the first cell affected, to the one next to it. It damages each cell connected along a predictable path, eventually destroying a person’s ability to think and remember. If we understand how the disease progresses, we’ll know what drugs might stop it in its tracks. Such drugs should one day be able to trap the disease when it’s in an early stage, said Karen Duff, senior author of the study and professor of Pathology and Cell Biology, Neuroscience at the University of Columbia. Anyone can struggle, at times, to remember the title of an old movie or the name of an acquaintance. But the first symptoms are more dramatic than occasional lapses in memory.
Alzheimer’s disease has a huge impact on our society. For those at risk, you need to find a solution that first recognizes and then reduces the factors that may put you at risk:
You need to get the right amount of quality sleep to help your brain function at the optimum level. Lack of sleep decreases your ability to think, solve problems, and process, store, and recall information. It can also affect your mood and leave you feeling tired. Healthy sleep is important for memory formation and retention. Prolonged sleep deprivation seems to increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Most adults require at least 8 hours of undisturbed sleep each night.
Diet and Supplement.
Eating habits that reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of fuel are best. Focus on eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. Consuming foods such as ginger, green tea, fatty fish, soy products, blueberries, and other dark berries may protect important cells from damage.
Stress that is chronic or severe takes a heavy toll on the brain, leading to decrease in a key memory area of the brain known as the hippocampus, impeding nerve cell growth, and possibly increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Keeping stress under control requires regular effort. Make relaxation a priority, whether it’s a walk in the park, playtime with your dog, yoga, or a soothing bath.
According to the ARPF, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent. Regular exercise may also slow further deterioration in those who have already started to develop cognitive problems. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times per week. Try walking, swimming, or any other activity that gets your heart rate up. Even routine activities such as gardening, cleaning, or doing the laundry count as exercise. Adapting to an exercise routine may be challenging. If you find yourself in a hump, just force yourself to stick with it for at least a month and you’ll find that it will come naturally.
Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley has found that activities like reading, writing, and game playing appear to reduce a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The brain indeed follows the use it or lose it adage. Activities which require multiple disciplines like communication, interaction, and organization offer the best benefits. So the next time you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, take out that crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or mobile game to keep your brain busy.
Active Social Life
Studies show that the more connected we are, the better we fare on tests of memory and cognition. Commit to spending quality time with your partner, family member or a friend on a regular basis. Even during very busy and stressful times, a few minutes of really sharing and connecting can help keep bonds strong.
If you’ve become isolated over the years, you can keep your support system strong and establish new connections by being more outgoing. Get to know your neighbors, join a club, volunteer for a cause, or take group classes.
This article was contributed by VISTA Health Solutions.