Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. Dementia is a progressive disorder of the brain characterized by a gradual loss of memory and cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, reasoning — and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. As the disease progresses, the person may lose the ability to perform the simplest daily tasks and respond to the environment.
Alzheimer’s Disease is frightening. The thought of getting this disease is alarming, especially if one has witnessed anyone suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia. Scientists have been working for decades to find an effective medical cure for this disease. But still, no single medical treatment has been found. That makes the situation even scarier, and one may wonder what they can do to prevent it. Fortunately, extensive research has led us to the point where we can slow its progression even if it has been diagnosed.
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease and we can’t control risk factors related to age or genetics. But there are certain lifestyle factors that can help slow the disease progression.
Identification and regulation of your risk factors, along with some lifestyle modifications, can be effective in maximizing your brain health. Here are some important factors that can help slow Alzheimer’s and dementia progression and help preserve your cognitive abilities for longer.
5 Ways to Slow the Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
1. Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is one factor that can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia as it is connected with a healthy brain. Studies have suggested the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet1 in reducing cognitive deterioration. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fish, and poultry, which are a major part of this diet, can have beneficial effects on brain health.
Saturated fats, sugar, and red meat should be limited in an effective diet. Consuming a lesser amount of red meat and more unsaturated fats can help prevent the development of cardiac diseases. This indirectly prevents the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.
A study2 has exhibited many differences in the brains of a Mediterranean and American diet individual. Researchers have found more beta-amyloid proteins in the brains of people who consume traditional American food. Beta-amyloid proteins are protein particles that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
2. Physical Exercise
There are various studies3 that suggest physical exercise may help in slowing cognitive decline. Just as exercise helps keep the body healthy, it also maintains good brain health by supplying increased blood and oxygen supply to the brain. According to a study4, an MRI scan after 6 to 12 months of exercise showed an improved connection between both the brain regions. Furthermore, cognitive scores of seniors with dementia, who exercised regularly, were found to be better compared to their counterparts with less physical activity.
Physical exercise can be effective in preventing, slowing the symptoms of early-stage Alzheimer’s. Moreover, it can help improve memory and learning in people with middle or late-stage disease. It is important to note that a moderate amount of physical activity (about three times per week) is enough to slow the progression of dementia.
3. Heart and Vascular Health
Preventing heart and vascular diseases is another effective way to slow a cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s progression. Besides a healthy diet and physical activity, you should keep your heart healthy too. It is essential that you stop smoking, control your cholesterol and blood pressure, maintain normal blood glucose levels, keep a healthy weight, and relax and avoid stress.
Research5 has suggested that good heart and vascular health is associated with a lesser risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia in later life.
4. Social Engagement
Socialization is crucial as isolation is bad for physical and mental health. Our brains remain more active when we remain socially engaged. On the cellular level, it encourages new connections in the brain, leading to stimulation of activity. That also hints at social interaction as one of the ways to help prevent cognitive decline.
Alzheimer’s disease often develops in people who live isolated with very little interaction with others. A group of researchers performed a study for three years6 and concluded that the participants with less social interaction exhibited more cognitive decline. Another study7 has demonstrated that isolation and constant feelings of loneliness augment the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Contrarily, living in communities and socializing can slow down the memory decline and the Alzheimer’s progression.
5. Mental Stimulation
Scientific studies have provided evidence that mental stimulation can help in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The risk of dementia was reduced significantly8 in people who were actively engaged with leisure-time.
Mental stimulation strengthens the connections among brain cells, as well as, strengthening the brain cells. It may also slightly magnify the number of brain cells. To stimulate the mind, activities such as solving puzzles, playing board games, learning a language, or playing an instrument are great exercises. Furthermore, you can challenge your brain by improving your skills in something you already do.
At present there is no cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, preventing it is the best thing that we can do. There are certain lifestyle factors that, if modified properly, can significantly help in preventing cognitive decline.
- Hu, N., Yu, J.T., Tan, L., Wang, Y.L., Sun, L. and Tan, L., 2013. Nutrition and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. BioMed research international, 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705810/
- Farina, N., Rusted, J. and Tabet, N., 2014. The effect of exercise interventions on cognitive outcome in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. International Psychogeriatrics, 26(1), pp.9-18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23962667/
- Ahlskog, J.E., Geda, Y.E., Graff-Radford, N.R. and Petersen, R.C., 2011, September. Physical exercise as a preventive or disease-modifying treatment of dementia and brain aging. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 86, No. 9, pp. 876-884). Elsevier. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3258000/
- Biddle, K.D., Uquillas, F.D.O., Jacobs, H.I., Zide, B., Kirn, D.R., Rentz, D.M., Johnson, K.A., Sperling, R.A. and Donovan, N.J., 2019. Social engagement and amyloid-β-related cognitive decline in cognitively normal older adults. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 27(11), pp.1247-1256. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31248770/
- Hsiao, Y.H., Chang, C.H. and Gean, P.W., 2018. Impact of social relationships on Alzheimer’s memory impairment: mechanistic studies. Journal of biomedical science, 25(1), pp.1-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5764000/
- Cheng, S.T., 2016. Cognitive reserve and the prevention of dementia: the role of physical and cognitive activities. Current psychiatry reports, 18(9), pp.1-12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27481112/