Alzheimer's Disease and Combating It
World Alzheimers Month is September and September 21st is one day set aside to raise awareness about the disease, dementia, common symptoms, and risk factors attached to it.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is defined as memory loss and other cognitive abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease is responsible for 60-80% of dementia cases.
Over time the disease will become progressively worse. In the early stages, memory loss is minimal, but as the disease takes over, individuals will lose the ability to live independently. The average expectancy after a diagnosis is 4 to 8 years.
There are signs and factors that contribute to a decline in cognitive health attributed to Alzheimer's disease.
Between the age of 60-70, parts of the brain will shrink more specifically the areas of the brain connected with learning and complex mental activities. The ability of neurons to speak to each other in the brain becomes less effective and neurotransmitter production will decline. These decreases are connected with cognitive problems. Brain cells in these areas struggle to combat oxidative stress and free radicals leading to cellular damage.
According to a 2017 study, stem cells in the hypothalamus of the brain control how quickly the body ages. Interestingly, the same study discovered that the outcomes of this loss are not irreversible.
Steps to Help keep Cognitive and potentially reverse functions
Just Keep Moving
Exercising 30 minutes a day can slow the aging of the brain. Participants in a study over the age of 50 who were not active with little to no exercise had a notable decline in memory and thinking skills compared with the participants that actively engaged in exercise. The findings in the study showed the non-exercisers brains aged an average of 10 years in the 5 years of the study. The German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases found that dancing is can maintain and reverse the signs of aging in the brain. The reason behind this is that dancing requires multiple areas of the brain to work together that include parts that control hand-eye coordination, control of limbs for movement, and mentally thinking through the fine and complex motor skills associated with dancing. So dust off the dancing shoes.
The Gut-Brain Connection
There is an ever-increasing amount of evidence to support links between what goes on in the gut and how it affects the brain’s functions. Neurotransmitters in the gut include up to 90% serotonin. According to the Clevland Clinic, “Serotonin is a chemical that carries messages between nerve cells in the brain and throughout your body. Serotonin plays a key role in such body functions as mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting, and sexual desire.” Keep your gut health in check with pre and probiotics to support a balanced healthy gut biome. Researchers at Johns Hopkins are studying the connections between the gut and memories in the brain.
Be A Life Long Learner
Like any muscle, the brain needs exercise to stay healthy. New hobbies, puzzles, trivia games, and reading are all activities that can keep the mind stimulated and active. Activities that engage the brain with new material and challenges create new connections between nerve cells and may even help produce new cells. Nerve connections and new cells lead to what is called neurological “plasticity.” The more plasticity there is built up in the brain, the more of a receive there is established to combat loss.
People who keep social connections will live longer and further research support that older people who stay socially active with their social networks will keep a higher cognitive function than those that do not keep social relationships. Social interactions were a major part of brain development as a baby, toddler, and young child. Participating in social activities works the brain like exercise and helps to keep the brain sharp and boost cognitive function.
Catch those ZZZZs
It is common knowledge that sleep plays an integral role in health and longevity. It is also an important factor in how nerve cells react to each other. Even while at rest, the brain and its nerve cells can remain active. While sleeping the nerve cells communicate and work to remove toxins that build up in the brain during your wake hours. Allow your brain to work to heal itself by having healthy sleep habits that can include naps as well as the suggested 7-9 hours of sleep daily.
Researchers continue to work to treat Alzheimer’s and ultimately hope to find a cure for this disease. Until then, it is vital that people continue to create healthy habits that will help to ensure a longer lifespan with a healthy brain and cognitive functions. The healthy habits established now even for older people are the best ways to combat the disease before it becomes a diagnosis.
If your family member or loved one is one of the 1 in 9 people diagnosed with Alzsherins, know that at Blakey Hall we are dedicated to the caring and dignity of our residents as they traverse this path. Schedule a tour of our dementia care facility and sit down with our experts as they help you to understand the steps that lay before your loved one and you as their family.