Alzheimer’s disease causes damage to your brain cells, which leads to dementia. Alzheimer’s accounts for about two-thirds of dementia cases in Australia. Alzheimer’s disease affects memory, thinking, emotions, behaviour and mood. It is a progressive disease, so over time symptoms worsen.
At the moment there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself from this distressing disease. Here are ten tips to help you keep your brain in good condition, so you have the best chance of avoiding Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercise your body
Physical exercise is one of the best ways to keep your mind healthy. Exercise helps you to maintain good blood flow to the brain, ensuring it gets all the nutrients it needs to keep working. Doing just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week will help your brain to stay healthy. If you can exercise every day then that’s even better. Why not try walking, cycling, swimming or gardening?
Exercise your brain
As important as physical exercise is, it’s just as important to give your brain a workout. A two-pronged approach to this will offer the best results. Firstly, it is important to learn something new. Activities which are ‘novel and complex’ are considered the best way to keep your mind young. So try to learn something which is completely new to you, and which really stretches your brain. Secondly, you should also maintain the skills you have now. Doing crosswords, number puzzles and reading books are all great ways to exercise your brain when you aren’t specifically learning a new skill.
Studies have shown that stress increases the flow of cortisol to your brain, which can lead to memory problems. Taking some time out can help, but it is also important to deal with specific issues which may be bothering you. Consider whether your financial stability, family situation or a friendship may be causing you stress, and try to deal with the problem, rather than just living in a state of high tension. Your brain will thank you.
Spice things up
Certain spices contain antioxidants which have been shown to help keep your brain healthy. Curcumin has been shown to reduce amyloid plaques, which accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Cinnamon, basil, parsley, ginger and vanilla also contain antioxidants which are good for your brain.
Check your Bs
Being low on vitamin B12 can, in the long run, cause brain damage. Get your vitamin B12 levels checked by your doctor and, if they are low, it might be time to start taking a supplement. A study has also shown that high doses of vitamin B could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, although further studies are needed to confirm these results.
A recent study showed that caffeine is able to improve deep-level memory retention. So why not walk to your new language class and, when you’ve finished learning for the day, stop at a cafe with your classmates for a cup of coffee?
Lower your cholesterol
Cholesterol, particularly LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. You don’t have to be overweight or even eat poorly to have high cholesterol – some people are simply susceptible to high cholesterol. As we age it is important to get cholesterol levels checked, both for the health of your brain and because high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
Spend time with friends
Having a social circle is a key part of staying happy and healthy. Spending time with friends also helps to keep your brain active by exposing you to new ideas and keeping you on your metaphorical toes with the twists and turns of a good conversation. You could incorporate your social time with your daily exercise. Go for a walk together – it can help the time to pass far more quickly than it might otherwise and can help you stick to an exercise routine.
Give up smoking
One of the surest ways to damage your brain is to deprive it of oxygen. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, both of which can cause less or no oxygen to reach your brain for a period of time. No matter how long you’ve been smoking for, quitting at any point can improve your health far more quickly than you realise.
Drink less alcohol
Overconsumption of alcohol has been shown to increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. If you are drinking more than a glass of wine with dinner, consider cutting back to lower your risk of stroke and give your brain the best chance of staying switched-on and active.
You can find out more about Alzheimer’s disease at the Better Health Channel Website.