How to Help Your Loved One Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

By making some simple lifestyle changes, your loved one can reduce the likelihood of receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 747,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Getting diagnosed with the disease can radically change your loved one’s life. They may forget who their friends and family are or how to do their favorite activities. Eventually, they may need professional in-home senior care services or have to relocate to a memory care facility to make sure they stay safe and comfortable.

Currently, researchers are still trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. It may seem like all you can do is hope for the best. However, there are actually quite a few lifestyle changes your loved one can make in order to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease. By promoting good brain health and controlling personal risk factors, you can help your loved one live out their golden years without this disease weighing so much on their mind.

Mental Stimulation

By engaging in mentally stimulating and challenging activities, your loved one can keep their brain healthy and reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Here are some simple activities your loved one can do to promote good brain health:

  • Learning something new, like a language, instrument or activity. Even reading a book or the newspaper can help them learn and retain new information.
  • Getting better at something they already enjoy. If there’s something your loved one enjoys doing, encourage them to improve their abilities or challenge themselves.
  • Practice memorization.
  • Enjoy mentally stimulating activities like strategy games, puzzles, brain teasers and riddles.
  • Practice the five W’s. Whether your loved one is just going about their way or getting involved in a new activity, help them keep a mental note of the “who, what, where, when, and why” of their day.
  • Take a new approach to everyday activities. Whether your loved one eats with their non-dominant hand or takes a new trail during a daily walk, changing their habits can help them create new brain pathways, according to the Alzheimer Society.

Regular Exercise

Keeping physically fit is just as important as keeping mentally fit when it comes to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Developing an exercise routine can help your loved one by training their brain to make new connections and maintain old ones. In addition, regular exercise can help your loved one control their cholesterol levels, weight, and blood pressure, which are also risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Did you know that according to a study from York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science, physically active adults over the age of 65 were about 38 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than adults over the age of 65 who were physically inactive?

Here are some best practices for your loved one’s exercise routine:

  • Try to include at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on a weekly basis.
  • Focus on a combination of cardio and strength training. Walking and swimming are good activities to include if your loved one is just starting to exercise.
  • Include strength training in order to build muscle and maintain brain health. Simply adding 2-3 strength sessions can cut your loved one’s risk of Alzheimer’s in half.
  • Also consider adding balance and coordination activities. These exercises can reduce your loved one’s chance of falling, which can lead to head injuries and increase your loved one’s likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Yoga, Tai Chi, and balance balls are excellent balance and coordination exercises for seniors.

Eat Healthy

Your loved one’s diet is integral in helping them avoid Alzheimer’s disease. This is because inflammation and insulin resistance can injure neurons and negatively impact how your brain cells communicate. Eating healthy can lower inflammation and keep your loved one’s brain healthy.

Here are some steps your loved one can take to eat healthy:

  • Reduce how much sugar they consume.
  • Avoid trans fats.
  • Eat plenty of omega-3 fats like cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, etc.).
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink 2-4 cups of tea.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Heavy alcohol consumption can raise your loved one’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s.
  • Cook at home. When your loved one prepares their own meals (or receives assistance from a caregiver), they can ensure they’re eating fresh and healthy meals that contain the brain-healthy nutrients they need.
  • Go on the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet focuses on vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish, and olive oil. These foods can significantly reduce your loved one’s risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

Stay Socially Active

By staying socially engaged, your loved one can create new connections and keep their brain healthy. Even if your loved one isn’t exactly a social butterfly, even a moderate amount of social interaction can do wonders for their brain health.

Here are some simple and fun ways for your loved one to stay socially engaged:

  • Enjoy weekly activities with friends.
  • Join a club or social group.
  • Take group classes at the local community or senior centre.
  • Chat with friends and family over the phone.
  • Use social media to reach out to loved ones.
  • Volunteer with local organizations.

Get Some Good Sleep

Not only can sleep issues be a symptom of Alzheimer’s, they can also be a risk factor. Research has shown that poor sleep can lead to higher levels of beta-amyloid, which is a brain-clogging protein that can further interfere with sleep. Good sleep is also essential for flushing out brain toxins.

Make sure your loved one is getting at least eight hours of sleep every night. Here’s how they can achieve that:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Keeping a consistent schedule of going to sleep and waking up reinforces natural circadian rhythms, which can help your loved one sleep better.
  • Remove televisions and computers from the bedroom. These devices are mentally stimulating and make it difficult for your loved one to fall asleep.
  • Adopt a relaxing bedtime ritual. By starting with some relaxing activities like a hot bath, light stretches, or even just dimming the lights, your loved one can easily fall asleep.
  • Quiet any inner chatter. If your loved one is stressed out, internal dialogue can keep them awake and interfere with their sleep. Encourage them to relax in another room for about 20 minutes before going back to bed.
  • Be careful about naps. Although we assume that naps are a great way to relax and recharge, naps can actually reinforce bad sleep habits for older adults. If your loved one absolutely needs a nap, they should try to take one in the early afternoon and only nap for 30 minutes at the most.
  • Get screened for sleep apnea. Does your loved one snore? If so, encourage them to get screened for sleep apnea. This condition can interrupt your loved one’s breathing as they sleep and create numerous health risks.

Manage Stress

If your loved one is frequently stressed, it can lead to shrinkage in a key memory area in their brain, interfere with nerve cell growth and increase their risk of developing Alzheimer’s. That’s why it’s important for your loved one to manage their stress in a healthy way.

  • Take deep breaths.
  • Schedule daily activities that encourage relaxation like walking in the park, doing yoga, or taking a nice bath.
  • Find activities that promote inner peace like meditation, praying, or reflecting.
  • Make time for fun activities.

At Senior Homecare by Angels, our senior care services can help your loved one reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by assisting them with daily activities. For example, our caregivers can prepare nutritious meals for them or draw a relaxing bath. Our caregivers can also provide companionship as your loved one engages in fun and mentally stimulating activities. Our goal is to make sure your loved one can continue to live in their own home for as long as they wish.

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