It’s a crisp autumn day with just enough bite in the air to tell you winter is on its way. Leaves swirl to the ground from a towering maple tree and join the others that are piled up against the fence. You see your neighbor of twenty years unloading pellets for his wood stove and start to call out. You pause for one heartbeat and then two. His name is on the tip of your tongue -you’re sure of it. Why are things so hard to recall lately?
The onset of Alzheimer’s is scary, frustrating, and an all-too-real experience for the 5.4 million individuals in the United States with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Many people may not even realize it’s happening. Forgetting names or important dates on a repeated basis, misplacing items and being unable to retrace your steps to locate them, and repeatedly asking the same questions are early symptoms of the disease. During National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month this November, we explore the still unanswered question – what can we do now to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia later? While there are no straightforward solutions to delaying the onset of this progressive disease, which damages mental functions, there are several lifestyle choices you can make to help decrease the threat.
Take care of your heart: The Alzheimer’s Association reports that high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which in turn may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. For good heart health, load up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Try to avoid or limit sugar and saturated fat. The American Heart Association suggests aiming for a goal of five to six percent of calories from saturated fat per day. Also, try to expand the amount of omega-3 fats in your diet, by consuming fish, like salmon. For those who choose a vegan or vegetarian diet, flax, chia, and hemp seeds are great sources of omega-3.
Get your blood flowing: A physically active lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with heart health, and increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best exercise plans for you. Swimming is a low-impact, full-body activity that provides incredible benefits for people of all ages and fitness levels. If you enjoy activities like biking, always wear a helmet, as head trauma may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Meaningful connections: It’s important to develop a close network of friends or family members with whom you feel comfortable and can share your thoughts. Local senior centers provide older adults with an excellent opportunity to engage socially. Consider volunteering at a nearby food bank or animal shelter, or take an art or knitting class. Any activities that promote social interactions are worthwhile.
This National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, review the “10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s.” If you or someone you know is experiencing these early indicators, South County Physical Therapy, Inc. (SCPT) urges you to discuss them with your physician.