Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia affecting about five million Americans. That number is expected to increase to 16 million by 2050. Of all the unknowns, experts can agree on this… Dementia and Alzheimer’s do not discriminate! You can be famous or infamous, wealthy or working class, of any race, creed, or religion, male or female. Recently the family of “Jungle Jack” Hanna, America’s beloved wild animal expert and passionate advocate for all species, announced his dementia had rapidly progressed into Alzheimer’s. Sadly, Grammy Award winning crooner Tony Bennett, President Ronald Reagan, and everyone’s favorite Golden Girl, Estelle Getty, were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. While these are some of the more famous faces, we will be most affected when it happens to the most important people in our lives, a grandparent, parent, spouse, dear friend, or and even ourselves.
At Victoria Landing Assisted Living and Memory Care, the only waterfront assisted living facility in Melbourne, Florida, we compassionately and patiently understand the challenges families are facing when their loved ones are experiencing memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. In fact, we exclusively offer “The Boardwalk” at our sprawling community on the serene Indian River. The Boardwalk is designed for seniors with progressive memory challenges. We believe in and encourage preventative measures for our current residents and stand ready to care for new residents respectfully, safely, and actively throughout varied stages of cognitive decline.
Like many challenging and unforgiving diseases, you cannot change your age or genetics, but there are lifestyle choices that may keep dementia and Alzheimer’s away, on delay or at least at bay. Consider the following suggestions compiled directly from the most recent topical articles at Microsoft News.
1. Sleep seven to eight hours every night
Harvard Health reports that sound sleep may help protect your brain against Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown a connection between poor sleep and a higher risk of beta-amyloid protein plaque accumulation—one of the telltale signs of the disease. Amyloid proteins accumulate in your brain daily. When you are in slow-wave sleep—the deep sleep phase when your memories are shored up—your brain sweeps out any surplus amyloid proteins. If your sleep is interrupted, however, during this slow-wave phase, these amyloid proteins can build up, forming plaque on brain tissue. Researchers think this may be the initial stage of Alzheimer’s, and that it may occur years before symptoms emerge.
2. Get in motion 30 to 40 minutes, three to four days a week
Regular exercise can reduce your risk by up to 50 percent according to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation. Studies show that women from ages 40 to 60 who exercised regularly demonstrated a profound reduction in cognitive decline and memory loss. The benefits of regular physical activity extend to those already diagnosed. Regular exercise stimulates the brain’s ability to maintain old connections while creating new ones, slowing further cognitive deterioration.
3. Go Greek … not literally, but try a Mediterranean diet
What you eat is critical for optimal brain health, and with a Dementia or Alzheimer’s diet, you can influence the health of your genes. Studies of people who ate a Western diet versus a Mediterranean diet are striking. Brain scans taken at the beginning of one study show those eating a Western diet already had more amyloid protein deposits than those eating a Mediterranean diet. Scientists believe these proteins are a waste product from the energy expended when brain cells communicate. A Mediterranean diet consists of lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, fish, moderate amounts of eggs, dairy, red wine, and eating red meat sparingly. The Mediterranean diet dominated in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 Best Diets rankings, which named it best overall.
4. Get connected
Human beings are social beings. Our brains thrive on communication, not isolation. Social engagement can protect against Alzheimer’s and other dementias and should be mental and brain health priorities. Face-to-face connection with loved ones, friends, and caregivers is vital to mind-stimulating social wellness and just an overall good feeling.
5. Have a drink, but just a little bit
A glass of good wine can help clear the mind, and now research shows that it might also be good for the brain. There is conflicting evidence that moderate consumption of alcohol—one to two drinks a day for men, one for women—reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s. Some studies have shown that drinking in moderation can lower inflammation in the body and help your brain clear away toxins. The key is moderation as there is strong evidence drinking heavily on a regular basis increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia—so imbibe, but just a little.
6. Weigh in … know your healthy weight and stay close to it
Obese or overweight individuals at age 50 could be at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s earlier. Researchers found that study participants with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher at age 50 were likely to develop Alzheimer’s seven months sooner than those who were at a healthy weight. Findings concluded the higher the BMI, the sooner the disease occurred. Giving up carbonated drinks has proven to help in dropping those pesky pounds.
7. Commit to learning new things
Lifelong learning results in a stronger brain and can help lower memory related disease risk. Studies point to mental stimulation as it acts like a workout for your brain. Some suggestions are to enroll in a foreign language class, learn to play an instrument, compete in trivia challenges drawing on your memory, and if you have become more computer savvy during COVID-19, join an interactive free webinar on a topic of interest. According to Harvard researchers, new brain cell growth continues even into late adulthood—and the action of learning and having new experiences can stimulate that process.
8. Prevent potential falls through balance and coordination practice
Falls are an increasing risk as we age. Check your home for places you may slip or trip such as unsecured area rugs and slick bathroom surfaces. Balance and coordination exercises can keep you agile and help you avoid falls. Recommendations of low impact options include yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi.
9. Monitor your blood pressure regularly, quit smoking
There is a proven connection between high blood pressure and dementia. In fact, autopsy studies show it’s common for people with Alzheimer’s-related brain changes to also have signs of vascular damage in the brain. Observational studies have linked high blood pressure in middle age, along with diabetes and smoking, as raising one’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. In fact, smoking is perhaps the most preventable risk factor. Some studies indicate the risk increases with duration and intensity of smoking and decreases with time after quitting.
10. Confide in your doctor
Growing older is a mixed blessing. You are finally able to retire and enjoy the next phase of life, but cognitive decline and memory related disease can change everything. A University of Michigan study found that while nearly half of people in their 50s and 60s fear developing dementia, only 5% have talked to their doctor about it. “There is growing evidence that adults in mid-life can take steps to lower their risk of dementia, including increasing physical activity and controlling health conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Unfortunately, our findings suggest that people may not be aware of this and are not asking their doctor.”
At Victoria Landing Assisted Living and Memory Care, the only waterfront senior living community in Melbourne, Florida, we find value in these recommendations and many of our own additional meaningful measures are already in practice. The Boardwalk offers comfortable, private apartments, attractive common areas, and purposeful programs designed to entertain, involve, and connect. Our highly trained and caring staff works 24 hours a day to provide all the support your loved one needs. Assistance with the activities of daily living and medication management are performed with compassion, dignity, and respect. A vital life can be expected at Victoria Landing Assisted Living and Memory Care where our beloved seniors enjoy nutritious meals, leisurely walks, and creative activities while residing in a stimulating and secure environment, surrounded by people who genuinely care.
For a limited time, we are waiving the standard $3,000 assisted living community fee and paying for your loved one’s move-in costs up to $500. Call today and together we will design the best path for your family member.