You’ve walked into the kitchen but forgotten what you were going to get. You’re ready to leave the house and can’t find your keys. Or you’re in the middle of a story and suddenly can’t think of the word you were going to say.
Are these simply “senior moments” or signs of something worse?
Fortunately, the occasional lapse in memory is a normal part of aging.
But, Alzheimer’s disease is something more serious, and its symptoms will progressively get worse. But can it be prevented?
There is no single thing that prevents or causes Alzheimer’s. However, taking an integrative and holistic approach to optimizing your health can give you the best chance of preventing or possibly reversing cognitive decline.
If you want to know how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease naturally, keep reading for our healthy lifestyle tips.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Nearly six million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease in which proteins build up in the brain and connections between neurons are interrupted. Large numbers of neurons shrink and die, causing memory loss and interfering with a person’s reasoning, behavior, and language.
Signs of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease progresses through several stages — mild, moderate, and severe. The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s become worse as you go through the stages.
Before Alzheimer’s is even diagnosed, there are several signs to watch out for:
- Memory problems, such as losing things, forgetting words, or neglecting appointments and events
- Trouble with estimating time needed for tasks or remembering the steps needed for the tasks
- Poor judgment and decision making
These symptoms will progressively get worse, leading to deep confusion, significant personality changes, and the inability to communicate and take care of oneself.
Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease
While researchers know that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the buildup of proteins in the brain and the tangling of neurons, they do not know exactly what causes those things to happen.
Dr. Dale Bredesen, an integrative physician, has identified many risk factors and unhealthy lifestyle choices that contribute to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s. A few of them include:
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Sleep problems
- Chronic stress
- Head injury
- Gum disease
The more of these risk factors a person has, the more likely they are to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Bredesen recommends addressing as many of these factors as possible to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and slow or even reverse its progression.
Tip 1: How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally: Watch Your Diet
When researching how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease naturally, you’ll find that doctors and scientists agree that the type of food you eat matters.
Our standard Western diet is an unhealthy one. Filled with red and processed meats, sugar, and saturated fats, it contributes to a wide range of health problems — including the buildup of proteins in the brain.
A 2018 study showed that people who ate a Mediterranean diet had fewer protein deposits and greater brain activity than those who ate a Western diet. A Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole and unprocessed organic vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, along with lean protein from fish and poultry.
Tip 2: How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally: Get Moving
A sedentary lifestyle is not only harmful to your body but also bad for your brain. Low physical activity significantly increases your risk of developing dementia.
Aerobic exercise gets your heart pumping, but it also causes positive changes in your brain. Regular exercise prevents parts of your brain from shrinking as you age. It also increases serum levels that affect memory and the ability to learn new things.
Additionally, physical activity can lead to improvements in memory and learning in people who already have symptoms of mild dementia.
If you’re looking for how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease naturally, then it’s time to lace up those sneakers and get out for a walk!
Tip 3: How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally: Sleep to Recharge Your Brain
Sleep is vital for our overall health. A poor night’s sleep once in a while may leave you feeling tired the next day, but you can quickly catch up and feel better.
However, getting regular good sleep is a key factor for how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease naturally.
Chronic poor sleep increases your risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s because your brain is not able to clear away excess proteins. People who don’t get enough deep sleep have a buildup of harmful proteins that lead to dementia.
Make sure you get six to eight hours per night of quality sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene with a consistent schedule and a relaxing bedtime routine. Also, be sure to stay away from factors known to disrupt sleep: alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and eating too close to bedtime.
Tip 4: How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally: Socialize
Isolation and its effect on our health are well studied. People of all ages who can’t or won’t socialize are at risk for a number of chronic conditions. For older adults, isolation leads to cognitive decline and increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Being socially engaged throughout your life, but especially as you age, can keep your brain active and healthy. It’s a key way how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease naturally.
So, join a club or be active in your community. Volunteer or get together with neighbors for games or a walk. Stay connected with your family members, friends, and others in the community to keep your mind engaged and delay or prevent cognitive problems.
Tip 5: How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally: De-Stress
Chronic stress is not good for us for a variety of reasons. It causes muscle pain and insomnia, lowers your energy levels, and weakens your immune system.
And now, chronic stress has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease as one of the factors that cause it. Stress causes a flood of cortisol to be released, which is known to affect memory, and it also weakens the immune system. You’ll be less able to fight infections and other conditions that can lead to dementia.
Actively work to reduce the stress in your life or manage your response to stressful situations. To lower your stress levels, try:
- Exercising regularly
- Getting enough sleep
- Taking time for hobbies and leisure activities
- Breathing exercises, including meditation and yoga
Tip 6: How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally: Stop Smoking
People who smoke have a 30% to 50% increase in their risk of developing dementia.
Stopping smoking is a critical lifestyle choice in how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease naturally.
Dementia comes in several forms, but two of them — vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s — are associated with problems with your blood vessels and your heart. And smoking greatly increases your risk of vascular problems.
Additionally, cigarette smoke contains toxins and chemicals. These toxins cause inflammation in your body and put stress on your cells. Both of these can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
Thinking of switching to e-cigarettes or vaping? Don’t. Not only are they not safer, but they also cause more damage to your lungs and brain and lead to cognitive problems — even in teenagers and young adults.
Tip 7: How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally: Watch the Alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol has a variety of negative effects on your health.
In the past, it was thought that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol (no more than one drink per day for females and two per day for males) could reduce your risk for certain health problems. Recent studies show that alcohol in any amount can increase health risks.
High levels of drinking damage the brain and can cause parts of it to shrink, affecting memory and learning. Over time, a person who drinks excessively has a four times greater risk of developing dementia.
To live your best life and reduce your health risks, limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
Tip 8: How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally: Protect Your Head
A growing amount of research is linking even mild brain injuries — concussions — to changes in the brain.
A concussion is considered a mild TBI (traumatic brain injury). People who have had moderate or severe TBIs have between a 2.3 and 4.5 times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
While a single concussion is not thought to increase your risk, repeated concussions can cause cognitive decline.
The most common cause of a TBI is from falling. This is especially true of older adults. Take care to reduce your risk of falls by:
- Clearing your house of clutter on the floor and securing loose rugs
- Using a walker or other device if you have poor balance or muscle weakness
- Having your vision checked
In addition, young people need to protect their heads from injury because dementia can develop even 30 years after a TBI. When playing contact sports, skating, biking, skiing, or participating in other risky activities, be sure to always wear a helmet.
Tip 9: How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally: Brush Your Teeth
Recently, scientists have confirmed that gum disease is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Good oral habits are one way how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease naturally.
Gum disease is caused by an infection in your mouth. The bacteria that cause this infection can travel to your brain. Scientists believe that the proteins that cause Alzheimer’s are produced in response to the bacteria.
It’s essential to develop a healthy oral care routine of brushing your teeth and flossing to prevent gum infections. Brushing your teeth twice per day will prevent plaque from building up, which then causes tartar — and tartar is what leads to bacteria in your mouth.
For the healthiest smile, choose a toothbrush with soft BPA-free bristles and a natural, fluoride-free toothpaste. And be sure to visit a holistic or biological dentist at least twice per year.
Tip 10: How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally: Get Your Hearing Tested
If you have a hearing loss — even a mild one — your risk of dementia doubles. And many people don’t realize that they have a mild hearing loss. They simply think that their hearing isn’t that bad and don’t realize just how much they are struggling to communicate.
The greater your hearing loss, and the longer it goes untreated, increases your risk of dementia even further. In fact, untreated hearing loss is one of the greatest factors that contribute to dementia.
Be sure to visit an audiologist to get your hearing tested at least every ten years up to age 50 and then more often after that. Catching hearing loss early and using hearing aids is a key component for how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease naturally.
Putting It All Together
Living a healthy and holistic lifestyle can prevent or delay up to 40% of cases of dementia. There are many factors that go into how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease naturally. And it’s important to realize that it’s a combination of these healthy living factors that can decrease your risk and not any one thing.