Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Mental Aerobics

I never could understand why the characters in the play Waiting for Godot continued to…wait for Godot. Similarly, when it comes to a pharmaceutical cure for Alzheimer’s dementia, I share the same sentiment. There are things we can (and I believe, must) do now to fend off and slow down this debilitating and fatal disease.

When nerve cells in the brain die or no longer function normally, our memory, behavior, and ability to think clearly are affected. We become unable to recognize family members or care for ourselves. Even basic things such as chewing and swallowing or walking can be impaired. Alzheimer’s dementia affects 15 million Americans, almost half of our residents over the age of 85 years, and is the 6th leading cause of death. Despite these statistics, it’s not “trendy” to discuss, there is no Alzheimer’s awareness month, and there is no cure. Let’s look at things we can do in the meantime so we are not disappointed if Godot doesn’t arrive.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: To Help Prevent, Slow Down, And Possibly Reverse Alzheimer’s Symptoms

1. Regular exercise can protect against Alzheimer’s dementia by up to 60% and it can even slow down further deterioration in those who already have it. Just like our biceps, abdominal and heart muscles benefit from physical activity, so does our brain. A world of good can come to us when we exercise just 150 minutes a week, the approximate length of a movie.

Some tips include starting off slowly, even 10 minutes at a time; doing an activity we enjoy like walking, swimming laps, bicycling, playing tennis, gardening, or jogging; breaking up activity throughout the day; making it a group activity with family and friends.

2. A “brain healthy” eating plan provides our noggin with the right balance of vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants while avoiding saturated fats and cholesterol. In order for our brains to remain in tip-top condition we need to provide the best fuel possible. Brain healthy eating should be thought of as a lifelong marathon, not a sprint.

3. Mental stimulation, “use-it-or-lose-it,” mental aerobics. Whatever we may want to call it, ‘exercising’ our minds is like depositing money in a savings account in anticipation of a rainy day. Consider learning something new like a language, skill or hobby, or studying a period in history we have been curious about. People who play games such as puzzles, crosswords, cards and checkers at least every other day have been shown to maintain sharper thinking skills and a decreased risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

4. Quality sleep. As Benjamin Franklin stated: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Research has shown that when young and middle-aged adults suffer from insomnia, they increase their risk for developing Alzheimer’s down the road. Not getting enough sleep can increase a protein known as amyloid beta that is found in Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, good quality sleep allows our brains to rest and rejuvenate. This equates to memory consolidation, much like our computers do when we back them up. Let’s follow proper sleep hygiene–the rituals and routines that we undergo, much like getting a baby to fall asleep.

5. Active social life. Having friends allows us to share our joys and sorrows, exchange ideas and advice, and celebrate. However, as we age, our children leave our homes and we retire from the workforce. This can make it difficult to maintain an active social life. Consider volunteering at a charitable organization; join a club or social group; meet your neighbors; call friends on the phone or email; or take a group class at the gym or community college.

Godot may never literally arrive, much like a cure for Alzheimer’s dementia. However, proven lifestyle changes can keep our brain cells healthy and functioning longer. It is widely shared by many that the best medicine we can take is that of prevention. Afterall, why fix something if we don’t have to break it? Perhaps Godot has arrived and has been sitting in front of us all along. We just didn’t know what Godot looked like.

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Photograph by K. Cecchini

Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.