Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating disease that can have far-reaching effects on the sufferer’s quality of life as well as an impact on caregivers. Therefore, if its effects could be slowed down or the disease prevented altogether, these should be attempted.
While research and studies are still evolving, lifestyle has been identified as a key factor that links sufferers. It is also the most modifiable. Some habits have proven more effective than others in staving off the neurodegenerative illness.
- Lower Homocysteine levels
Homocysteine is a modifiable risk factor for the development of cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older individuals. This amino acid is produced when digestion breaks down proteins in our diet.
A 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that supplements of folate and vitamin B12 can lower homocysteine levels. There has been a correlation between the raised concentrations of homocysteine and Alzheimer’s disease. Intervention trials in elderly people showing signs of cognitive decline have shown that homocysteine-lowering treatment with B vitamins significantly slows the rate of decline.
2. Regular and frequent Mental Stimulation
Engaging in mentally stimulating activities is crucial to protect the brain from cognitive decline, as it prevents beta-amyloid deposits from developing. Cognitive stimulation is widely assumed to prevent or postpone the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers speculate this may be down to the association between cognitive stimulation and lower levels of proteins that may inhibit certain processes in the brain although more studies will have to be done for this to be conclusive.
3. Reduce Stress
Research indicates that middle-aged people who have high levels of stress can subsequently develop Alzheimer’s.
Stress causes cortisol levels to rise and when levels of cortisol rise, electric signals in the hippocampus – the area of the brain associated with learning, memories and stress control – deteriorates. High levels of cortisol perturb the neural circuits which in turn, sets the stage for more severe neurological complications including depression and Alzheimer’s. Chronic stress has been found to change the structure of the brain. Notably, it can shrink the prefrontal cortex, which has a direct impact on memory.
4. Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure can indicate that the body is unable to maintain sufficient blood supply to the brain. A study found that having orthostatic hypotension could increase the risk of developing dementia over the next 25 years by 15 per cent. Research has also shown that Orthostatic hypotension could contribute to frontal brain changes and may exacerbate the disease.