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Everything You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s

Everything You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s

Understanding & Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

With nearly 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), it is important for older adults to know the early warning signs of this degenerative disease. Not only can this help to get you the proper care you need to manage your symptoms, it can also help to halt its progression.

In recognition of National Alzheimer's Disease Month, the health experts at St. John's Health are here to shed some light on this extremely common degenerative brain disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)?

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), often referred to as just Alzheimer’s, is the most common form of dementia that attacks the brain’s cognitive functions. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for thought, memories, and language.

Unfortunately, scientists have not identified a clear cause for AD. However, there are several factors that leave an individual more likely to develop it. People over the age of 65 and with a family history of the condition are significantly more likely to develop it themselves.

There is also no cure for this form of dementia. Over time, the affected person continues to face cognitive decline to the point where they can no longer communicate or take care of themselves. In most cases, people affected by AD live for 4 to 8 years following a diagnosis.

Early Signs & Symptoms

When trying to identify AD symptoms in older adults, it is important to acknowledge the difference between normal signs of aging and memory loss. While forgetfulness is completely normal to experience from time to time, cognitive decline and memory issues are not.

Some of the most common observable signs of AD include:

  • Forgetting new information.
  • Depending on memory aids like notes or recordings.
  • Forgetting important dates and significant events.
  • Getting confused about dates, times, and people.
  • Personality changes.
  • Increased irritability and feelings of paranoia.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Repeating sentences.
  • Forgetting the names of everyday objects.
  • Stopping mid-sentence.

Prevention & Symptom Management

Although there is no cure for AD, early detection can help your doctors work with you to slow the progression of your condition significantly. Some of the following healthy lifestyle changes can help to strengthen and preserve healthy brain function.

Get Good Quality Rest each Night

Getting good quality rest each night is an excellent way to promote and preserve healthy brain function. This is because sleep helps your brain process and store new information, helping you recall it later on when necessary.

It is recommended that older adults aim to work in 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Along with supporting your physical health, maintaining a healthy body weight also helps to preserve healthy brain function. Research has shown that obesity is linked to a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

It is recommended that older adults should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Along with physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet can also help you to maintain a healthy weight. When pulling together your meals each day, be sure to try to work in these measurements of each food group:

  • Fruits: 1-2 cups
  • Vegetables: 2-3 cups
  • Whole grains: 5-8 ounces
  • Protein: 5-6.5 ounces
  • Oils and fats: 5-7 teaspoons

Promote Mental & Emotional Health

Just like memory loss isn’t a normal sign of aging, neither is depression. Older adults tend to have self-isolating behaviors that subsequently lead to mental health issues like an increase in distressing emotions. Following these tips can help to give your mental health and wellness a boost:

  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Avoid self-deprecating statements
  • Start journaling
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco products.
  • Spend time in nature
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Seek professional help when you need it

Try Out Meditation

While many people know that meditation can be an excellent way to manage your stress levels and regulate your mood, it also helps to improve your concentration and memory. Mindfulness meditation actually helps to increase the amount of gray matter in the brain, ultimately promoting healthy cognitive brain function.

Challenge Your Brain

Once older people retire, they tend to have a lot more leisure time to relax and catch up on their rest. However, this can lead to a lot of time being spent watching television or doing activities that don’t involve much concentration—ultimately allowing your critical thinking skills to decline.

Fortunately, finding new hobbies can help! Along with being a great way to spend your day and keep you occupied, engaging in these activities can help support healthy brain function. Activities challenge your brain to sharpen your ability to have complex thought, problem-solve, and reason. This is because it stimulates connections between your brain cells and even promotes brain cell production.

Some activities to try include:

  • Puzzles and board games
  • Playing an instrument
  • Word search
  • Sudoku
  • Math problems
  • Drawing
  • Reading
  • Painting
  • Writing

See a Physical Therapist

While many people turn to physical therapy (PT) to recover from an orthopedic injury or rehabilitation after a surgical procedure, PT can also help promote healthy brain function. For many people suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's, physical therapy will be prescribed to help manage their symptoms.

Some of the many ways that PT can help those living with AD include:

  • Slowing the progression of memory loss
  • Regulating and stabilizing mood
  • Lower risk for behavior-related hospitalization
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Promote a healthy range of motion and mobility
  • Increasing blood flow to the brain
  • Increases the size of the hippocampus and gray and brain white matter
  • Helping to maintain a sense of independence

If you have additional questions or concerns about your risk of developing Alzheimer's or your loved one displaying early symptoms, reach out to your primary care physician or a memory care specialist.

Memory Care in Jackson Hole

Although life-altering, a diagnosis of AD does not have to end your world. The caring people working in our Sage Living community have walked this journey with many Jackson families and are here to listen and support you in your unique situation. 

Visit our website to learn more about how life is still lived and lived well despite memory change.