Women are hardest hit by Alzheimer’s. In fact, women account for more than 45,000 deaths each year from Alzheimer’s complications. Add into the equation the impact on the family since women traditionally are the caregivers for children, parents and spouses. Alzheimer’s ravages entire families.
Alzheimer’s is a bit mysterious with no clear understanding of what causes the disease. However, it is known that Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which is the term used to described memory loss and other cognitive disfunctions that affect daily living. Research on the brain has shown that nerve damage occurs long before significant memory loss appears. Approximately 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s with three times as many cases expected in 40 years. Globally, there are approximately 26.6 million people living with Alzheimer’s and the number of people affected is expected to quadruple by 2050 worldwide.
Without understanding the absolute cause, confusion sets in on what to do. Outside of the realities of aging and genetics, common sense good health practices are critical to living a full long life and potentially offer a bit prevention from Alzheimer’s.
Advice on good health practices is simple and you have heard it all before – exercise, eat right and have fulfilling social relationships, while effectively managing stress. There you go, that is the secret to a long health life. Easier said than done.
The bigger question, how do you put this into practice?
Exercise. Regardless of age, your body needs at least 30 minutes a day of exercise and your brain needs a break from all of your daily worries. Walk, run, play tennis, do tai-chi or practice yoga, the ultimate beneficial movement for the body and mind. Try to spend at least ten minutes outside under the sun for your body to create vitamin D.
Eat right. Your body is an amazing machine, which needs the right nutrients to work efficiently and well. Omega-3 from cold water fish is essential and often forgotten. Food rich in antioxidants are recommended such as dark-skinned vegetables and fruits. Try broccoli; spinach; kale; red and green peppers; all berries – black, blue, raspberries, strawberries; red grapes and cherries. Always include some garlic, onions and ginger in your diet. A daily vitamin with E, C , B-12 and folate is a good supplement. And, drink green tea often – it is rich in antioxidants. In addition, minimize your intake of alcohol, high fats, refined processed foods and please do not smoke.
Keep engaged with life around you. Meet friends for lively conversations, games, book clubs or even chess. Love to learn – anything! Try cooking, languages, music, literature, sculpture, art, yoga, weaving, dog training … the world is your oyster. Learn as much as you can because there is no age limit for learning. Read books, magazines, text books, old texts. Do crossword puzzles and Sudoku or play backgammon, poker, chess, bridge, Old Maid and other brain twisters. Diversity is the secret to success.
Manage stress. A wise friend once said, “You can choose happiness or misery.” Knowing what to worry about and what not to worry about takes practice, maturity and wisdom. Try to give your brain a break from all of the chaos around in life by practicing yoga, listening to beautiful music, meditating, laughing and abstaining from all news – television, radio, papers and web sites. Make a determined choice about what you want to think about and make that thought a valuable contribution to your day. As Dr. Anna Tucker always says, “Live with no regrets.” Forgive yourself and others always and say “I love you.” always.
Talk with your mother, sister, daughter or girlfriends about making lifestyle changes to be healthier and be more engaged with life. Offer a little encouragement. A little bit of supportive loving care goes a long way.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation is available for information and support at all times via their toll free help line at 1-800-272-3900. In fact, they are also hosting innovative gatherings for women just to start the discussion. Recently, Trousseau, a lingerie boutique in Vienna, Virginia, hosted a reception for women who wanted to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Supporting the outreach were corporate representatives from Chantelle, Moonstruck, and Eveden Group. Innovative outreach strategies are essential in reaching out to women who believe that they are too young or Alzheimer’s would never happen to them or some one they know. Well, the truth is being proactive about being healthy and understanding the dynamics of the brain, only empowers everyone to take charge of their health and the quality of their lives.
Alzheimer’s prevention tips are basic good reminders to keep your brain healthy by exercising, eating right, engaging in life and managing stress. Remember, tell your grandmothers, aunts, mother, sisters, daughters, girlfriends – if it is good for your brain it is good for you.
By Keri Douglas, writer/photographer, Washington, D.C.
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