Your Memory Health…Is Alzheimer’s preventable?
Lifestyle choices have been found to affect memory health. Most experts agree that in the vast majority of cases, Alzheimer’s, like other chronic conditions, probably develops as a result of complex interactions among multiple factors, including age, genetics, environment, lifestyle and coexisting medical conditions.
- Some risk factors, like age and genes, cannot be changed, there are other risk factors that can be changed to help reduce risk.
- A very small percentage of people who develop Alzheimer’s (less than 1%) have an early-onset type associated with genetic mutations. People with these mutations are guaranteed to develop the disease.
- Research is still evolving on whether Alzheimer’s is preventable. But one thing is for sure. People can reduce their risk by making key lifestyle changes.
Know Any Superheroes?
March is Social Workers Appreciation Month! Medical social workers, sometimes called case managers, provide support and resources to patients recovering from illness or injury. They are the superheroes that make the transition home from the hospital or rehab so easy for the family. First an assessment is done to identify patient needs. The social worker meets with the patient’s family and health providers to coordinate an individualized discharge plan for in-home care, therapy, medical equipment, transportation, counseling or other follow-up treatments.
Ten Ways to Love Your Brain
Don’t be fooled. Your brain benefits from wise lifestyle choices. Living right will pay off in the form of better cognitive ability well into your later years. Here are lifestyle choices recommended by the Alzheimer’s Association that will extend your independence.
- Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
- Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online.
- Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
- Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.
- Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, like the Mediterranean and DASH diets help reduce high blood pressure and contribute to risk reduction.
- Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
- Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
- Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community — if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or help at an after-school program. Or, just share activities with friends and family.
- Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.
Be AW-ake to Memory Care: Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST)
Cognitive Stimulation Therapy is a non-pharmaceutical, semi-structured group approach for patients with mild to moderate dementia which is currently being used extensively in the UK and has had good results in improving overall function.
“Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is an evidence-based treatment for people with mild to moderate dementia.” CST was designed in England by Dr. Aimee Spector.”
Besides having mild to moderate impairment, participants should have the ability to communicate verbally in a group setting and tolerate group activity for 40 to 60 minutes. Each session has a theme. Groups share their thoughts and opinions, reminisce and complete cognitive tasks. Some of these activities include current affairs, childhood games, music, famous people, scenery and using money.
Therapy sessions are usually held two times per week for several weeks. Session therapy is provided by a trained, licensed occupational therapist and has a theme and basic structure:
- Session introduction with orientation to place and time, a discussion of the weather and an opening song
- Ball toss expression exercise related to the theme
- Current affairs article reading and discussion
- Session main activity to stimulate cognition
- Session recap, introduction of next session theme and closing song
- Improves cognitive function
- Decreases depression
- Improves quality of life
- Improves mood and confidence
- Increases concentration
- Increases language skills
It is especially good to know that participation in CST groups is covered by medical insurance under outpatient therapy. Private pay is also available at an individual rate.
For More Information About Cognitive Health
NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
The National Institute on Aging’s ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias for families, caregivers, and health professionals. ADEAR Center staff answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources.
This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure that it is accurate, authoritative, and up to date.
What’s On The Horizon?
New medicines are being studied to combat Alzheimers. In 2021 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accelerated its approval of Aducanumab (Aduhelm tm) to treat Alzheimer’s disease. This is the first FDA-approved therapy to address the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s disease. Aducanumab targets and removes specific forms of beta-amyloid that accumulate into plaques which may contribute to cell death and tissue loss in areas of the brain important for memory.
Another medicine, lecanemab, which could be available in 2023, has shown promise especially for people with mild cognitive impairment. Clinical trials have shown that cognitive decline slowed by 27% in people with early Alzheimer’s. Lecanemamb works by preventing amyloid plaques in the brain from clumping. It is currently under review by the FDA.
Donanemab, another monoclonal antibody has also shown promise and has moved into a phase 3 clinical trial.
These are just some of the medicines that are being studied to reduce the damage done to the brain in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are also studying the effects of insulin on the brain and brain cell function. Other studies focus on exploring blood pressure medications which are used to treat vascular disease and which may reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Research now shows more and more that lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, which benefit the heart are also effective in preventing Alzheimer’s or delaying its onset.