Tegan Dexter

Alzheimer’s disease has been on the rise in our country for years now, with more than six million Americans diagnosed and millions of family members and friends affected as well. This number is only predicted to rise, and by 2050 it is projected that nearly 13 million Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, with nearly 11 million unpaid caregivers. Alzheimer’s is becoming a clear and massive problem for the older population of America, their families, and their caregivers. For many reaching older stages of their life, it becomes a question of “What exactly is Alzheimer’s and how do I avoid it?”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia: a memory loss disease that slowly transforms the brain and can eventually become fatal. Which is the sixth-highest cause of death in the world. Most commonly seen in patients over 65, it is known to come with age as the brain slows over many years. Alzheimer’s disease causes memory loss but also disrupts communication skills and even basic motor functions. It starts in specific regions of your brain, such as the hippocampus and cerebral cortex, and can spread throughout the brain. This eventually causes the inability to communicate, deterioration of problem-solving skills, and difficulty with day-to-day tasks such as getting dressed.

Alzheimer’s disease has a major impact on the brain, not just slowing it down, but destroying brain cells and neurons that lose connection with those around them, hindering brain function. In most severe cases, the brain can lose so much function that it becomes hard for patients to productively think.

While Alzheimer’s risk can be increased by specific genes and mutations, it’s not a guarantee that it will develop in your brain, there’s still action that can be taken to minimize your risk.

Alzheimer’s rates have been rising for a multitude of reasons, mainly due to massive shifts in lifestyle and environment. Life’s daily tasks have become easier, especially with the invention of mobile phones. With life becoming automated, our brains go unused, which makes the brain prone to weakening and cognitive loss. Not only this, but health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can increase the chances of Alzheimer’s later in life. Other factors common in today’s society such as smoking, obesity, and even low education have all been proven to increase the risks of Alzheimer’s.

While it may seem that Azheimer’s is an unstoppable beast that will eventually begin to ravage your brain, the solution is more apparent than one might think. Alzheimer’s doesn’t have a vaccine like other diseases, but it is preventable and in some cases reversible. Alzheimer’s disease is hugely based on a patient’s lifestyle, with the correct course of action, you are more than likely to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Current researchers suggest looking into your brain health early because it’s a lot easier to help your brain heal the earlier you start. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) often goes undetected, but you can figure out how your brain is doing by taking the Montreal Cognitive Impairment (MoCa) test. It’s a basic screening that tests your brain in certain areas such as memory, organization, and verbal ability. Scoring low can be a sign of MCI, showing that your brain is beginning to slow down. Talking to a physician can help you figure out what plan you need to help improve your brain health. These plans are different for everyone because everyday activities such as diet, exercise, and surroundings can affect brain health. A person’s day-to-day diet affects all sorts of things inside their body, the brain. Unhealthy foods such as those with high sugar content, and fatty foods affect the heart and blood flow, which in turn can affect the brain. Exercise can also affect your brain health and function because daily exercise is important for longevity and fighting off Alzheimer’s. Exercise improves blood flow, as well as motor functions and coordination, but can also help prevent Alzheimer’s. Not only does exercise improve brain health and function, but it also helps with general movement and coordination which is a huge help to those who may already struggle with Alzheimer’s, as it will make it easier to complete daily tasks such as putting on clothes, eating, and other basic motor functions that may become a struggle. Daily exercise helps with posture, motor capabilities, sleep, and depressive symptoms, which are all important to the older population.

Another important factor is your environment. Sleep, stress, and socialization are all important to brain health. The National Institute of Health held a study showing that “Beta-Amyloid increased about 5% in the participants’ brains after losing a night of sleep”, which is a key ingredient in the cause of Alzheimer’s. Getting enough rest is important to keep your brain healthy and ward off Alzheimer’s. Another factor is stress, so managing stress factors in your life is an important improvement. Finally, socialization is very important to fend off cognitive decline. The National Institute of Medicine states social interaction, “produces many beneficial effects on brain functions.” This is why keeping a healthy and supportive environment that meets your body’s standards is important for brain health.