Sadly, Alzheimer’s disease is also known as “the long goodbye.” The loved ones of those diagnosed endure the agony of watching the patient decline until they can no longer identify those closest to them and become a shell of their former selves.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 6.5 million Americans are stricken with this progressive type of dementia. More and more, researchers find that lifestyle factors are linked with the development of Alzheimer’s.
The compassionate team at Houston Neurological Institute has critical expertise when it comes to diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. They’re dedicated to helping you navigate the potential diagnosis for a loved one and talking to you about your own risk.
The devastating effects of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is the most frequently diagnosed kind of dementia. Initial symptoms include mild memory loss, wandering, and taking more time than usual with tasks, but they advance to more moderate and severe ones:
- Worsening memory loss
- Increasing disorientation
- Problems recognizing family and friends
- Inability to hold a conversation
- Lack of awareness about one’s surroundings
- Unable to handle independent self-care
Research is ongoing to learn more about the causes of Alzheimer’s, but researchers believe that it may originate with brain proteins that fail to function properly. This, in turn, leads to performance disturbances and the destruction of brain cells.
It’s thought that genetics and environmental factors impact the development of Alzheimer’s, as well as certain lifestyle practices.
Lifestyle practices thought to lower your Alzheimer’s risk
Since we know how traumatic the progression from an Alzheimer’s diagnosis to the end of a patient’s life is, it’s a relief to know that there are things you can start doing today to lower your risk.
1. Stay within a normal weight range
Combat obesity by eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, dairy, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Avoid highly processed foods with “empty calories” as well.
2. Up your activity
Include exercise of some type every day in your life. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, and strength training twice a week.
3. Get your Zzzs
Strive to get enough high-quality sleep. Aim for seven or more hours per night if you’re 18-60 years of age, 7-9 hours per night if you’re 60-64, and 7-8 hours per night if you’re 65 and over.
4. Keep an eye on your blood pressure
Some of the lifestyle factors we’ve covered — like healthy eating and exercising — help keep your blood pressure within a healthy range, but if yours is high even if you have healthy habits, you might need prescription medication to normalize your blood pressure, and regular monitoring by your primary care physician.
5. Be blood sugar-aware
If you have diabetes, it’s critical to partner with your doctor to ensure that you monitor your blood glucose levels and keep them in check.
6. Be mindful about your hearing
Get your hearing checked, and if you’ve developed any hearing loss, get it treated with a hearing aid. Other assistive devices exist that can amplify appliances you use daily, such as your phone.
7. Nix the nicotine
If you don’t smoke, wonderful! If you do, find a community-based cessation program or call the national Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
8. Drink alcohol in moderation
The CDC advises men to imbibe two drinks or less on days they choose to drink alcohol. For women, the recommendation is one drink per day or less.
Take these changes one step at a time so as not to become overwhelmed. Opting for an extra serving of salad, taking over lawn mowing duty, or subbing a mocktail for a gin and tonic adds up.
Diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s effectively
If you or someone you love is struggling with memory loss, consult with one of our providers as soon as possible. We use the most advanced neurological testing and physical examination to determine whether the underlying cause of the problem is Alzheimer’s or not. We may also perform brain studies to gain insight into whether a patient's brain changes are reflective of Alzheimer’s.
For those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the Houston Neurological Institute team focuses on preserving quality of life. This goal may be realized by:
- Prescribing medications
- Recommending dietary supplements
- Providing vital support to the patient’s family and caregivers
- Providing a stepped care plan that incorporates future disease progression
- Recommending safety features with housing arrangements, driving, etc.
The important thing to understand is that your family isn’t alone if a member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We’re here and ready to help.
Call our Pasadena or Pearland office to schedule an appointment with a provider who can become a partner in care, or use our convenient online booking tool.