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How Can Women Push Back Against Alzheimer's Disease?

By Sara Butler

Women and Alzheimer's Disease

If you’ve ever watched anyone you care about succumb to the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, then you know it’s something you want to avoid. It’s an unfortunate fact that degenerative diseases of the brain, such as Alzheimer’s, are becoming more and more common in the aging population.

What’s more sobering is that according to the National Institutes of Health, women are twice as likely to develop a disease such as Alzheimer’s than men are -- and also live longer after they have been diagnosed. Two-thirds of people living in the United States today with Alzheimer’s are women.

How can women push back against Alzheimer’s disease? The good news is that strides are being made every day in the research and treatment of this terrible disease. But you don’t have to wait for science to come to the rescue, there are real actions you can take in everyday life to help you fight back against Alzheimer’s and prioritize your brain health.

Alzheimer’s Disease: What Is It?

You’ve no doubt heard about Alzheimer’s disease before, but do you know exactly what it is? This disease is a type of dementia that impacts how a person thinks, behaves, and remembers. The disease is one cause of dementia, which is a general term used for the loss of cognitive functioning and memory that impacts a person’s daily life. Somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s.

It's important to understand that even though mental acuity can reduce with age, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the process of aging. Most people who develop the disease are over the age of 65 and they tend to have progressive symptoms that get worse over time. The disease itself has no cure, but the medical community has developed treatments that have been shown to slow the symptoms and improve the quality of life of the patient.

What Are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

The brain changes as a person ages. Although most people will notice that they may have problems remembering things as they get older and their thinking slows, such forgetfulness is not Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s has some very specific symptoms, such as:

  • Problems with memory - Those with Alzheimer’s may forget important things such as events or appointments. They often misplace important items or put things in places that don’t make any sense. They may get lost in places they are familiar with, ask the same questions over and over, and repeat things. Eventually, the memory loss progresses to forgetting the names of everyday objects and loved ones, how to express themselves, and an inability to have normal conversations.
  • Difficulty reasoning and thinking - The disease can also cause issues with thinking and concentration. It may be difficult for the sufferer to do more than one task at a time, manage everyday tasks such as finances and dealing with complex concepts such as numbers.
  • Challenges making decisions - Alzheimer’s disease also impacts how a person makes decisions, often leading to the loss or inability to make sensible judgments as a part of their daily lives. This can include such routine things as dressing appropriately for the weather or dealing with problems such as burning food on the stove.
  • Troubles performing tasks - Many daily activities require actions to be done in certain steps. Those with Alzheimer’s lose the ability to complete these steps, leading to the loss of the ability to do basic things such as bathe or dressing.
  • Personality changes - The changes in brain cells that occur with Alzheimer’s impact a person’s mood, personality, and behavior. They may become depressed, suffer from mood swings, withdraw socially, be aggressive or angry, wander, lose their inhibitions, or suffer from delusions.

As previously mentioned, Alzheimer’s has no cure. It’s obvious from the list that a person afflicted with the disease can pose a danger to his or her well-being and safety, and require personal care and/oversight, particularly when they have reached the point of wandering, losing their inhibitions, and becoming delusional.

However, there are steps a person can take to help slow its progression.

Build a Brain-Healthy Lifestyle

Whether you ultimately develop Alzheimer’s or suffer from dementia may not be completely in your control, but what is in your control is to build a lifestyle that is healthy for your brain. This can be done through:

  • Regular exercise - it is recommended that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation suggests that this type of regular exercise can serve as risk reduction in developing Alzheimer’s. Talk to your chiropractor about balance and coordination exercises and muscle-building resistance training that can help keep your body and your brain healthy.
  • Engaging socially - Humans need social interaction. Avoiding isolation as you get older and staying engaged with your friends and other acquaintances can help protect your brain against Alzheimer’s. You can look into volunteer work, joining a club, taking a class, going to a senior center in your community, or going out to public places to help you stay engaged.
  • Eating healthy - It is believed that insulin resistance and inflammation impact the cells of the brain negatively, which can ultimately lead to dementia. Adjusting your eating habits to be more brain healthy can have a real impact on the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, which has been called type 3 diabetes because it is believed to be influenced by metabolic disorders. Eating right can help you to manage weight and cut down on sugar and refined carbohydrates. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce inflammation, so you may want to use your chiropractor as a resource for how to get started on a healthier diet plan.
  • Stimulating your brain - Challenge yourself to continue learning new things throughout your life. When it comes to Alzheimer’s and dementia, a use-it-or-lose-it approach to the brain is key. Use it, engage it, and you may find that you can fight off cognitive decline as you get older.
  • Getting quality sleep - Research suggests there is a link between poor sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. Make sure to establish a sleep routine and schedule and stick to it as best you can. Get screened for things that can impact your sleep quality, too, such as sleep apnea.
  • Effectively managing stress - Managing stress is vital because too much stress over time can inhibit nerve cell growth in the brain and even lead to brain shrinkage, especially in the areas responsible for memory. Make sure to find and utilize techniques that help to reduce your overall stress levels, something your chiropractor can help you with.
  • Caring for your vascular system - There is an undeniable link between the heart and the brain, not just metaphorically. If you work to maintain proper cardiovascular health, then you can help to lower your risk factors of developing brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Keep your blood pressure under control, watch your cholesterol levels, and quit smoking if you do.

Alzheimer’s disease is devastating to both the sufferer and those who love them. There are real things you can do to reduce the risk of developing this terrible disease. If you need help adjusting your lifestyle to be more brain-friendly, then don’t forget that the chiropractors at The Joint are excellent resources!

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