Brain-Healthy Activities that Can Delay Dementia

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About 20% of seniors will experience some form of mild cognitive impairment1. For many, cognitive impairment can affect day-to-day activities, influencing decision making, reasoning, and memory. Sometimes, mild cognitive impairment develops into dementia, a category that can include Alzheimer’s disease.

Doctors don’t yet know what directly causes Alzheimer’s, which means anyone could be at risk of developing the disease. However, the senior age demographic is at a larger risk for developing the condition. The CDC reports that 5.8 million American seniors were living with Alzheimer’s in 2020. That statistic is expected to grow to 14 million seniors by 2060.

Despite these projections, only around 2% of Americans are currently living with diagnosed cases. Additionally, there are certain things seniors can do to reduce the risk of developing a neurodegenerative condition. Research suggests that living a healthy lifestyle can lower the risk of cognitive decline.

You or your loved ones can create brain-healthy lifestyles that include tools that increase cognitive activity. Read on to find out more about Alzheimer’s disease, choose some cognitively stimulating activities, and enjoy the peace of mind that a medical alert system can give to seniors who are aging in place.

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a common type of dementia. Dementia is a general term that encompasses memory loss, as well as the loss of other cognitive abilities. People with Alzheimer’s disease make up around 60-80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s impacts behavior, thinking, and memory. The disease’s cognitive impact makes it difficult to complete daily tasks.

Alzheimer’s affects everyone differently. There is no uniform outlook for Alzheimer’s patients. It is a progressive disease, which means it worsens over time. The speed and severity of symptoms are unique to each person with Alzheimer’s. Unlike other major diseases, like cancer or heart disease, death rates for Alzheimer’s are increasing. Treatment can help delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

As the body ages, so does the brain. Minimal memory loss and slowed thinking is a natural part of the aging process. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s can include:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Behavior and mood changes
  • Suspicions about loved ones or caregivers
  • Difficulty speaking, walking, writing, or swallowing
  • Withdrawal from community, family, and friends

All of these symptoms tend to worsen over time because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. It is important to see a doctor as soon as one of these symptoms develops. Remember that anyone has the potential to get Alzheimer’s, but there are some factors that increase the risk of developing the disease. These include:

  • Age: People who are 65 years or older are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Family History: People who have an immediate family member with Alzheimer’s are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Genetics: Specific genes are linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Remember that these risk factors do not guarantee an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, nor do all types of cognitive decline lead to a diagnosis. Still, all seniors can benefit from taking up cognitively stimulating activities. Getting both mental and physical exercise can improve most aspects of senior living, but those who are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s will benefit from improving cognitive fitness.

Why Should Seniors Be Concerned About Alzheimer’s Disease?

This disease disproportionately affects seniors, and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases as you age. A possible explanation for this connection is that “tau-proteins,” which are molecules responsible for Alzheimer’s disease, spread more easily in older brains.

Still, regardless of your age, increasing cognitive activity is beneficial. The below activities are a prevention tool and best used in preparation for older age. While they are not treatments for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, they can contribute to a holistic strategy for overall brain health.

Brain-Healthy Ways to Prevent or Delay Cognitive Decline

Living a cognitively active life can delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s. However, this does not get rid of the disease itself. Think of these activities as replenishing your “cognitive reserve,” or ability to think. This, in turn, helps folks battle the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Activities that stimulate the brain can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. These activities contribute to your “cognitive reserve.” Previous research has shown that the following habits and activities can reduce risk for cognitive decline:

  • Walking 3 times weekly2
  • Not smoking3
  • Playing music4
  • Following a heart-smart lifestyle (see exercise and diet tips below)
  • Writing letters5
  • Reading5
  • Playing games5

If you’re feeling anxious about neurodegenerative conditions, we recommend incorporating a few of these activities into your day. A simple evening walk with some music in the background could keep your brain healthy and reduce cognitive decline.

By engaging different parts of the brain and connecting with loved ones, people at risk for Alzheimer’s can stave off cognitive decline. According to new research, these activities can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by up to five years. It’s important to remember that increasing cognitive activity will not cure Alzheimer’s, but it will help the brain manage the disease.

Exercise to Boost Brain Health

In addition to the above activities, creating an exercise routine can be a great first step in living a brain- and heart-healthy life. Exercise helps keep our bodies healthy in the face of disease, like cancer, diabetes, and stroke. Moving your body can also reduce cognitive decline as you age. A study6 recently found that exercise improves the growth and development of neurons in the brain and reduces buildup and toxicity of proteins on walls of brain arteries.

Adults that regularly exercise have less brain tissue atrophy and show fewer signs of vascular tissue and silent stroke. The cortex areas of the brain are essential to thinking and memory functions. Adults who regularly exercise experience a thickening in those cortex areas, which can improve cognitive ability.

In the study, Dr. Marat Reyzelma, a specialist in Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology at Wellstar Health System, says, “Exercise caused patients to maintain or even gain cells in important brain areas, whereas lack of exercise caused an increase in the rate of age-related brain cell loss.” Not only does exercise improve cognitive activity, but a lack of exercise has a negative impact on your brain’s healthy functioning.

If you’re interested in starting an exercise routine, we recommend consulting your doctor first. You should definitely wear your medical alert system. Knowing that help is just a button-push away can give you the confidence to get started and maintain a more active, yet supported, lifestyle.

Brain-Healthy Diets

Many doctors recommend dietary considerations to help reduce cognitive decline. According to years of research, there are two groups of food that are important to brain health: foods to avoid and foods to add.

If you’re worried about neurodegenerative conditions, your doctor may recommend avoiding foods with high amounts of saturated fat. This can cause possible damage to brain cells through inflammation and oxidative stress. Foods that are high in sugar can do the same. For many folks, foods to avoid may include the following:

  • Butter and margarine
  • Red meat
  • Whole-fat cheese
  • Fast and fried food
  • Sweets and pastries

On the other hand, certain foods can give seniors a cognitive boost. The MIND diet, which is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, might help with symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Foods in the MIND diet include:

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Berries
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil

Your brain health will benefit from a combination of limiting the first list of foods and focusing more on the second list of foods. The MIND diet is associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It can also improve cardiovascular health. Researchers continue to study which foods are best for people with Alzheimer’s. If you’re not sure where to start, we highly suggest speaking with your doctor to find out what might work best for you.

A Medical Alert System Provides Protection and Peace of Mind for Aging Adults and their Loved Ones

Alzheimer’s disease can pose a threat to seniors’ mobility, freedom, and brain health. Memory loss can create confusion and disorientation. Though there is no cure for most neurodegenerative conditions, you or your loved one can engage in some brain-healthy activities that help to delay cognitive decline. Some of these activities encourage body movement, like walking 3 times per week, while other activities promote mental exercise and social connection, like writing letters.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease deserves to feel comfortable and safe. Your medical alert system can increase peace of mind. GPS and fall detection technology can assist a person who has Alzheimer’s to secure immediate help in case of a fall. Your medical alert system, along with the other recommendations for your cognitive toolbox, can increase security and protection for aging adults and their loved ones.

1Weir, Kirsten. (2019, Oct. 1). Spotting the Signs of Mild Cognitive Impairment. Spotting the Signs of Mild Cognitive Impairment.
2Walsh, Karla. (2021, April 28). Doing This Healthy Habit Just 3 Times Per Week Could Reduce Your Dementia Risk. Doing This Healthy Habit Just 3 Times Per Week Could Reduce Your Dementia Risk.
3Walsh, Karla. (2021, May 20). The #1 Thing Women Should Never Do if They Want to Prevent Dementia, According to Science. The #1 Thing Women Should Never Do if They Want to Prevent Dementia, According to Science.
4Balbag, Alison M., et al. (2014, Dec. 2). Playing a Musical Instrument as a Protective Factor against Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Twin Study. International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Playing a Musical Instrument as a Protective Factor against Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Twin Study.
5Wilson, Robert S. (2021, July 14). Cognitive Activity and Onset Age of Incident Alzheimer Disease Dementia. Cognitive Activity and Onset Age of Incident Alzheimer Disease Dementia.
6Da Costa Daniele, Thiago Medeiros, et al. (2020, April 6). Exercise effects on brain and behavior in healthy mice, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease model – A systematic review and meta-analysis. Behavioral Brain Research. Exercise effects on brain and behavior in healthy mice, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease model – A systematic review and meta-analysis.