Learn ways to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia

Activities to Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Are there methods to reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease or dementia? Find out below.

by L.H.

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are conditions that cause a decline in cognitive function and memory loss. If you are a caregiver for an aged loved one, or wondering how you can prevent Alzheimer’s disease and lower your risk for developing the condition, these activities may help.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which leads to a loss of memory and cognitive skills. As a result of this cognitive decline, many persons with Alzheimer’s disease may also have impaired physical functioning, losing their muscular strength and ability to coordinate their physical movements over time.

The disease is caused by the build-up of amyloid and tau proteins inside the brain which damage nerve cells and lead to brain cell death. Early-onset Alzheimer’s, which is a form of dementia that can happen between your 30s and mid-60s, is rare. 

In most cases, symptoms usually start appearing after your mid-60s and the disease will progress through its early, mild and then late stages. Throughout these stages, symptoms involve the gradual deterioration of cognitive function and memory, from forgetting your own name in the early stage to losing awareness of your surroundings in late-stage dementia. 

What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?

So, what’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is one of many forms of dementia, which simply refers to a group of conditions that lead to the loss of cognitive function. Other less common forms of dementia include Vascular and Lewy Body Dementia.

While vascular dementia is caused by the lack of blood flow to the brain, lewy body dementia is caused by the build-up of small round clumps of protein in the brain.

Read more about the differences here.

How can I prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease and the exact causal mechanism behind the disease is still poorly understood. As such, there is no one way to prevent the condition for certain. The best that we can do to safeguard our health and those of our loved ones is to lead a healthy lifestyle and pursue activities that can help keep us active and engaged. Based on studies on the risk factors and associated conditions with Alzheimer’s disease, here are some activities that can help keep it at bay.

Brain activities to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s

Research has shown that keeping your brain active is one way to slow down the decline of your thinking and cognitive skills, as well as delay memory loss. These brain activities are a sure way of keeping your cognitive functions healthy and allowing you to exercise your mental faculties. 

1. Reading

Reading is a fantastic way to keep our minds active and maintain our cognitive functions. A fun way to ensure that you remain committed to reading is to join or start a book club with your friends to discuss what you have read or learned from the book you’ve read. 

2. Learning a foreign language

Learning foreign languages is a fun and practical way to keep yourself cognitively active. Language learning, after all, requires a healthy mixture of dedication, memory work, and active cognitive processing. You could even incentivise yourself to learn by planning overseas holiday trips with the aim of successfully talking to native speakers. 

3. Playing musical instruments

Learning or playing a musical instrument is also another fun way to exercise your cognitive functions. It requires significant psycho-motor coordination and processing of musical scores. This ensures that your brain is given a healthy workout every time you play the piano, strum a guitar, or pluck at a harp! 

4. Playing mahjong and other games

Playing mahjong as a way to reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's

Source: Pexels

The complex rules and quick pace of mahjong make it a wonderful game for maintaining high levels of cognitive activity. Given that you will always need to play mahjong with others, it also doubles as a form of socialisation and helps you to remain socially active. Try to have a regular mahjong session every now and then! 

Other games that can have the same brain-stimulating effects include jigsaw puzzles, Rubik’s cubes, and even traditional card games. Here are a list of games that seniors might enjoy.

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Physical activities to keep your body active and engaged

1. Regular exercise

Source: iStock

Regular exercise keeps you healthy and helps you to stay mentally sharp as well. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense to be effective. 

Here are elderly-friendly exercises that you can consider incorporating into your own daily life or your loved one’s, ranging from light stretching at home to more intense cardio exercises for those who are already active.

2. Volunteering

Not only does volunteering keep you from being sedentary, it also reduces loneliness and social isolation as you interact and help others—a win-win situation!

Looking for volunteering opportunities in Singapore? Check out our guide to potential organisations you can volunteer with here.

3. Group sports

Group sports get your blood pumping and also require you to flex your psycho-motor skills, perfect for keeping your cognitive abilities in tip-top condition. Playing with others in a group also ensures that you remain socially active. 

Homage offers a wide range of home-based care services that can help alleviate loneliness among older adults.

Our Care Professionals are able to plan out activities to keep your loved one engaged, are equipped with the right skills to handle complex medical conditions, and are trained to manage and regulate different emotions faced by your loved one. 

Download our app today to book a care session for your loved one!

Can lifestyle changes help me to prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Given that the risk factors for dementia are closely linked to unhealthy lifestyles or behaviours, improving your usual lifestyle can make a difference in lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease?

As such, here are some more tips for preventing Alzheimer’s that you should consider embracing: 

1. Stop smoking

According to the World Health Organisation’s studies on tobacco and health, there is a strong link between tobacco use and dementia risk. For one, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are hypothesised to be caused partly by vascular issues, which are problems with your heart and blood vessels. These are linked to other diseases such as pulmonary heart disease.

Notably, smoking can increase your risk of such vascular issues and cause stress and inflammation in your body.

In fact, it is estimated that around 14% of Alzheimer’s disease cases worldwide can be attributed to smoking.

2. Eat healthily

Source: iStock

What we eat can affect the way that our brains function, and one diet that may help in reducing the risk or slowing the profession of dementia is the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) Diet. Here’s a look at what is suggested in the MIND Diet:

  • 3+ servings of whole grains daily
  • 6+ servings of green leafy vegetables every week
  • 1+ servings a day of other vegetables daily
  • 5 servings of nuts a week
  • 2 servings of berries a week
  • 4+ meals with beans every week
  • 2+ meals with poultry every week
  • 1+ meals with fish every week

What should you avoid eating, then? Items that are higher in saturated and trans fat are to be limited in the MIND Diet. Limit yourself to:

  • Less than 5 servings of pastries and sweets a week
  • Less than 4 servings of red meat a week (includes beef, pork, mutton, and so on)
  • Less than 1 serving of cheese and fried foods a week
  • Less than 1 tablespoon day of butter or margarine a day

3. Drinking in moderation

Excessively drinking alcohol can cause brain damage and ultimately lead to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. When it comes to alcohol, drinking within the recommended limits is best for your health.

Men should limit their alcohol intake to no more than 2 standard drinks a day, while women should have no more than 1 drink a day. Wondering what counts as a drink? A standard alcoholic drink is defined as a can of regular beer that is around 300ml, half a glass of wine, or 1 shot of liquors and spirits.

4. Remain socially active 

Did you know that isolation can increase one’s risk of dementia? If you are currently looking after an elderly loved one, encourage them to stay connected with their own community and friends.

If you are thinking of what you can do to spend time with your loved one, check out our guide to elderly-friendly attractions in Singapore and affordable activities that you can enjoy with them for less than $20 per pax.

Whether you are a caregiver to an elderly loved one or want to learn how you can reduce your own risk for dementia, we hope that this guide has been useful in explaining how you can prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Our trained Care Pros are able to accompany seniors for their daily activities, help them with light exercises and rehabilitation, and even plan games and days out with them. If you or your loved ones would like to know more about how Homage can help with your loved one’s care, feel free to reach out to our friendly Care Advisory team by filling in the form below.

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References
  1. Stages of Alzheimer’s. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/stages
  2. Alzheimer’s disease—Prevention. (2018, May 10). Nhs.Uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/prevention/
  3. What Is Alzheimer’s Disease? (n.d.). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-alzheimers-disease
  4. Tobacco & Dementia. (2014, June). World Health Organisation. Retrieved June 4, 2023, from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/128041/WHO_NMH_PND_CIC_TKS_14.1_eng.pdf;jsessionid=298266DEA7FCC8FDABFCDF747C90BF6B?sequence=1.
  5. Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 4, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html.

 

About the Writer
L.H.
L.H. is a writer who guzzles coffee a little too much for his own good.
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