Research is, of course, necessary, and finally receiving some significant attention. But we can do more than that. Those who are children or caregivers of parents/elders with dementia know personally the devastating consequences that it can bring -- emotional, financial, in family relationships, in health of the caregiver. So, that multiplies the shivers by quite an exponential factor.
The truth is, there is almost NO one who is untouched by Alzheimer's in some way: whether it be a parent or grandparent, spouse, aunt or uncle, cousin or friend who is losing their personality and memory in excruciating pieces. Julianne Moore recently put a spotlight on the early-onset form of Alzheimer's in her award-winning performance in the film "Still Alice". And there are various groups vying for funds to support the cause in various ways. But I want to talk about what is within our power, each of us, as individuals, to defeat this disease. There's actually quite a lot that we CAN do, aside from shivering in disbelief.
Here are some of the most important, scientifically supported ways you can reduce your own risk of developing Alzheimer's disease:
- Get adequate, good quality sleep--There's been a great deal of study of what happens in the brain during sleep. It turns out that our brains use deep REM sleep to empty the brain of "garbage" and to instill memories. So, this is one crucial thing over which most people have at least some control. Setting up a bedtime "ritual", going to bed and rising at the same time each day, avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the late afternoon/early evening, taking melatonin or herbal sleep remedies on those occasions when sleep eludes you. Also, avoiding the blue light from computer screens and electronic devices for a couple hours before bed (since that tends to reset the body clock's circadian rhythms and tricks your body into thinking it's morning). If you want more on this topic, please see my blog post: To Sleep Perchance to Dream. http://www.caregiverwellness.biz/wellness-blog/to-sleep-perchance-to-dream
- Try relaxation, breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation. There is a 30-year medically researched body of data on the benefits of using meditation to reduce stress and clear the mind. This site has many articles on the subject if you peruse the categories on the right sidebar. I have made some personal recommendations for tools to use for helping to relax, let go, de-stress and find serenity. You can find them on the Research and Resources page, the Caregiver Support page, and in the Caregiver Store on this site. And here are some of my personal favorites for self-care ideas. Enjoy!
- Eat a healthy, organic diet, cutting the carbs, and get out and move your body. Try yoga or Tai Chi. Do some combination of walking, bike riding or other cardio exercise, and avoid the sugar and pasta. I know. This is not for sissies. But there's ever more research pointing to the truth -- we've all been led astray in the low fat and fat free craze. It's actually carbs & sugar that are doing a number on our brains and adding pounds to our bodies. I refer you to Dr. David Perlmutter's recent books - Grain Brain, Brain Maker, and his Grain Brain Cookbook, for information and inspiration about how and WHY to change your diet. Now, I like chocolate and mac & cheese, and spaghetti as well as anyone, but after reading the serious research about what these foods might be causing -- well, it does make it a bit easier to limit them, if not completely give them up.
I'm going to stop here, though I could go on at length. The information is here, on this website and many others. I really implore you all to take your power back and act on that which you CAN control. Type II diabetes is at epidemic proportions, and this is something we can treat and reverse.
So today, in honor of World Alzheimer's Day, won't you make a commitment to your own health and happiness by taking some steps to avoid Alzheimer's yourself? Do it for your own benefit and also for those who love and depend on you. Do it for your children to set a good, healthy example for them so they don't become one of the three people who will develop dementia. Whatever reason inspires or motivates you, just do it!