Adopting a mindset for making specific changes in your lifestyle is essential to protecting your brain.
Lifestyle changes may require a significant commitment
Making lifestyle changes to prevent Alzheimer’s dementia makes sense and seems worth the effort. However, a commitment to better lifestyle choices may initially seem overwhelming.
These choices include a commitment to physical exercise, eating healthy food, increasing sensory and mental stimulation, and improving sleep. Significant changes may also be required to improve your social connections and decrease stress. Many assume they will not succeed in making the needed changes and give up without even trying.
We are human beings and, unfortunately, creatures of habit. We’re often resistant to lifestyle changes even though they could help us prevent cognitive decline and memory loss. In other words, the idea of preventing Alzheimer’s dementia doesn’t automatically make us open to change.
Reducing your resistance to lifestyle changes
How can you reduce your resistance to lifestyle changes? American author, lecturer, and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The ancestor of every action is a thought.” If so, the first step to a healthier brain may be to adopt a mindset for lifestyle changes.
Therefore, I would like to suggest four strategic perspectives. These can help you develop your mindset for lifestyle changes that will support a healthier brain.
1. Broaden your understanding of Alzheimer’s
For years, you may have thought Alzheimer’s was something that only happens in the brain. I suggest you abandon that limited view. Instead, think of Alzheimer’s as a metabolic process that occurs in your body, but results in a neurological presentation.
With this new definition, you can understand and accept that, that these devastating symptoms do occur primarily in the brain. However, they begin elsewhere as a result of a metabolic process that stems from lifestyle choices.
This damaging metabolic process affects more than the brain. It alters the entire network of cells throughout your body. Once you accept this new perspective, you can begin developing successful strategies for lifestyle changes. Thus, you can effectively reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.
2. Take responsibility for decreasing your risk of Alzheimer’s dementia
In the therapeutic model of Alzheimer’s, you go to a doctor who prescribes a medication that minimizes or eliminates whatever illness you are experiencing.
Pharmaceutical companies are still hoping for this magic pill. However, if the causes of Alzheimer’s result from your body’s metabolic processes, the disease is too complex to be solved by a single pill—or even a complicated regimen of meds.
You will need to evaluate your current lifestyle and habits to isolate areas of potential problems, then create your plan for reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s, and make changes for better lifestyle choices.
Each of us is unique. We have different fingerprints, different DNA, different life experiences, and different personalities. In other words, your plan (and lifestyle changes) for reducing your risks of Alzheimer’s dementia will be different from mine.
Resources are available to help you in this process. My book, Dementia Action Plan, is a comprehensive resource that discusses the variables listed above, in detail. I also encourage you to click through the resources available on Interact Well Care’s website.
In the beginning, such changes will probably seem overwhelming. Please—please—set your own pace for making your lifestyle changes. You are starting a journey with many steps, but you get to choose those steps and the speed at which you take them.
Undoubtedly, you’ll need determination and discipline to succeed. However, this is the good news: The rewards will be great because you’ll not only increase your chance of avoiding Alzheimer’s dementia; your lifestyle changes will also improve your overall health.
3. Change when you start thinking about Alzheimer’s
We now know from scientific and research data that cognitive decline begins decades before we first notice it. We also understand that our lifestyle choices in midlife or even earlier, including sleep hygiene, nutrition, exercise, gut health, and much more, can influence our likelihood of experiencing Alzheimer’s.
Your body—your whole body; including skin, organs, every millimeter of tissue, every single cell—has a significant impact on your memory, cognition, and well-being. The day may come when advanced technology will help us determine the biomarkers that govern the progression of Alzheimer’s in our bodies. In the meantime, we can examine our previous and current lifestyle choices to reduce our risk as much as possible.
My point is that harm to our brain cells occurs over a long period, and if we don’t act promptly, that damage will lead to Alzheimer’s that negatively impacts our lives—and may even end them. Remember, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
4. Lifestyle changes can tip your life toward overall health and regeneration
Your body has trillions of cells. Imagine that at any given second, each cell is trying to survive by balancing two opposite forces—regeneration and degeneration.
The forces of degeneration include accidents, trauma, illness, stress, sleep deprivation, and toxins. The forces of regeneration include all the good things that help our cells stay healthy—clean air, healthy food, and exercise. Our choices and experiences affect whether degeneration or regeneration is winning in the cells in our body and our brain.
If the regenerative forces are winning in our brain, then our thinking is sharp and vibrant, and we can look forward to success and learning and wisdom. But if the degenerative forces start winning, then our ability to think declines, and we feel anxious, tired, weak, and sad, and eventually, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia appear.
Lifestyle changes: The time to act is now!
It’s essential to evaluate, plan, and implement your lifestyle changes now. The more knowledgeable you are about the above strategies, the more likely you will use them. They will support your commitment to the better lifestyle choices mentioned earlier. These choices will, in turn, protect your brain, preserve your memories, and help you maintain your cognitive function.
I can’t promise that the plan you create to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s will prevent, reverse, or cure Alzheimer’s. However, if you start now and keep moving toward your personalized goals, you have the power to tip the balance of your life toward the side of regeneration and health.
I wish you well!