Medical science has made amazing progress over the past 150 years. Maladies that once killed or crippled millions of people are now easily treated. Still, some threats to human health remain unresolved. One of the worst is Alzheimer’s, a condition that afflicts more than 5,000,000 Americans.
There’s hope on the horizon, though, thanks to two exciting breakthroughs: new drugs that may stop the disease in its tracks; and key insights into how lifestyle changes can help seniors to maintain their mental edge. Let’s look at both of these advances.
Finding the Chinks in Alzheimer’s Armor
Most people experience some degree of cognitive decline during their lifetime. In most cases, these changes are due to normal aging. With Alzheimer’s, however, these problems become especially severe. This is because the brain begins to build up sticky substances called plaques that prevent nerve cells from communicating with each other. This makes mental tasks such as memory, reasoning, and processing emotions more difficult.
Most Alzheimer’s drugs work by interfering with the plaque formation process. These medicines can relieve the symptoms of the disease for a limited time. However, a new class of compounds known as “neuroprotectors” may be able to stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks and even reverse much of the damage it causes. One of these, which goes under the clinical name LM11A-31, is now in human trials. Other drugs are well on the way to the testing stage.
These developments offer hope in the fight against dementia. But there’s no need to wait for new medicines to improve your brain health. According to medical experts, you can take practical steps right now to keep your mind strong over the months and years to come. These include:
- Getting plenty of exercise. Active people are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. So check with your healthcare provider, then begin a fitness routine that’s right for you. Options include walking, resistance training, and Pilates.
- Learning new things. Studies of groups such as nuns reveal that people who maintain a rich intellectual life farewell as they age. One especially helpful activity is learning a new language. You’ll find plenty of language learning materials at your local library or on sites like Many of these resources are free or available at very low cost.
- Connecting with others. Those who nurture close friendships are not only happier, they’re also healthier than their lone wolf counterparts.
- Eating healthy foods. Fish, nuts, fresh fruit, and whole grains all have anti-inflammatory properties, which may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. Avoid highly processed foods, which often have added sugar and fat.
- Prolonged stress is a major factor in many types of illness, including dementia. Try meditating or systematic relaxation techniques to promote feelings of calmness and wellbeing.
- Taking your medications. Skipping doses of diabetes, cholesterol, or blood pressure pills can make your brain vulnerable to dementia.
- Getting enough sleep. Adequate rest is crucial to maintaining mental and physical health. Talk to your doctor if you have trouble sleeping. You might find that reading a good book or drinking a cup of herbal tea just before bed can help you to nod off.
Alzheimer’s will one day yield to medical science. Until it does, use the tips in this post to stave off its effects and enjoy a better quality of life in the here and now. The efforts you put forth will pay for themselves many times over.