Little Steps We Can Take to Avoid Alzheimer's
Every now and then, I like to take a little time away from reading for my coursework to catch up with what’s going on in the world. On Saturday, I opened the May 2006 issue of Health magazine and found a feature article which indicated that researchers are increasingly linking inflammation to a number of illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease. With a family history of this illness as well as dementia, I have noticed that I am thinking more often about what I can do to limit my own risk factors (especially since my mom’s diagnosis).
The Health article interviewed Dr. David Perlmutter, a leading neurologist, who noted the chemical mechanisms that cause inflammation such as arthritis also can create cognitive problems leading to Alzheimer’s. That information makes sense when you think about the body as a system; what happens to one part of the body may cause a reaction in another part of the body. For instance, my dentist continuously warns me to get into the habit of flossing my teeth by noting that flossing reduces inflammation that could lead to periodontal disease, which eventually can contribute to heart disease.
The story in Health provides information on drugs that can be used to fight inflammation. However, I have a tendency to avoid a lot of prescription medication, so I was happy to see that Health also suggested five lifestyle changes that also are beneficial: (1) keep your bodyweight in check; (2) eat smart by avoiding sugar and bad fats, and opting for omega-3 fatty acids, fiber-rich complex carbohydrates, green tea, and spices such as ginger and turmeric; (3) breathe clean air; (4) be happy; and (5) exercise. Those are five big lifestyle choices to change at one time (especially when you already have a full life). But I’m focusing my efforts into three of these options right now.
Nutrition is the easiest for me to incorporate since I have to eat anyway. I am now trying to make better choices in what foods I put in my body. Exercise is a more recent addition. Although I have a history of being athletic, I found that exercise had fallen off my daily radar screen. Thanks to my friend, Sondra, and my dog, Zoe, I have companions who eagerly get me out to ride my bike or walk on a fairly regular schedule.
The third area I’m focusing on is being happy. Things are hard enough when you’ve got major commitments (in my case, grad school); the stress level really grows when you’re a caregiver. So I make a conscious effort to regularly look at my garden, have a meal with a friend, watch a movie, or play ball with Zoe – anything that puts me in a better state of mind.
These are all small steps, but they are important ones when you’re a caregiver – or if you are afraid you’re a future target of Alzheimer’s disease. But just taking these small steps gives give me the sense of having control of the quality of my day – and my life.
Published On: April 25, 2006