The combination of social, mental, and physical stimulation is the best medicine for a healthy life. Even after you've been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you should continue pleasurable activities and modify them as needed. Regular exercise and a nutritious diet are also important and can help you cope better with the impact of this disorder.
Keep Your Mind Active
Preliminary evidence suggests that staying mentally active may be associated with preservation of cognitive function. Children and young adults build up brain “reserves” by reading and undertaking mental challenges, and older adults can continue to build these brain connections through stimulating activities. In fact, building these cognitive reserves is a lifelong process in which some nerve cells (neurons) form, some die, and others interconnect.
To keep your mind active and may help prevent cognitive decline, you can try:
- Reading books, magazines, and newspapers
- Writing and corresponding through mail and email
- Reading progressively more challenging books
- Learning a musical instrument
- Studying a new language
- Creating art
- Playing board and card games, chess, crossword puzzles, brain teasers, word games, and video games
- Visiting museums
- Attending plays
- Finding creative new ways to carry out routines
Most of these activities have the added benefit of maintaining and increasing social contact with friends and family.
The brain benefits greatly from the increased blood circulation brought about and sustained by regular physical activity. You should discuss exercise plans with your health care provider, so that an appropriate exercise program can be tailored for your specific needs.
Exercise improves overall physical and mental fitness, and emotional health. Exercise is excellent for:
- Releasing stress
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Increasing flexibility by using a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and other activities.
A combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and activity to increase flexibility is recommended.
Eating a diet that is high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and low in sugar and fat can reduce the incidence of many chronic diseases. Researchers are continuing to study whether these dietary modifications are also applicable to Alzheimer's disease.
Your diet also should:
- Be low in saturated fat and added sugar
- Contain omega-3 fatty acids found in foods, such as:
- "Oily” fish such as tuna and salmon
- Nuts and seeds
- Certain oils such as canola and olive
- Be high in antioxidants (including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin), which are found in foods such as:
- Green leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach)
- Cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli and cauliflower)
- Red grapes
Switching from animal-based oils and vegetable oil to extra virgin olive oil may also be a good habit to adopt. According to recent research, not only is extra virgin olive oil a generally healthy food, but it also may help prevent Alzheimer's disease.