Dementia is one of the biggest concerns for older adults today. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a broad classification of disorders characterized by cognitive deterioration. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are around 10 million new cases of dementia diagnosed each year across the globe.
Natural Prevention and Treatment
As researchers learn more about the causes of dementia, they have found that there are certain natural ways a person can decrease his or her chances of developing the condition. Similarly, when a person has been diagnosed with dementia, particularly in the early stages, there are natural methods that have been effective in reversing some of the symptoms.
Natural Ways to Prevent Dementia
If you’re older, it may be comforting to know that there are things you can do now to help prevent the onset of dementia in the future. Here are some of the natural ways you can prevent dementia.
Your Diet Can Be an Effective Way to Prevent Dementia
The experts at Dementia.com said, “Research suggests that adopting a ‘brain-healthy’ diet can reduce the risk of developing dementia.” They recommend a diet that’s low in cholesterol, sugar and saturated fat. They also advise that people load up on dietary fiber, whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nutrients.
Vanderbilt University put out a study in 2006 that showed how drinking fresh pressed fruit and vegetable juices at least three times a week can decrease a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 76 percent. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.
Further research has shown a substantial link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes. In a 2008 study from the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, Alzheimer’s was referred to as type 3 diabetes. Postmortem research on subjects with Alzheimer’s found that a striking number of subjects with dementia also had significantly reduced insulin levels.
Eating fish is another way to boost your brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, mackerel and sardines are excellent for strengthening cell membranes within the brain and slowing neurological degeneration.
A brain-healthy diet would include plenty of fruits and vegetables (whole or juiced), whole grains and fatty fish. Low-refined sugar is also paramount for keeping your brain healthy and happy as you age.
Consider Supplements for Brain Health
Certain vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids are particularly crucial for optimal brain health. Studies show that vitamins B-12, C, D and E plus thiamine and folic acid are vital for a healthy brain. An article published in the Journal of International Medical Research showed that the B vitamins, including thiamine, help control nerve impulses. B vitamins are also helpful in the creation of new nerve tissue in the brain.
Minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and selenium are also important. Calcium in the brain helps carry messages between nerve cells. Magnesium helps regulate impulses in the brain and has been shown to improve memory.
Finally, the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine support brain functions. Of course, the aforementioned omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the brain.
The best thing you can do is get these vital nutrients from your diet. However, if it isn’t possible to consume them through food, pick up a high-quality, multivitamin and an additional supplement for the minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.
Don’t Overuse Alcohol
In recent years, there have been several studies linking alcohol overuse to dementia. A 2018 study published in The Lancet found that heavy alcohol use was one of the biggest risk factors for the development of dementia, especially early-onset dementia.
Further studies found that even moderate alcohol use leads to a greater risk of developing dementia for women. These findings have challenged the notion that moderate, regular alcohol consumption is beneficial for brain health.
Moderate drinking is generally defined as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. However, with studies showing that even moderate drinking can increase your chances of developing dementia, it may be wise to stay well below the limits for moderate drinking.
If you drink alcohol every day, consider making some changes. If drinking seems to help you relax, replace the activity with something else like an evening walk, working on a puzzle or meditating for 20 minutes. If you are a heavy, habitual drinker, and you need more help, see a counselor or attend a 12-step meeting. Heavy alcohol use will put you at risk for all sorts of unpleasant health conditions.
Are you surprised? It seems there isn’t a health condition that exercise doesn’t improve. According to researchers at Dementia.com, “Exercise is beneficial because it increases the blood flow to the brain and reduces the risk of cardiovascular conditions that are associated with vascular dementia.”
A study out of the University of Maryland School of Public Health found that even moderate exercise can protect the brain and reduce the shrinking of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that recalls memory and is generally first affected by Alzheimer’s.
If you are inactive, you’re at an increased risk for developing dementia. Commit to exercising for at least 30 minutes every day. Starting your day off with a brisk walk is good exercise as well as hiking, line dancing and stair climbing. Find something active that you enjoy and do it each day. If you find a friend who would also like to exercise, that may help you stay committed.
Exercise Your Brain
Learning new things can improve your brain health and may reduce your risk of developing dementia. A study out of Belgium reviewed the medical history of patients diagnosed with dementia. They found that the bilingual or multilingual participants were diagnosed between four and five years later than those who spoke only one language. They concluded that learning an additional language may delay the onset of dementia and contribute to a healthier brain.
These days, it’s easy to pick up a new language in just a few minutes a day. There are numerous free language-learning apps that you can use. Most public libraries offer free online subscriptions to paid language-learning sites.
While meditation may seem like a fluffy activity for people who have extra time, it is an extremely beneficial tool for the health of your brain. The journal Neuroscience Letters published the results of a 2013 study that showed that meditation could increase protective tissue production in the brain of adults displaying symptoms of mild cognitive decline.
Older research also found that people who meditate have a better-developed hippocampus than those who do not meditate. Studies have also shown that the hippocampus, which is the first brain area affected by dementia, is stimulated during meditation.
Research has found that meditation decreases cortisol production in the body. High levels of cortisol increase a person’s risk of developing dementia.
Meditation is a practice anyone can employ. Depending on your belief system, you can incorporate meditation into your daily life in a number of ways. Christian meditation and contemplative prayer is a type of meditation that has roots in Judaism. More eastern religious methods from the Buddhist and Hindu traditions can also be beneficial for people with those backgrounds. There are other forms, like Metta meditation, that are not aligned with any particular religion. Take 10 or 20 minutes at the beginning or end of your day to spend a little time in contemplation. It can reduce your risk of developing dementia and strengthen your brain.
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) analyzed multiple studies about smoking and dementia. They concluded that smokers are 45 percent more likely to develop dementia than nonsmokers. The study also linked secondhand smoke to a higher risk of dementia.
If you smoke, now’s the time to quit. Use a patch, hypnosis, take up a hobby or try quitting cold turkey. Just do what it takes to quit smoking as soon as possible. Smokers are not only putting themselves at risk for dementia but also anyone around them. If you’re a non-smoker, don’t start smoking and don’t hang around in smoky areas or let people smoke inside your home.
Natural Ways to Treat Dementia
If you’ve already been diagnosed with dementia, there are things you can do to improve your condition and strengthen your brain.
Your Diet, Nutrition and Supplementation Can Help
The same nutrients and supplements we recommended for preventing dementia can also help you if you’ve already been diagnosed with the condition.
In particular, omega-3 fats have been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain, which helps to slow the progression of dementia. It is recommended to take 1,700 milligrams of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 600 milligrams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) each day to help treat dementia.
Vitamin C is also essential to improve brain function. Swedish researchers have found that vitamin C dissolves toxic proteins that build upon the brains of people with dementia.
Eat a Diet Rich in Turmeric
Multiple studies have reviewed the role turmeric plays in reducing symptoms associated with dementia. Researchers have found promise with the dosage of just 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric a day. Turmeric has been found to decrease inflammation in the brain, dissolve the buildup of protein on the brain and fight the propagation of free radicals.
Cooking with turmeric is simple. Add it to soups, curries and sauces. It doesn’t have an extremely strong flavor, so it can also be added to smoothies and certain desserts. Alternately, you can buy empty capsules and fill them with turmeric. Of course, you can also buy capsules prefilled at your local health food store or online.
Cinnamon Has Been Shown to Benefit Alzheimer’s Patients
There are proteins in the brain called tau proteins. These proteins are normally straight, but as we age, the tau proteins begin to get tangled and clumped together. Some tangling and clumping are fairly normal. But researchers have discovered that people with Alzheimer’s have significantly more tangles and clumps in their tau proteins than other people.
One study that was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that the cinnamaldehyde and epicatechins in cinnamon prevent the tau proteins from forming tangles and clumps.
Look for Ceylon cinnamon at the store. It’s the most effective for brain health. Add cinnamon to your oatmeal and all of your baked goods. Brew coffee with ground cinnamon and drink cinnamon tea. Use it every day to improve brain functioning.
Dementia Can Be Prevented and Treated Naturally
Dementia is a complex and debilitating illness that affects millions of people around the world each year. However, the more we learn about dementia, the better we can prevent and treat it. Employ these natural ways to reduce your risk of developing dementia. If you already have symptoms, talk with your doctor about adding natural therapies to your treatment plan.
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