Lifestyle Tips for Preventing Cognitive Decline as You Age
By Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS ~
The best way to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease is to take preventative measures aimed at decreasing cognitive decline. Prevention should start early to minimize risk, and a healthful lifestyle geared toward cognitive support is an important component. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, and about 5.8 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed. It is anticipated that the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease will increase to 14 million people (about twice the population of Arizona) by the year 2060. These large numbers are alarming, so it is vital that we recognize that there’s time to reduce the amount of people who will be affected by lowering personal risk. Here are some lifestyle tips for preventing cognitive decline:
Get quality sleep
Sleep is essential to your cognitive health. A solid night of sleep allows your brain to rest and repair itself from the demanding work of the day. During sleep, the brain and body complete essential functions including allowing the brain to store new information, and the body to rid itself of toxic waste, allowing nerve cells to communicate and reorganize in order to repair cells. It has been found that insufficient sleep or disruption to sleep is a contributing factor to cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. So, if you want to keep your brain in top-notch condition, sleep should be a priority.
Keep an eye on your diet
Of course, diet plays a significant role in preventing cognitive decline. In fact, neurogenesis, the body’s process of forming new neurons in the brain, can be affected by diet. A study showed that high-fat (from processed fat like corn oil and soybean oil) and high-sugar diets negatively affected neurogenesis. Additionally, it was found that healthful diets induced neurogenesis. If the neurons in the brain cannot effectively regenerate, cognitive decline could be the result. A diet that supports proper brain function is key to prevention.
Cultivate a strong intestinal microbiome
Along with diet, a strong intestinal microbiome can help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease. A 2020 investigation showed that there was an association between gut microbiota and inflammation in the brain, linking the intestinal microbiome to Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid pathology was linked to short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) which acted as inflammatory mediators for Alzheimer’s disease. Examining your gut health to check your levels of SCFAs and LPS could help identify if any dietary or probiotic changes should be made to boost prevention. Is there a specific food that triggers your condition? Do you know if you are consuming any cross-reactive foods? Are you better off consuming a food in raw, cooked or modified form? There are tests that can help you identify these things. The Array 10 – Multiple Food Immune Reactivity Screening tests for early detection of dietary-related triggers of autoimmune reactivity.
Staying active has a variety of benefits, aiding our physical and mental health, and even our brain health. The CDC notes that regular physical activity can improve our ability to think, learn and problem solve, and can reduce our risk of cognitive decline, including dementia. The CDC cites a study showing that inactivity can double our risk of cognitive decline. In short, keeping up with regular activity, even a simple daily walk can help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Challenge your brain
As it turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and it can help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It was found that lifetime intellectual enrichment could delay cognitive decline and is a good preventative measure for reducing the risk of dementia. This means that people who continue to challenge themselves mentally by learning new information or skills throughout their lifetime are less likely to experience cognitive decline including Alzheimer’s disease.
Embrace a healthful lifestyle to prevent cognitive decline
These lifestyle practices are easy to incorporate into our current lifestyle and they could prevent serious cognitive decline as we age. In addition to leading a healthy lifestyle, patients and doctors may want to further investigate the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical laboratory specializing in functional immunology and autoimmunity, has developed a test panel called the Alzheimer’s LINX™ Alzheimer’s-Associated Immune Reactivity. This test can help clinicians identify patients at greater risk and reactivity triggers for developing Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological disorder. It can also be used to identify the initial stages of the neurodegenerative processes and monitor the effectiveness of lifestyle modifications.
The Alzheimer’s LINX is recommended for patients who are exhibiting early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or who have a history of gastrointestinal disorders or type 2 diabetes. The Alzheimer’s LINX panel can be used as an added tool to identify risk and monitor progress. Doctors will want to look at each patient’s overall lifestyle and make recommendations for changes that could help stop or reduce the pace of cognitive decline.
Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories. Dr. Larson holds a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He particularly pursues advanced developments in the fields of endocrinology, orthopedics, sports medicine, and environmentally-induced chronic disease.