Taking Action against Alzheimer’s

Taking Action against Alzheimer's

Risk factors we can and can’t control 

June is Alzheimer's Awareness Month - a great opportunity to share information about the disease and to propel us into action. 

Alzheimer's is a disorder that affects the brain, primarily causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. The Alzheimer's Association reports that nearly 7 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2024. 

Living with the Alzheimer's is not easy. Seeing someone you love live with the condition is also not easy. After a lifetime of creating memories and building relationships, it is devastating that a disease can come and threaten to take them away. 

To anyone who has witnessed (or is currently witnessing) a loved one suffer through Alzheimer's, my heart goes out to you. I hope you are aware of your strength. To all caretakers of those with Alzheimer's, thank you for your selfless work. 


Today I want to discuss some of the main risk factors of Alzheimer's Disease, focusing especially on the factors that are within our control. There is currently no cure for the disease, but there are ways to reduce the risk of getting it. 

Age is known to be the largest risk factor of Alzheimer's. It should not come as a surprise that getting older is out of our control. There is nothing we can do to stop the passage of time. We will age. Genetics is another factor out of our control that can play a role in developing Alzheimer's disease. We can’t change the genes God gave us. 

But it is essential to understand that age and genetics are only two factors among many that contribute to the development of Alzheimer's. 

There are several risk factors we do have control over! 

The #1 risk factor we can control? Lifestyle choices. 

There are no guarantees that our lifestyle choices can completely shield us from getting the disease. However, research supports that certain choices are known to protect our brains better than others. They’re actually the first three drop-downs on the Faithful Workouts website: Faith, Fitness, and Food. 

 

Faith

As we develop our relationship with God, we are also developing our brains in profound ways.

Studies show that increased activity occurs in the prefrontal cortex (a region of our brains responsible for attention and self-awareness) when we spend time in prayer or meditation. 

In the book “How God Changes Our Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist”, the authors share how 12 minutes of personal reflection and prayer each day literally alters our brains. It strengthens a specific neural circuit that enhances social awareness and makes us more resilient to emotional stressors. This is so important, since stress is another major risk factor of Alzheimer's. And, as followers of Jesus, we know that God promises a peace beyond comparison to those who trust Him. 

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you."

Isaiah 26:3 

Our brains greatly benefit from a healthy spiritual state, so let us always remain steadfast in our faith journey. 

 

Fitness

The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation states that regular physical exercise can cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s in half. By regular physical exercise, they are referring to the standard 150 minutes per week, which includes cardio and strength exercises. 

Consistent exercise routines can help prevent other health conditions - such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity - that are known to increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease. Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain and promotes the growth and maintenance of brain cells and connections.

Mental fitness also plays a HUGE role in protecting our brains. Scientists once believed our brains grow for a certain number of years, then reach a point where they begin to slowly erode. But we now know that brains continue to develop as a result of the experiences and behaviors we engage in every day. 

Education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline. For example, take a class at a local college or or learn a skill you’ve always wanted to do. Challenging and activating your mind can have short- and long-term benefits for your brain. There’s SO many ways to do it - Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games that make you think strategically. 

 

Food

Incorporating a variety of brain-healthy foods into your diet can provide a range of nutrients that support cognitive function and may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, a Mediterranean-style diet may slow the brain degeneration linked to Alzheimer’s. This eating pattern emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. It also includes moderate consumption of fish and poultry, with limited intake of red meat and sweets. 

Some powerful nutrients to include in your diet are antioxidants and polyphenols. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, which help neutralize harmful free radicals and protect brain cells from damage.Polyphenols are found in foods like berries, dark chocolate, and green tea; they have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties that may help preserve cognitive function.

If that was way too much nutrition terminology, I’m basically saying that all the foods we already know are good for us can also keep us free from Alzheimers. 


Age and genetics are out of our control. Our daily lifestyle choices surrounding faith, fitness, and food are in our control. And these have IMMENSE power in avoiding an Alzheimer's diagnosis. 

You may be familiar with the Serenity Prayer. It is a plea that God allows us to understand what is within and without our control. It goes: 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 

courage to change the things I can, 

and wisdom to know the difference.

A neighbor of mine had the prayer painted in calligraphy in her living room. I loved visiting her because each time I saw it, it made me reflect on the various parts of my life I was striving to control. More often than not, I was able to recognize at least one area where I needed to hand control over to God. 

It is a gift to be able to differentiate between circumstances that can and cannot be changed. And even more of a gift to act courageously in what we can change. 

So, this Alzheimer's Awareness month, let’s start to  focus on the risk factors that we can control. 

Are you doing all you can to reduce the risk of your loved ones having to see you suffer from Alzheimer's?

 

Abbey holds a degree in journalism from Indiana University Bloomington. Her favorite topics to cover are spiritual growth and development, holistic health, and human interest stories. Currently, she and her husband live in Michigan where she works in active ministry. In her free time you'll likely find her nose deep in a book, leading group fitness classes, or experimenting in the kitchen. 

 

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