It’s a common worry that faces millions as they age – what if I start to develop memory loss? Memory loss disorders are a particularly dreaded enemy. My patients who do have dementia all have different experiences with it. Some of my patients recognize their cognitive challenges, yet some are unaware that their memory is diminishing. It’s all a spectrum. Regardless of how people experience their dementia, it’s an incredibly challenging road to travel for the patient, loved ones, and caregivers.

Two basic tenants are true when it comes to combating memory loss. First, it’s important to try and cultivate inner peace if you have a memory loss disorder. Second, it’s important to practice moment-to-moment grounding exercises. Developing inner and outer resources, such as building stress resilience is crucial.

It’s also vital to understand that, contrary to common belief, our brains are malleable organs with the life-long ability to form new pathways, change, and grow. You can integrate tactics into your life that can help you prevent memory loss as you age, as well as during the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

What are Modifiable Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s?

Known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are surprisingly modifiable. This means there are actually many things you can do earlier in life to prevent the onset of these diseases.

A study done in 2020 by the Lancet Commission, alongside other studies, identified numerous modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia. This specific study includes many contributing factors like exposure, environmental toxins, latent viruses, a history of chronic stress, and emotional trauma.

Additionally, in 2014, a pivotal study was published by Dr. Dale Bredesen. This study highlighted many biological risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease. In turn, his findings seeded an entire movement in neuropsychology. The movement now understands that a functional medicine approach can help identify the root causes of cognitive decline to prevent and treat dementia.

Some Alzheimer’s Disease Modifiable Risk Factors:

  • Avoid alcohol

  • Stop (or don’t start) smoking

  • Decrease exposure to air pollution (including second-hand smoke)

  • Decrease midlife obesity

  • Watch your blood sugar, reduce diabetes

  • Reduce hypertension

  • Avoid head injury and treat any concussions quickly

  • Treatment of hearing impairment (use of hearing aids and avoidance of excessive noise levels)

  • Analyze prescription medication with MD or DO (polypharmacy)

  • Improve sleep quality, watch for sleep apnea

  • Develop muscle strength

  • Improve cardiovascular health

How can Maintaining a Healthy Mind Help With Alzheimer’s?

When we think about maintaining brain health, we often don’t jump right to the ideas of mental health management and emotional regulation. However, science shows that emotional health is intimately tied to overall brain health. For example, depression and other mental health disorders are often associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Understanding and regulating your emotions is actually a huge part of developing a healthy mind. You can maintain and enhance brain and mental health by increasing your neuroplasticity and strengthening the neural pathways in your brain as you age.

The good news is, we have access to this glorious plasticity from the moment we take our first breath until the moment we take our last. It’s a stark misconception that our brains are only malleable in our youth. A study conducted by the National Library Of Medicine used neuroimaging to reveal persuasive evidence of plasticity even as the brain ages, including during the early stages of dementia. This means that our brains are malleable all the way up until the end of our lives – isn’t that a beautiful truth?

This information provides a great well of hope for those battling Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It signifies that we may actually have more control over our mental acuity in the early stages of deterioration than is often first perceived.

What are Daily Practices to Prevent Memory Loss?

In our practice, it’s important to me to always encourage patients to take tangible, daily actions to keep their minds active, engaged, and inquisitive. To lock in these habits, I recommend that you have one place where you can write down and schedule your brain health activities. Schedule these simple habits into your daily life!

Include These in Your Daily Life to Prevent Memory Loss:

  • Healthy eating (mostly plants)

  • Exercise each day, and mix up your routine

  • Meditation (there are all kinds, pick your favorite!)

  • Therapy (talk to someone about things you rarely talk about)

  • Activities you enjoy, as well as some new ones

  • Music and other creative outlets

  • Other mentally stimulating activities, challenge yourself often

  • Attain higher levels of education/stimulation

  • Engage with others / increase social connections

  • Get sufficient and restorative sleep

Aging shouldn’t be something we fear, but something we embrace as we wisen and schedule in the work (and play) to stay emotionally and cognitively healthy. In our clinic, we call a fully healthy lifespan a “healthspan”: a life that is both long AND healthy!