In her fifties, my gran developed Alzheimer’s. I remember visiting her as a child. One of my first experiences of her illness was when she began to lose her ability to filter what she said to those around her. On one occasion, I took a friend along with me to see her. It turns out my gran didn’t like my friend. So what did she do? She told my friend to leave! This is not something she would normally have done – not the gran that I knew.
Health changes people – for better or worse
And we had no idea at the time how my gran’s health, or lack of it, was changing her. We even thought that she had been drinking secretly, so unpredictable was her behaviour. But of course, this wasn’t the case at all and it was just a few months later that she was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s. I had always understood that this disease is genetic and somewhere at the back of my mind, I’ve worried that I might fall prey to it too. Watching her deteriorating was devastating.
But a recent Carte Blanche episode shed some light on the subject. It’s estimated that 9.9 million new cases of Alzheimer’s are reported annually – and while nothing can cure this disease, some simple lifestyle choices can help prevent it.
The three pillars of health
What we eat, how we move and how we sleep – research and the experts tell us that, done well, they can help push back this disease. That’s because the cell loss process begins 20 years before the disease presents. Plus, the role of genetics is less than researchers first thought. It’s actually environmental factors that determine if it develops. That’s encouraging for me – because it means there is less left to fate and more that I can manage.
Take action as early as you can
Physical fitness is all-important. Did you know that all it takes is brisk walking to reverse brain-size decreasing, something that happens in old age? And eating well is essential; when it comes to keeping Alzheimer’s at bay, a Mediterranean diet is encouraged. Did you know that olive-growing regions rich in fish, vegetables (especially leafy, green ones), fruit and seeds benefit us cognitively and reduce our risks? Sleep, that third – and one of my favourite things – pillar (or is it pillow?) is important for brain function. The slow wave sleep phase is when your brain development increases.
Will these three pillars eliminate your risk of Alzheimer’s? No. But apparently, they can more than halve it! That’s a statistic I’m happy to work with.
So, to the three pillars then! And to a cruise on the Med – purely for health purposes, of course!