Studies on diet and activities, and anecdotal stories of full recoveries, seem to have the following in common.
Renewed sense of purpose / Lifetime learner: The recently retired and others with a lot of free time often suffer cognitive decline. It’s very important to stay busy or to establish a mission statement and think through what you want to accomplish and have goals. It’s equally important to be committed to learning, to the extent possible. Catholic nuns are lifelong learners who never retire and continue to study well into their “sunset years.” Interestingly, there has been a great long term study on a population of nuns, which is ideal since they live very similar lifestyles and they are lifelong learners. In this study, autopsies revealed that many nuns who never showed any memory decline actually had the Alzheimer’s Disease’s characteristic plaques and tangles in their brains. It is theorized that dedication to study, mission and purpose let them to being asymptomatic.
Mental Exercises: It’s important to spend 45 -60 minutes per day doing mentally challenging exercises. There are naturally myriad ways to do this in normal life and it’s acceptable to design your own idea of fun, challenging mental exercises. Two sites with brain games can be found: http://www.brainhq.com/ and https://www.lumosity.com. Another exercise could be to draw a watch face with a different time on it, labeling the hour/minute hands (someone could text patient a time to draw every Monday). Regularly take the SAGE test: https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/brain-spine-neuro/memory-disorders/sage
Physical Exercise:Physical exercise is important to all of us and moderate exercise such as walking and being outdoors is very helpful as we age. Running has been shown specifically to delay or decrease propensity of Alzheimer’s. Running can improve memory in healthy adults and delay MCI, but many people at risk for AD cannot run. As personal trainers often say, “the best exercise is the one you can stick to.” So, make sure you are exercising 4x – 6x per week, moderately, and find something that you can stick to. Resistance training is key to retain muscle mass as you age, but the benefit of cardio and getting blood to one’s brain is huge.
Run 5x per week. The studies I’ve seen specifically refer to running, so we need to explore if the stationary bike is as good as running while protecting the knees. Makes sense in theory.
Strong social bonds: It is important to maintain strong social connections, and to the extent possible, make new connections. One easy initial idea for those without active social life is to get a list of all your friends and family’s birthdays, and write birthday cards weekly to loved ones. One could even host a surprise birthday for loved ones which would require reaching out to their friends and family and coordinating a social response. Stay in touch with your friends. Reach out more than you previously did.
Aluminum: Avoid aluminum such as antiperspirant deodorant, non-stick cookware.
Meditation: Yoga/prayer is good for de-stressing and focus and mental clarity.
Sleep: Consider melatonin supplementation. If you have sleep apnea, get it treated.
Oral Hygiene: Brush and floss regularly. Get an electric toothbrush.
Diet. Significant diet changes should be made immediately upon suspicion of cognitive decline. The idea is to cut inflammation, toxins and spur ketogenesis — using fat rather than carbohydrates as an energy source.
Drastically cut gluten. Unless you have celiac disease, it’s not important to focus on minor sources of gluten, but you should generally get off all wheat and substitute rice, oats, legumes, fruits and vegetables for the wheat you used to eat. Swap oatmeal for breakfast cereal and rice for pasta. Spaghetti squash is a great, fresh, tasty and healthy alternative to wheat spaghetti.
Cut simple carbs/sugars to keep fructose below 25 grams per day.
Increase fatty fish and oils, seeds and nuts. The brain likes fat, especially good fats.