Alzheimer’s. Sadly, it’s an all too familiar word, one that invokes fear and worry not only for those afflicted with the disease but also for those who assume the role of caregiver.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the typical life expectancy after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is four to eight years. By 2025, the number of people aged 65 and older diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to reach 7.1 million people, a 27% increase from the 5.6 million age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s in 2019.

Although a cure has remained elusive thus far, scientists have conducted a series of trials that point to several things that could help slow progression of the disease.

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Medication

U.S. biotechnology company Biogen recently announced production of the first drug that can help slow down the development of Alzheimer’s. The company hopes to bring Aducanumab to market after the drug receives approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a process that could take up to two years. The company claims that higher doses of the drug can improve cognitive functions such as memory, language, and orientation.

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Mental Exercise

Scientists have conducted tests that measure the effects of mental stimulation in relation to slowing down Alzheimer’s. Test results have indicated that individuals who participated in playing board games, completing puzzles, learning a language, or playing an instrument showed reduced severity of Alzheimer’s symptoms.

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Physical Exercise

Studies have shown a positive relationship between exercise and slowing general cognitive decline. Although some studies measuring the effects of exercise on those living with Alzheimer’s have indicated positive results, further research is needed to define which type of exercise is best, as well as how much and how often.

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Diet

Research indicates that a Mediterranean diet can help reduce cognitive decline. But what does this type of diet include or exclude? A Mediterranean diet incorporates increased consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish.  In addition, this type of diet calls for limiting saturated fats and simple carbohydrates, which can benefit the cardiovascular system and overall health.

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Social interaction

It’s believed that Alzheimer’s disease may develop more quickly in people living solitary lives that offer limited opportunities for interaction with others. A three-year study indicated that participants who socialized infrequently exhibited more cognitive decline. It’s believed that regular social engagement can spark new brain connections.