What We Can Learn About Alzheimer’s from Tony Bennett
When Tony Bennett’s family recently went public about the American singer’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, they revealed that he was actually diagnosed four years ago. Dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s, is a leading cause of death in the United States. About a third of all people 85 and older may have Alzheimer’s.
Bennett’s story coincides with new research that shows how memory loss and cognitive decline related to dementia can be significantly reduced with a combination of lifestyle modifications. In fact, adopting four to five healthy behaviors helped participants reduce their risk of developing dementia by up to 60 percent.
Key Behaviors to Slow Alzheimer’s Progression
Exercise appears to be the single, most important factor for slowing the progression of dementia. Engaging in about 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical exercise each week is recommended. Other lifestyle behaviors that can help include:
Drink alcohol in moderation
Eat a high-quality Mediterranean diet
Engage in mentally stimulating activities, such as using a computer or playing board games
Maintain social ties
Get restorative sleep
Learn a New Skill
While old age doesn’t necessarily cause Alzheimer’s, it may be its most important risk factor: The number of those with the disease doubles about every five years past age 65. Bennett was first diagnosed when he was 90.
Learning a new skill or nurturing a talent or hobby such as music and art can help delay the onset of dementia symptoms. According to his team of neurologists, Bennett continues to participate in twice-a-week singing sessions. Research shows that music can actually help stimulate the brain.
Make a Plan Early
Bennett has been able to remain in good health, but Alzheimer's disease affects everyone differently. Some may suffer for many years after its onset while others are more apt to experience a more rapid decline.
And because Alzheimer's affects a person’s cognitive health — how you think, learn and remember — it is critical that loved ones, family and friends know what’s going on and what’s likely to happen. Preparing helps ensure the patient's wishes are understood and respected. You also may want to discuss a power of attorney and a living will to avoid any surprise confrontations or arguments.
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