Living Well with Alzheimer’s

Take control of your health following a diagnosis with these tips 

Family sitting together

When were first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, chances are you were upset, distraught, or possibly frightened. It’s natural to have these feelings. 

It’s also important to know that you are not alone. More than 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and every 65 seconds, another person in America develops the disease. While your condition can come with its fair share of challenges, you’re in control of how you live your life post-diagnosis. That means coming to terms with the best way to manage your symptoms and leave a lasting, positive legacy.

Use these tips to stay in control of your health, and live well, with Alzheimer’s. 

1. Schedule Regular Check-ins with Your Doctor

Following a diagnosis, one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to schedule regular check-ins with your doctor in advance, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s critical to have a care team on hand that understands your physical health needs during this time and can monitor you for changes. 

If you’re prescribed a medication, don’t discontinue taking it without checking in with your doctor first. 

2. Get Out and Move 

No matter who you are, countless studies have shown that exercise can help with weight control, boost your mood, and increase your strength. But for those with Alzheimer’s, regular physical activity can also contribute to a higher quality of life. A recent Current Sports Medicine Reports literature review found that physical activity can help increase cognitive function, decrease nervous-system related mental disorders (such as seizures, migraine headaches, eating disorders, depression and anxiety), and help prolong your ability to do daily routine tasks.

Specifically, exercising three days per week for 45 minutes at a medium-level intensity can lead to better cognitive function in people at risk for Alzheimer’s or who have Alzheimer’s, a 2018 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society analysis found.

3. Reach for the Right Foods
The MIND diet – the name stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay – is a “hybrid” of the Mediterranean and DASH diets for lower blood pressure. The MIND eating plan, though, puts more emphasis on foods that researchers think are best for the brain, including:

  • Vegetables rich in flavonoids that may improve connections between brain cells (aim for seven servings per week)
  • Leafy greens like spinach may reduce plaque associated with Alzheimer’s, says the American Academy of Neurology
  • Berries are high in antioxidants that may delay memory loss
  • Whole grains provide glucose to fuel the brain and fiber to promote blood flow to the brain

A 2017 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease study found that following the MIND diet led to a slower progression of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Try to limit cheese, butter, red meat, fried foods, and sweets to less than a few servings per week. Drink only a minimal amount of alcohol, if any. 

4. Have Honest Conversations with Loved Ones

Creating a legacy to leave behind for your loved ones may seem like a long and difficult task. But it doesn’t have to be. Anything that makes a difference in your loved ones’ lives that allows you to still be remembered after you’re gone, is part of the legacy that you’ve created.

And while a financial legacy is common, others include founding a charitable organization for a cause you’re passionate about, sharing memories and beliefs with family and friends, creating a detailed family tree or photo album, and crafting a written or video letter.

Whatever you choose, just make sure it has value and meaning to you. The Alzheimer’s Association has a list of other legacy options you can do, or draw inspiration from.