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Preventing memory loss

By Staff | May 7, 2009

Memory loss due to Alzheimer’s Disease can’t be reversed. But there are some proven ways to delay further decline, at least over the short term.

According to the Rush Memory and Aging Project, stimulating the brain with puzzles, reading, crosswords, writing, playing the piano, playing games such as chess, or even learning a language can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s, particularly in the early stages. Enjoyment of these activities is key. Engaging in a frustrating or boring activity may cause stress, causing symptoms to worsen.

Adult day care programs can provide stimulating activities, including group storytelling, music, art and games. Healthy people who are socially active tend to have fewer memory problems than those who are more reclusive.

Simplifying one’s living environment can help to maintain independence longer. Minimize tasks by using electronic bill paying, hiring a lawn service, enlisting a neighbor to do laundry or house cleaning, and canceling subscriptions to magazines not read. Keep the home free of piled-up newspapers, old mail and other clutter.

But too much change can be confusing and disorienting. Familiarity is very important to someone with Alzheimer’s. The stress of having to cope with sudden or significant change can make symptoms worse. Be sure to make changes gradually. Too many abrupt changes — removing all the clutter from a messy home in one sweep, for example — can be disorienting and stressful to someone with Alzheimer’s and hasten the decline, rather than slowing it.

Maintain a regular rhythm with meals, sleep, outings and bathing happening at about the same times each day. 

Inform your primary-care doctor about any supplements and herbs and their dosages. Bring the bottle so the doctor can see exactly what’s being taken.    

Too much Vitamin E, for example, can cause gastrointestinal problems and other side effects, and can be fatal to people with heart disease.

Eat foods low in saturated fats and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, such as citrus, berries, leafy green vegetables, legumes (beans), whole-wheat or fortified bread, and nuts and seeds. All supplements should be taken by people with Alzheimer’s with medical supervision.

For mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, Aricept Exelon and Razadyne (formerly called Reminyl) may be prescribed. These medications help maintain a proper level of acetylcholine, which affects mental capabilities and muscle control. However, not every drug works for all patients, and each involves possible side effects and interactions with other drugs. Keep your health care professional informed as changes occur.