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Is There a Link Between Stress and Alzheimer’s?

Stress is something we all face in our day-to-day lives, but too much of it can cause a number of health problems. You may already be familiar with the role of stress in our heart health – high levels of stress can lead to high blood pressure. But is there a link between stress and the development of Alzheimer’s disease?

Let’s look at what the research suggests and what we can do to keep our stress levels down as we age.

What causes Alzheimer’s?

While there is no single cause of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, researchers and health professionals have uncovered a number of risk factors that make a person more likely to develop these conditions. These include:

  • Old age
  • Family history of dementia
  • Head injuries
  • Smoking
  • Stress

How is stress related to Alzheimer’s?

In scientific research on the topic, stress has been found to be a potential contributing factor toward the development of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the extent of which has not yet been determined as there are so many contributing factors. Stress may be a risk factor because of its connection with other health problems, like depression, anxiety, and sleep problems, all of which have also been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Stress in itself has also been linked to memory problems. This is likely an evolutionary response. When we experience stress and enter the typical “fight or flight” mode, blood flow is directed towards parts of the body that are considered essential for this response. This means blood is diverted away from non-essential areas. So, if blood flow is restricted to the part of the brain that is responsible for forming short-term memories, then this could explain how memory loss is related to stress. If someone experiences chronic stress, then it can seriously change their brain chemistry and capabilities over time.

Another research study found that a hormone released in response to stress, corticotrophin releasing factor, actually boosts the production of protein fragments that have been consistently found in the brains of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins, amyloid beta, have been found to cause brain degeneration related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Keep your brain healthy by reducing stress

While there is still more research to be done on the link between stress and Alzheimer’s, there are many health benefits of reducing your stress levels. If possible, remove yourself from situations that you know cause you a lot of stress. Luckily, stress levels tend to drop after retirement because work is a common cause of stress.

We can’t always avoid stressful situations, so you also need to practice ways to manage your stress levels. Meditation and light exercise are known to be good ways to reduce stress levels. But it’s about finding what’s right for you. This could be taking a hot bath or reading an interesting book.

If you need help caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, then Bermuda Village’s assisted living and independent living communities can support you with all your care needs in Bermuda Run, NC.

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How to Build a Meaningful Connection with a Loved One Who Has Dementia

Visiting and looking after loved ones with dementia can be a difficult and upsetting experience. They may not remember who you are and their personality might have completely changed as their brain degenerates. But it’s still important for both of you to keep up those visits and try as much as you can to build and maintain a meaningful connection with them.

Here are some helpful tips for achieving this.

Understand their abilities

As their condition worsens, what they can do and how much they understand will change. It’s important that you are aware of this and adapt your visits to their ability level. If your loved one has a professional carer, then they can advise you on this as well. Trying to get them to do something that is too difficult for them can make them frustrated.

Are they mobile enough to go for a walk with you or are your visits better confined to their home? Are they able to have a conversation with you or would they rather just listen to you talk? Or maybe silence is a better option, relying on non-verbal communication like touch instead.

Share activities that they enjoy

Whether or not they remember their love for a hobby or activity, you can do those things together. Taking part in these activities could bring back memories or make them feel happy without them really knowing why. You could watch their favorite movie together, for example, or go for a walk if that’s what they liked to do. If they always loved animals, you could bring your pet along with you on your visits.

Use all their senses

Different senses can trigger different memories and emotions, so think about how you can stimulate the different senses in positive ways. If you loved going to the movies together, then the smell of fresh popcorn could bring that memory back to them. Playing their favorite song or piece of music could make them feel happy and even bring back memories of listening to that music. Tasting different foods can also raise the spirits or help them to recall memories of trips they took to different places.

Make the most of their good moments

Dementia patients will have some moments that are more lucid than others. Although you should be there for both, make sure to really make the most of those more lucid moments. Especially enjoy and cherish the conversations you have when they are better able to recall past memories and ask you questions about your life.

Overall, try not to get frustrated with your loved one or the situation you’re in with them. Be patient and remember that they’re still the same person. If you need additional care for your loved one in Bermuda Run, NC, then get in touch with Bermuda Village to learn more about our assisted living community.

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A Thriving Social Life Will Do Wonders for Your Body and Mind

Loneliness is one of the biggest problems facing senior citizens. Many of their friends will have passed away or moved out of the city or country as they’ve got older. Family members move on, start their own family, and don’t visit as much. And it can be more difficult to socialize and make new friends as we get older.

But it’s so important to maintain a social life at any stage of our life. It’s not just a way to enjoy our time more; becoming isolated can actually have real consequences for our mental and physical health.

The mental health benefits of socialization for seniors

Having an active social life with friends and family members helps to avoid major issues like depression and anxiety in seniors. Regular social engagements provide something to look forward to and give seniors a purpose in life, which is especially beneficial towards fighting depression.

Also, socializing often requires getting out of the house, into the fresh air and different environments, which also helps to fight problems like depression. Enjoyable social activities also help to reduce stress levels and improve self-esteem, helping seniors feel happier, more relaxed, and more confident.

Benefits to physical health

Social activities that involve getting out of the house and doing light exercise like walking, or even a social exercise class like tai chi or bowling, improve the activity levels of seniors. Staying active is important for seniors to help them stay physically fit and maintain bone and muscle strength.

Socializing also has an amazing ability of keeping away illness. It has been found to improve the immune system, making them less likely to contract minor illnesses that can lead to further complications. Since it reduces stress, socializing can also help to prevent high blood pressure and to keep the heart healthy.

The cognitive benefits of socialization

Staying social also has lots of benefits for the cognitive health of seniors. Communicating with friends and taking part in novel experiences, which every conversation can provide, keeps the brain active and engaged. This helps the brain maintain its strength and health, keeping the mind sharp and helping to prevent conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Even for patients suffering from these conditions, socializing can help to slow down degeneration, especially in the early stages.

A thriving social life is an important part of staying healthy as we get older, but it can be difficult, especially for seniors who live alone. Moving into a retirement community or assisted living can make socialization easier because events are held on the complex and residents can share meals together. If you’re interested in assisted living for you or a loved one, then get in touch to find out more about our community in Bermuda Run, NC.