The Health Connection Between Mind & Body
The mind and body are intimately connected. Whether it’s an illness, injury, or a bad mood, it can impact our whole-body health. Although memory loss is a distinct consequence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, it’s not the only health effect.
Effects on the Immune System
People with dementia and Alzheimer’s can develop compromised immune systems. Our bodies create fewer immune cells during the natural aging process, making fighting infections, bacteria, and diseases more difficult.
Although Alzheimer’s disease isn’t part of natural aging, increased age is a significant risk factor for developing the condition. As a result, most people with Alzheimer’s also experience the health effects of aging, including a weakened immune system.
Additionally, completing personal hygiene routines can be challenging for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Poor hygiene can increase the risk of infections and diseases, leading to multiple health conditions, including illnesses, skin conditions, tooth decay, and a weakened immune system.
The higher rate of illnesses and infections means the body is constantly fighting and potentially exhausted, leaving seniors vulnerable to more severe symptoms. As a result, individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s need access to healthcare and support services to encourage healthy practices.
Alzheimer’s & Diabetes
Diabetes affects 1 in 10 Americans, and more than 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes. Although diabetes can include many health effects, one notable impact is brain health. Diabetes has an increased risk of cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
As Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses, it can complicate how a person with diabetes manages their health. They may need additional or specialized care to help them cope with medications or lifestyle habits to prevent harmful health effects.
Diabetes can lead to multiple health complications, including:
- Heart disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Nerve damage
- Foot health issues
- Oral health problems
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
- Mental health problems
Additionally, diabetes can cause high blood pressure (hypertension), damaging blood vessels and impacting the circulatory system. Controlling blood pressure levels reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia, including vascular dementia.
Diabetes can be managed with lifestyle, diet, and medication. However, it can be challenging for seniors or people with Alzheimer’s to incorporate meal plans, exercises, and health monitoring. It’s crucial to have a care team to ensure every aspect of health is evaluated and receives an appropriate response. That team may include various physicians and caregivers.
How Mood Affects Physical Health
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can often lead to isolation. Feelings of loneliness can cause mental health issues, including depression. Additionally, social isolation increases risks for psychological and physical health.
Depression is also common among people with Alzheimer’s, particularly during the early and middle stages. It can lead to decreasing interest in activities, hobbies, and socializing. Mood and mental health are crucial to whole-body health, including the physical. A poor psychological state increases the risk of chronic diseases and sleep problems.
Negative moods and emotions can also cause various physical symptoms, including:
- Back pain
- High blood pressure
- Weight fluctuations
- Appetite changes
- Extreme fatigue
- Chest pain
- Upset stomach
- General aches/pains
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Palpitations (feeling heart racing)
On the other hand, boosting mood through exercise can improve mental and physical health. Engaging in physical activities has positive short-term and long-term effects on mental health, including alleviating depression and anxiety.
Socializing also has positive effects on mental and physical health. Interaction trains our brains, improving memory, encouraging healthy lifestyle habits, preventing cognitive decline, and increasing longevity.
Alzheimer’s and dementia can often create barriers to positive mental health and socializing, but resources are available. A care home can offer seniors a safe environment with more support, opportunities to enjoy activities, and a social community.
How Alzheimer’s Affects Nutrition
Alzheimer’s and related dementias can create obstacles to a healthy diet. In earlier stages of the disease, going grocery shopping may be challenging, or grocery list necessities may slip their mind. In later stages, seniors become overwhelmed by food choices, forget to eat, or believe they’ve already eaten.
An unhealthy diet or a lack of nutrition can cause physical weakness and increase the risk of developing flu and colds. In addition, poor nutrition increases the risk of chronic diseases and decreases life expectancy. On the other hand, a healthy diet helps adults live longer and prevents health complications.
Research into the relationship between cognitive health and diet is new, but it is clear that a healthy diet is good for our health, short-term and long-term. In particular, the MIND diet can help lower blood pressure and may help reduce risks associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Caregivers can help seniors with cognitive difficulties overcome their nutrition challenges and promote a healthier diet. Care homes have dedicated dining plans to enhance nutrition while still creating food residents can enjoy. Good nutrition is easier when the choices are made simple, delicious, and personalized.
Support for Mental & Physical Health
Alzheimer’s and dementia can complicate health, but resources and support are available. If your loved one needs more dedicated care, memory support can incorporate the services they need for mental and physical health.
At Fox Trail, we look at the bigger picture and the personal details to help our community members live fuller, healthier lives. Contact us to learn more about how we prioritize health or schedule a visit to see our thriving community.