The Bible brings up growing old as a normal process, but what about the realities of the aging process that so many adults face today, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Among the most troubling aspects of growing old is the frequency of dementia as human life span increases. We all know someone, or of someone who is mentally degenerating. Also, we all know of one or more families who are facing years of long-term debilitating care for a loved one who is losing his or her mind. It seems eminently unfair that people so afflicted should be robbed of their intellectual, emotional and social vitality while their physical bodies continue to survive. Alzheimer’s disease is a particularly hard pill to swallow because the cause is unknown and it does not seem to be related to any particularly bad health habits. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the causes and know if it will directly impact you or a loved one, there are certain things you can do to try to fight it. Here are six things you can do to combat dementia.
Exercising Your Mind
One of the top ways listed to combat dementia is exercising the mind. Studies have shown that challenging yourself mentally or staying mentally active helps to build up the brain’s ability to cope with the disease. Turn to activities like puzzles, crosswords and quizzes that challenge your mind. Another great mental challenge is to take on a foreign language. If you’re into card and board games, they also qualify to assist with major brain stimulation. Not only do these games challenge you, they also boost communication with those you’re competing with which helps stimulate your brain. It’s important that you engage in these sorts of activities regularly.
There is no denying the importance of quality sleep on our physical health. What you may not know is that there are a number of studies that link poor sleeping patterns and behaviors to Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re sleep deprived – not getting the recommended hours of sleep for a good night’s rest – you may be at increased risk of developing dementia. If sleeping is an issue for you, you need to establish a solid bedtime schedule. There are a number of tools out here now that can help you create one by monitoring your sleeping behavior and logging your activity. Your brain will respond to the regularity. A great way to do this is to make sure you’re comfortable as possible at night so you can easily transition into sleep. This will also ensure that once you fall asleep, your sleeping won’t be disturbed.
Another great thing you can do to combat dementia is socializing. Simply hanging around family, friends and being involved in social clubs can be extremely stimulating. If you’re a social butterfly, that’s great! But if you’re not, that’s ok too. This doesn’t mean you have to be involved in every social event, but regularly connecting with people can really help combat the disease. If you find yourself keeping to yourself or being in isolation, it’s important that you find a community of people to connect with. Consider spending some of your time volunteering, taking group classes to learn a new activity, getting involved in church or simply setting up a weekly date night with friends. All of these activities can stimulate your brain in ways you would never even imagine.
Prayer can change things, including your health. It is known as a widespread alternative to therapy in America today. Scientific studies have shown that prayer is an important factor not only in terms of staying healthy, but also living longer. It also can help to combat dementia. While people have commonly called upon healing power within themselves during crisis through prayer and meditation, science is also showing that prayer and meditation can stimulate healing power within your body and ultimately bring healing. The Bible also tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). How much breakthrough power are we missing out on because we do not ask God for it? That includes mental health breakthrough. Jesus also says we do not have because we ask with such little faith (Matthew 17:19-20). Our expectations of prayer should be high because there is power in prayer.
God’s commandments concerning our physical health are for our own spiritual good. Proverbs 3:1-2 says, “My son, do not forget my teaching but let your heart keep my commandments, for the length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” He promises to bless us physically and spiritually if we honor what the Lord commands in our hearts. Another top way to combat dementia is to be physically active. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, you should be aiming for 50 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, riding a bike or pushing a lawnmower, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging, fast swimming or riding a bike up a hill. They also recommend that you build in some resistance activities that require strength and work your muscles twice a week.
Remembering the Goodness of God
One key to coping with a generative disease like dementia is to remember that God is good. No matter our circumstances, God’s character does not change. The God of the Bible is the God who is today. His promises still hold true. Our circumstances do not change Him or His purposes for us/ God is actively working “all things” together in His grand plan. The Bible tells us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). For some people, one of those “all things” is a degenerative disease. God does not say that all things are good. But He does work for the good in all things. God is a redeemer.
When a degenerative disease becomes part of our personal reality, it is extremely difficult. Knowing that you’ll never be able to relate to them as you did your whole life and that the disease makes it more difficult for the person you love to function day after day is heartbreaking. But the reality of dementia can remind us of the great hope we have in Christ. We can be angry and despair, or we can be reminded of what is truly important and makes the most of every opportunity we’ve been given because we realize in a unique way that our time is limited.