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Can Reading a Book Fight Alzheimer’s?

By Skye Sherman  •   May 29, 2023
•    Medically Reviewed By Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Jul 17, 2023

Photo Credit: by Lisa Fotios, Pixels.com
Photo Credit: by Lisa Fotios, Pixels.com

Did you know that June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month? This might not seem important to you if you don’t know anyone with Alzheimer’s or other brain disorders, but when you think about the fact that Alzheimer’s is the seventh leading cause of death for all adults, you can see why it’s so important to be aware of the basics of this condition.

What’s more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. An estimated 6.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the fifth leading cause of death for adults aged 65 and older.”

As you can see, Alzheimer’s is a major killer and a threat to the wellbeing of millions of people, especially the aging population. Just like heart health, mental health, and a nutritious diet, brain health is extremely important to wellness later in life.

It’s also vital to keep in mind that Alzheimer’s disease does not only affect the person who has it; it has far-reaching effects that dramatically impact the friends, family, and loved ones of the person with Alzheimer’s.

This June, take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the causes, treatment methods, and relief options for this heartbreaking disease that affects over 55 million people and their families.

The basics of Alzheimer’s

What, exactly, is Alzheimer’s disease?

As the Alzheimer’s Association puts it, “Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms eventually grow severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.”

To be more specific, here’s a rudimentary definition of what’s going on in the brain to cause it: “Scientists believe Alzheimer’s disease prevents parts of a cell’s factory from running well. They are not sure where the trouble starts. But just like a real factory, backups and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs and, eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain.”

The symptoms are difficult to deal with for both the patient and all the people who love them. That’s because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that gets worse over time (sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly). The most common symptoms include disorientation; mood and behavior changes; increasing confusion around events, times, and places; unfounded suspicions about family, friends, and professional caregivers.

Eventually, patients will develop difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking as their brain begins to forget how to perform even its most basic functions. Of course, dramatic memory loss and behavior changes are also part of the picture.

As the CDC puts it, “Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language, and, over time, can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. Although the cause is still unknown, scientists are learning more every day about Alzheimer’s disease and what can be done to reduce your risk and manage this fatal illness.”

In addition, “Symptoms usually begin after age 60, but Alzheimer’s disease likely starts a decade or more before problems first appear.” Two of the biggest risk factors are aging and a family history of dementia.

Can prescription drugs cure Alzheimer’s?

Sometimes, doctors can prescribe medications like Donepezil, Rivastigmine, and Memantine. Prescription Alzheimer’s drugs may not cure the patient, but they can help delay memory loss by improving the function of nerve cells in the brain and improving thinking, attention, and the ability to perform daily tasks. Consult your doctor first before taking any prescription medications.

People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s typically live 4 to 8 more years or even up to 20 more years. Sadly, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatment options that can help delay onset, prevent it from getting worse, slow the progression of the disease, or improve quality of life.

How reading books can help Alzheimer’s

Did you know that reading a book might help stave off Alzheimer’s? It puts your brain to work in a healthy, enriching way that provides a strong weapon in the fight against cognitive decline.

According to Real Simple, “Those who engage their brains through activities such as reading, chess, or puzzles could be 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who spend their downtime on less stimulating activities.”

Just like physical exercise and all the benefits it has for your overall health, it seems that exercising the brain can help your overall outlook and quality of life because inactivity is one of the biggest risk factors when it comes to developing Alzheimer’s.

Reading also helps you relax, makes you smarter (you can learn a lot from books, even fictional stories!), enhance your creativity, deepen your compassion and empathy, improve your sleep, and even connect you to others with similar interests if you join a book club or even just engage in online conversations around the books you read.

As The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation puts it, “Reading books and magazines, writing and participating in other mentally stimulating activities, no matter your age, can help to keep memory and thinking skills intact, a new study suggests. The findings add to growing evidence that mental challenges like reading and doing crossword puzzles may help to preserve brain health and stave off symptoms of Alzheimer’s in old age.”

This is encouraging information because it suggests that there are steps we can take in our lives, no matter our age group, to slow or stop cognitive decline from dementia.

To make it more clear, the foundation reports, “The study found that the rate of decline was reduced by 32 percent in people with frequent mental activity in late life, compared to people with an average amount of mental stimulation. The rate of decline of those with infrequent activity, by contrast, was 48 percent faster than those with an average amount of mental challenge.”

In fact, Medical News Today also reports that “older adults who participate in [such] activities could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by 5 years.” As you can see, reading and doing other mentally stimulating activities can make a dramatic difference in any Alzheimer’s prognosis.

Reading is one of the few things in life that really doesn’t have any negative side effects. So, why not pick up a book you enjoy and do something positive for your mind, heart, and body?

If you need a good place to begin, check out this list of Best 28 Books for Dementia Patients or 5 Books Written for Older Adults with Dementia.

When Waves Rise – Sarah Viola, 2021, Amazon

The Splendor of Birds – Emma Rose Sparrow, 2015, Amazon

The Fabulous Flower Book – Lucky Designs, 2019, Amazon

The Happy Book Landscapes – Rose Raleigh, 2019, Amazon

The Picture Book of Dogs in Costumes – Sunny Street Books, 2019, Amazon

Dementia Together: How to Communicate to Connect – Pati Bielak-Smith, 2020, Amazon

Other ways to prevent Alzheimer’s

Contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. It is a separate disease marked by more significant cognitive and (eventually) physiological decline.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are steps people can take to prevent and reverse cognitive decline, or at least to keep it at bay for as long as possible.

The CDC reports, “Studies show that maintaining healthy behaviors and preventing and managing certain chronic health conditions may also reduce your risk for cognitive decline. Although age, genetics, and family history can’t be changed, the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care suggests that addressing modifiable risk factors may prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases.”

So, what else can you do to prevent Alzheimer’s? Some of the best steps to take are:

● Prevent or manage your high blood pressure.

● Manage your blood sugar if you have diabetes.

● Maintain a healthy weight and eat a very diverse amount of plant-based foods. Recent studies have shown that the gut of Alzheimer’s patients is less diverse than the gut of non-Alzheimer’s patients. Over time this lack of diversity translates into gut inflammation and this inflammatory process spreads to the brain through the gut brain axis and leads to the buildup of inflammatory changes and plaque buildup in the brain.

● Stop smoking (it’s bad for your brain as well as your heart and lungs!).

● Drink alcohol in moderation only.

● Address hearing loss so you’re not missing out on life.

● Get plenty of exercise and sleep. Sleep is when your brain heals, stores, repairs, and more and exercise helps to increase blood flow to the brain

While you can’t cure Alzheimer’s, you can take your health into your own hands by doing all the necessary steps possible to keep it at bay, slow your decline, or keep your quality of life as high as you can for as long as you can.



The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.