Sunday, December 26, 2010

How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

Researchers across the world are racing towards a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. As prevalence rates climb, their focus has broadened from treatment to prevention strategies.

Although there are no magic solutions, tantalizing new evidence suggests it may be possible to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease through a combination of healthful habits.
Scientists now suggest you can stimulate your mind, improve your mood, sharpen your memory, and reduce your Alzheimer’s risks.

Which Alzheimer’s risks can you control or reduce?

Although scientists are still working to find causes and cures for Alzheimer’s disease, conditions and behaviors that leave you more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease have been identified.

Did you know:
  • Smoking after age 65 increases your chances of developing Alzheimer’s by 79%?
  • Obesity in midlife makes you 3 ½ times more likely to experience Alzheimer’s?
  • Diabetes makes you twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s?
  • Genetics account for only 25% of Alzheimer’s cases?
  • Chronic stress may quadruple your risk?
Although you cannot change your inherited genes, ethnicity, gender, or age, you can address the following risk factors:
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Chronic Stress
  • Poor quality or insufficient sleep
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Smoking, alcohol, drug use
  • Head injury
  • Toxic insults to your brain
Strategies to Prevent and Delay Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Eat a brain-healthy diet
  • Keep your mind active
  • Sleep regularly and restfully
  • Learn to relax
  • Protect your brain
Physical Exercise

According to a recent Mayo Clinic review, no single lifestyle choice has as much impact on aging and Alzheimer’s disease as exercise. In a 2009 review of literature from the International Journal of Clinical Practice, scientists documented that over time, physical activity effectively reduces the probability of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Additional research shows those with existing cognitive problems and dementia receive a protective benefit from regular exercise.

These tips will maximize your exercise plan:
  • Exercise at a moderate pace-for at least 30 minutes five times per week. Just five workouts every seven days can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 35%. When serious brain damage has already occurred, brisk walking and other cardiovascular exercise can slow further injury.
  • Build muscle to pump up your brain-moderate levels of weight and resistance training not only increase muscle mass, they maintain cognitive health. Combining aerobics and strength work is better than either activity alone. Add 2-3 strength sessions to your weekly routine, and your risk of Alzheimer’s is cut in half if you are over 65.
  • Stretch for success-agility not only makes you light on your feet, it improves balance and reduces head injuries. Remember the Tin Man… and reach, twist, and flex often to keep your frame limber and your brain supported.
  • Think movement-those who are physically active throughout life have improved cognitive forecasts. Gardening, cleaning house, and taking the stairs build brain-healthy movement throughout the day. Look for opportunities to walk, bend, stretch, and lift your way to vitality.
Healthy Food

In Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation and insulin resistance injure neurons and inhibit communication between brain cells. In Freedom from Disease, Alzheimer’s is described as “diabetes of the brain,” and a growing body of information suggests a strong link between metabolic disorders and the signal processing systems. In addition, the American Academy of Neurology recently warned elevated cholesterol in your 40’s increases your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Eating habits that reduce inflammation and promote normal energy production are brain-healthy. These food tips will keep you protected:
  • Follow a Mediterranean diet. Control inflammation by eating foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, cold water fish, nuts, whole grains, and abundant fresh produce. Avoid transfats, full-fat dairy products, and red meat, but treat yourself to a glass of red wine and a dark chocolate square.
  • Eat fish. According to a U.S. study, a diet rich in omega-3 would reduce by 47% the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. There is also a good way to prevent cardiovascular disease. The omega-3 are particularly present in salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna. Fish oil, less rich, is also a good source of omega-3. For best results, it is advisable to consume at least two servings of fish per week.
  • Maintain consistent levels of insulin and blood sugar. Eat several small meals throughout the day. Avoid packaged, refined, and processed foods, especially those high in sugars and white flour, which rapidly spike glucose levels and inflame your brain.
  • Eat across the rainbow. Emphasize fruits and vegetables across the color spectrum to maximize protective anti-oxidants and vitamins. Daily servings of berries and green leafy vegetables should be part of a plant-centered, brain protective regimen.

  • Eat purple-colored fruits. Researchers believe fruit such as blueberries absorb harmful iron compounds in the body that produce toxins. Certain toxins are believed to cause degenerative diseases.
  • Drink tea daily. Green, white, and oolong teas are particularly brain-healthy. Drinking 2-4 cups daily has proven benefits. Although caffeine can inhibit stress reduction and become addictive, moderate coffee drinkers also enjoy reduced cognitive risks.
  • Drink red wine. There had been studies involving the moderate use of red wine to give protective measures for the brain’s cognitive function and likewise lessening the risk of acquiring diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. This can be due to the flavonoids that are present in its components. It is also said that green tea has its own kind of health measures not only for the two mentioned ailments but has the ability to put the risk of cancer to a lesser level.
  • Eat dark chocolates.  One of the foods that help prevent AD is dark chocolates.  Buy the kind that is high in cocoa content which can be at the 70%-80% levels as cocoa has large flavonoids contents.
  • Include asparagus in your diet. Patients afflicted by these diseases are more likely to lack on folate. A cup of asparagus spears is equivalent to 66 percent of the required daily dose of folate. Other good sources of folate are citrus fruits.
  • Eat curry. Curcumin present in turmeric removes plagues from the brain. This food had been proven since time immemorial to remove said plagues present in the brain. This substance is added as spices on food and is present in curry.  It has been reported that Indians who are fond of eating this dish have lower risks of dementia. This substance is even cheaper than you think. It is advisable to add some onto the dish of those who have the disease so as to lower the risk of acquiring it.
  • Drink coffee and smoke marijuana. The last recommendations might sound a bit controversial due to the traditional suspicion to these components, especially marijuana, which is still considered as illegal substance by Federal Government. While these elements are commonly considered as one of the most effective in AD prevention, you should apply great precaution using them and be careful to avoid any chance of health abuse.

Vitamins, herbs, and amino acids may provide additional brain protection. Some vitamins are recommended for preventing Alzheimer’s disease. This applies, for example, vitamins E and C. According to two studies published in 2002 in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), their antioxidant properties would promote the prevention of this disease. The recommended intake of vitamin E is 12 mg per day and for vitamin C of 110 mg per day.
- Foods rich in vitamin E are vegetable oils, cereals, nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc..), Sweet potatoes, mangoes.
- Foods rich in vitamin C are blackcurrant, pepper, lemon, cauliflower, melon, orange.

A recent Swedish study, vitamins B12 and B9 (folate) would prevent Alzheimer’s disease. For proof, among 370 people aged over 75 years and followed for three years by researchers, 78 have developed a form of senile dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. However, these 78 participants, 46 had a deficiency in vitamin B12 or B9. The explanation? The deficit in these two vitamins enhance neuronal death, a phenomenon strongly implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
- Foods rich in vitamins B12 and B9 are: bananas, vegetables, broccoli and legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas).

Brain Exercise

According to the 2008 Wall Street Journal review “Neurobics and Other Brain Boosters,” an active, stimulated brain reduces your odds of developing Alzheimer’s. Those who remain engaged in activities involving multiple tasks, requiring communication, interaction, and organization, who continue learning, and constantly challenge their brains earn the greatest protection.


A recent 2010 review published in Volume 6 of “Nature” cited evidence that cognitive intervention can be effective in preventing, slowing and treating Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The benefits of brain training are thought to reflect increases in cognitive reserve, which allows the brain to perform tasks (using cognitive skills like memory, visual and auditory processing, logic and reasoning, and attention) even if there is damage to the pathways between brain cells. One study of 29,000 people demonstrated that those with the highest cognitive reserves had a 46 percent reduced risk of developing dementia compared to those with lower reserves. In addition, brain training might be able to partially reverse dementia even after the symptoms are apparent.

Cross-training with these brainpower activities will keep your mind sharp:
  • Set aside time each day to learn something new - read a good book, study a foreign language, play a musical instrument. The greater the novelty and challenge, the larger the deposit in your brain reserves.
  • Practice memorization - start with something short and progress to the 50 U.S. capitals. Create rhymes and patterns to strengthen your memory connections.
  • Solve riddles and work puzzles - brain teasers and strategy games provide great mental exercise and build your capacity to form and retain cognitive associations. Look for activities that use both sides of your brain…logic and language versus artistic and creative challenges.
  • Practice the 5 W’s - observe and report like a crime detective. Keep a Who, What, Where, When, and Why list of your daily experiences. Capturing visual details keeps your neurons firing.
  • Follow the road less traveled - take a new route, eat with your other hand, rearrange your computer desktop. Vary your habits regularly to create new brain pathways.
Good Sleep

Your brain needs regular, restful sleep to process, store, and recall information. Nightly deprivation not only leaves you cranky and tired, but according to memory experts Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Gary Small, poor sleep can significantly damage your brain and central nervous system.

These tips will help you catch your Z’s and quiet the demons that keep you awake:
  • Establish a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time reinforces your natural circadian rhythms. Your brain’s clock responds to regularity, and long term disruption has been associated with heart disease, cancer risks, and cognitive problems.
  • Set the mood. Reserve your bed for sleep (and sex), take a hot bath, and dim the lights. Brisk evening exercise, comfortable temperatures, and white noise machines can also signal your brain that it’s time for deep restorative sleep.
  • Stop snoring, dear! Alcohol, smoking, sedating drugs, excess weight, high blood pressure, and clogged nasal passages can rock the timbers. Snoring may signal sleep apnea, a respiratory condition that threatens your heart and mind. A new study from the University of California at San Diego estimates seventy to eighty percent of Alzheimer’s patients experience sleep apnea. Cognition is frequently improved following Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment, which mechanically regulates the rise and fall of blood pressure and oxygen to the brain.
  • Quiet your inner chatter. When mental dialogues keep you awake, get up. Try reading or relaxing in another room for twenty minutes then hop back in. If repeating this cycle doesn’t work, check your stress levels. Your memory may depend on it.
Relaxation and Stress Management

According to USC’s Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, lifelong stress can double or quadruple your chances of Alzheimer’s disease, yet simple daily tools can minimize its effects. The harmful stress hormone cortisol hampers nerve cell growth and connection and accelerates cognitive decline, premature aging, depression, diabetes, and other assaults on your brain.


Conquer cortisol with these proven techniques:
  • Breathe! Stress alters breathing rates and impacts brain oxygen levels. Turn off your stress response with quiet, deep, abdominal breathing. From momentary inhale, hold, and exhale sequences to guided group exercises, restorative breathing is powerful, simple, and free!
  • Schedule daily relaxation activities - From a walk in the park or petting your cat to Tai-chi, guided imagery, or yoga, make relaxation a priority. Keeping cortisol under control requires regular effort.
  • Stay connected - We are social creatures, and the most connected fare better on tests of memory and cognition. Developing a strong support system through family, friends, exercise groups, clubs, and volunteer activities improves mood and slows cognitive decline.
  • Nourish inner peace - Most scientists acknowledge a strong mind-body connection, and various studies associate personal spiritual activities with better cognitive aging. Regular meditation, prayer, reflection, and religious practice may immunize you against the damaging effects of stress.
Brain Protection

By the time Alzheimer’s disease appears, irreversible damage has already occurred. Preventing and delaying Alzheimer’s includes three protective tips:
  • Avoid toxins - Among the most preventable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are smoking and heavy drinking. Not only does smoking increase the odds for those over 65 by nearly 79%, researchers at Miami’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center warn that a combination of these two behaviors reduces the age of Alzheimer’s onset by six to seven years. If you stop smoking at age, the brain benefits from improved circulation almost immediately. Brain changes from alcohol abuse can only be reversed early.
  • Wear a helmet - and limit distractions. A National Institute of Health study suggests head trauma at any point in life significantly increases your risk of Alzheimer’s. Dr. Andrew Weil cautions that repeated hits in sports activities including football, soccer, and boxing, or single traumatic injuries from bicycle, skating, or motorcycle accidents make Alzheimer’s disease more likely in later life. Preserve your brain by wearing properly fitting sports helmets, buckling your seatbelt, and trip-proofing your environment. Avoid activities that compete for your attention—like driving with cell phones and running with your MP3 player. A moment’s distraction can lead to a brain-injuring thud!
  • Create a brain-safe environment - The evidence on modern technology is mixed. Scientists continue to examine links between neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and exposure to environmental contaminants. UCLA’s Memory Center Director Gary Small warns that lead, pesticides, mold, and other substances in your environment may damage your brain. Studies on the impact of electromagnetic energy from cell phones are still debated. Although definitive links to Alzheimer’s can be elusive, making choices that limit chronic exposure to environmental harm makes good sense.

Sources and Additional Information:

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