Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Overview
There is no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s
disease (AD). Researchers, pharmaceutical companies, foundations, and nonprofit
organizations are all involved with research aimed to slow, delay, and prevent
AD. These include:
- cognitive training
- antioxidants (e.g., vitamin C,
vitamin E, beta-carotene)
- omega-3 fatty acids
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- hormones, type-2 diabetes
treatments (insulin seems to play a role in AD)
- cardiovascular treatments
There are certain steps you can take now to
lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Consult your doctor before making any
major lifestyle changes.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Some evidence suggests a Mediterranean
diet may decrease your risk of developing AD. This diet includes little
red meat and emphasizes:
- whole grains
- fruits and vegetables
- fish and shellfish
- olive oil
- other healthy fats
Other studies suggest that antioxidants may
affect age-related changes in the brain. Blueberries, strawberries, and
cranberries have shown to improve cognitive function in rats and mice. This
includes both during normal aging and in animals that develop AD.
Another study examined curcumin, the main
ingredient of the yellowish spice used in curry, turmeric. It’s a powerful
antioxidant. Curcumin can suppress the build-up of harmful amyloid plaques in
the brains of rodents.
Keep Up Your Mental Exercise
An active brain may reduce your AD risk.
Activities like listening to the radio, reading newspapers, playing puzzle
games, and visiting museums help to keep the brain active.
Engaging in mental exercises seems to create or
contribute to your “cognitive reserve.” In other words, you develop additional
neurons and pathways in your brain. Why is this important?
Normally, your brain has one road to transport
information from point A to point B. If there is a roadblock or dead end, the
information won’t make it. People who develop new ways of thinking through
mental exercises create multiple and alternative routes in their brains. This
makes it easier and faster for vital information to travel.
So exercise your brain. Do crossword puzzles,
take up bridge, or learn a new language.
Increase Your Social Engagement
Compelling research suggests seniors who spend
most of their time in their immediate home environment are almost twice as
likely to develop AD compared to those who travel more. These findings,
however, may also reflect the general health of individuals.
Still it’s well documented that being engaged
with your surroundings is good for your mental, physical, and emotional health.
Aerobic Exercise Daily
When older adults with AD engage in aerobic
exercise, it improves their psychological and behavioral symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is much evidence
suggesting that 30 minutes of exercise per day is crucial to preventing
Alzheimer’s disease. One 8-year study examined the connection between mental
function and physical activity in 6000 women age 65 and older. It discovered
that more active women were less likely to have a decline in mental functions
than less active women.
Smoking may increase your risk for AD and
dementia. However, former smokers or those who smoked less than half a pack per
day do not appear to have an increased risk. So if you still
smoke, now is the time to quit. Talk with your doctor about methods
that could work for you.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that’s a building
block of protein. It naturally circulates in the blood. Recent studies indicate
that higher than average blood levels of homocysteine is a risk factor for AD,
vascular dementia, and cognitive impairment.
Foods high in folate (folic acid) and other B
vitamins (such as B6 and B12) have been shown to lower homocysteine
levels. Whether or not increasing these B vitamins in one’s diet might offer a
protective effect for AD is yet unknown.
Some good sources of folate include:
- romaine lettuce
- collard greens
Sources of B6 and B12 include:
- red meat
- non-citrus fruit
- fortified cereal