Protect Your Brain
What You Can Do To Lower Your Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease
“Most illnesses attack the body; Alzheimer’s destroys the mind – and in the process, annihilates the very self”, so wrote TIME senior editor Jeffrey Kluger. Anyone who has ever dealt with Alzheimer’s disease knows the devastation it causes in the lives of patients and their loved ones. In the light of Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month we give you a few research insights that just may help protect your brain and lessen your risk of developing this mind-robbing disease.
Alzheimer’s disease attacks nerves, brain cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages to and from the brain), affecting the way your brain functions, your memory and the way you behave. It is also the most common form of dementia, affecting up to 70% of all people with dementia.
What You Can Do
Many people believe that dementia is an inevitable part of aging and there’s not much we can do to reduce your risk. Luckily, there are things you can do now to protect your brain in later life. There is no cure for the disease, but recent research shows that what you eat and how active you are on a daily basis can help reduce your risk. The same healthy lifestyle habits not only protect our brains but also lessen the risk of diabetes, heart disease and many other diseases as we age.
Just a few changes in your daily routine may help protect your gray matter!
- Instead of that foamy latte, sip a green tea1. It contains flavonol antioxidants that help your body defend itself against disease. This specific type of antioxidants is also found in fruits and veggies such as onions, leeks, broccoli, blueberries and tomatoes.
How it works: Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that your cells produce as they metabolize. Left unchecked, free radicals can initiate the inflammation and resultant damage to body cells that is associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Cook up a curry! What makes this Indian staple food a brain-protecting superfood? Curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric that gives curry its distinctive yellow color.
How it works: Curcumin appears to prevent2 the spread of amyloid protein plaques – thought to cause dementia – in the brain.
- Feast on fish. Eat fish such as salmon, herring, tuna or anchovies once or twice a week. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease3. Other good sources are flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, canola and soybean oils and eggs.
- Eat leafy greens. When your mother told you to ‘eat your greens’ she had good cause! The latest research4 shows it might help prevent dementia. The key ingredient is folate. Research from the Korean National Institute of Health found that people with low serum folate were nearly 4 times as likely as those who had high serum folate concentrations to suffer dementia.
- Eat on the lean side. Mayo Clinic studies5 suggest that consuming over 2100 calories per day can increase the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in adults aged 70 years and older. The higher the calories, the higher the risk.
- Catch some Z’s. A new study6 from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that older adults who don’t sleep well have more of the brain plaques that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Exercise. There’s no end to the list of benefits of physical activity. Several studies7 have shown a link between fitness levels in middle age and the development of dementia. One of the findings: the most physically fit midlifers were nearly 40 percent less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease by the time they were 65 compared with their counterparts who were not as in shape.
- Chill out. Taking a load off is good for your health at any age, but especially so during middle age. The Prospective Population Study of Women8 in Gothenburg, Sweden showed that women experiencing severe stress during middle age had a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. So make time every day for meditation, socializing, going for a walk, listening to relaxing music, yoga or T’ai chi.
Allan Borushek, dietitian and health educator, comments: ‘As we age, we run the risk of nutritional deficiencies, particularly if ill. Nutritional supplements may help to bridge the gap. Seek referral to a dietitian who can assess your nutritional status and provide dietary advice.’
Note: Various nutrition supplements are the subject of ongoing research for the prevention or amelioration of age-related cognitive decline including Alzheimer’s. They include curcumin, EGCG from green tea, omega-3 fatty acids, lipoic acid, pycnogenol and Bacopa.
Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month. Do you know someone special who cares for a loved one with Alzheimer’s? You can honor them with a personal tribute on the website of the Alzheimer’s Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
1: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/f-w00/flavonoid.html 2: http://cen.acs.org/articles/90/i31/Tumeric-Derived-Compound-Curcumin-Treat.html
3: http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=784412 4: http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/2/other_diseases/alzheimer_s_disease_prevention_1026130329.html
7: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1567851 and http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112972658/brain-health-irisin-molecule-101113/ 8: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/02/us-mid-life-stress-alzheimer-idUSBRE9910RO20131002