There is plenty you can do to stave off Alzheimer’s Disease, which conveniently includes the same things you do to prevent heart disease and stroke.
By: Bindu Grandhi and Brigid Beitel
Have you ever had a ‘senior moment’? Like when you walk into a room, and then forget why you went in there or lost your train of thought during a conversation?
These so called ‘senior moments’ are relatively harmless and alas are simply part of aging. But those who lose the ability to think, reason, remember people, places or events suffer from something more serious, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common form of dementia.
An estimated 4.5 million Americans live with AD and the number is expected to quadruple by 2050 as baby boomers age. It is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. Age remains the strongest risk factor for AD and the risk doubles every five years after age 65 and approaches 50% after 85. While family history and genetics do play a role, both account for a low percentage of Alzheimer’s cases.
The cure for AD still eludes researchers and scientists and present medications merely treat the symptoms. However, there is plenty you can do to stave off AD, which conveniently includes the same things you do to prevent heart disease and stroke.
Eat this not that:
* Eat a diet rich in fruits such as apple, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries.
* Eat vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, lentils and leafy green vegetables such as spinach and turnip greens because of their natural anti-inflammatory benefits.
* Get enough B vitamins through fortified cereals, legumes, seafood and eggs. One fish meal a week was enough to reduce the risk of AD according to the Chicago Health and Aging project. So eat fish (which contains omega-3s) instead of meat and poultry at least twice weekly.
* Include regular servings of plant foods rich in Omega-3s such as walnuts, pecans, flaxseed, soy, canola oil, and olive oil.
* Use herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger and chili peppers (all boast anti-inflammatory properties) instead of salt to season food.
* Drink 2-4 cups of green, white or oolong tea. And if you can’t give up your cup of java, moderate your intake and opt for a serving of 8oz.
* Treat yourself to an occasional glass of red wine or dark chocolate square.
* Don’t eat trans fats, full-fat dairy products, red meat and avoid packaged, refined and processed foods, especially those high in refined sugar and white flour.
Do this not that:
* Do get enough z’s- the brain needs regular and restful sleep to process, store and recall information. While sleep deprivation can leave you cranky and tired, poor sleep can significantly damage your brain and central nervous system according to Dr. Andrew Weill and Dr. Gary Small. Watch for snoring, which can signal sleep apnea, a respiratory condition that affect your heart and mind.
* Do maintain a healthy weight and exercise plenty – Exercise at a moderate pace for at least 30 minutes five times per week. By doing this you can reduce your risk by 35%. Combining aerobics and resistance training not only improve muscle mass but also cognitive health. So try to do 2 or 3 sessions in your weekly routine and risk of AD is cut in half if you are over 65. If you use weights, make sure to sit on a bench or chair to perform those exercises thereby reducing any strain to the back.
* Always look for opportunities to keep busy- whether it’s gardening, cleaning up the house or taking the stairs.
* Do protect your brain – a National Institute of Health study suggests head trauma at any point in life significantly increases your risk for AD. Preserve your brain by wearing helmets when participating in sports, buckling your seatbelt (not just in the driver’s seat) and fall-proofing your home.
* Do lower hypertension, cholesterol levels and control type 2 diabetes, as these conditions significantly increase risk of AD.
* Don’t smoke or drink alcohol excessivelyÂ – smoking after age 65 increases your chances of developing Alzheimer’s by 79%. Combining these two activities reduces the age of Alzheimer’s onset by six to seven years according to researchers at Miami’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center.
* Don’t overeat – obesity in midlife makes you 3Â½ times more likely to experience AD. Try to eat smaller meals during the day.
* Don’t stress – chronic stress quadruples your risk. Stress is merely the perception or feeling of helplessness in a hopeless situation.
* Check out “The Blueprint for Success,” a practical guide designed to help navigate life’s challenges by Dr. Balasa Prasad.
* Retire from a job not from life.
* Do engage in social and intellectually stimulating activities – learn a foreign language, play a musical instrument, take a class at your local university, join a book discussion group, debate or discuss topics.
* Do Sudoku, jigsaw or crossword puzzles – any brain teaser and strategy game improves mental exercise and cognitive associations, especially those activities that engage both sides of the brain.
* Do practice memorization like reciting the 50 states and capitals or play memory games.
* Vary your habits, like taking a new route to work, to create new brain pathways.
Here’s the bottom line: You can’t change your genetics, family history, ethnicity or gender but you can change and control your personal risk factors. By adopting healthful habits such as eating less fat and more fish, fruits and vegetables, avoiding tobacco smoking and heavy drinking, exercising and participating in social and intellectually stimulating activities will help you improve your brain health, preserve your mind and dodge AD.
About the Author:
Author of Spice Up Your Life, Bindu Grandhi is passionate about healthy and flavorful flexitarian cooking. She shares her health knowledge with the world by providing practical, healthy and tasty recipes as The Flex Cook (www.theflexcook.com).
About the Research Contributor:
Brigid Beitel is a student at the University of Richmond, majoring in business administration with a concentration in marketing and minoring in Latin American and Iberian studies. She also has an avid interest in the culinary industry. Among her many talents, she is a reporter for The Collegian, University of Richmond’s Independent Student newspaper, where she writes “telling” restaurant reviews. She is smart, motivated and volunteered to do research for this article. I am most grateful for her contributions and I wish her much success in her collegiate and career endeavors.
More reading from WebMd (July 22, 2011):
Clues to Early Detection, Treatment of Alzheimer’s