Can I Prevent Alzheimer's?
Summary: Let me start by saying that this is not legal advice. Nor is it medical advice. I’ve been a follower of alternative medicine since long before it became popular. In fact, back in the day, it was palpably unpopular. You did not hear of doctors practicing "Anti-Aging" medicine.
Let me start by saying that this is not legal advice. Nor is it medical advice. I’ve been a follower of alternative medicine since long before it became popular. In fact, back in the day, it was palpably unpopular. You did not hear of doctors practicing "Anti-Aging" medicine. We had to go to the health food store (two towns over) to get organic produce, and I remember petitioning my local grocery store to carry soy milk - to no avail. This stuff was all part of the fringe. If you wanted to meet like-minded people, you had to go to an ashram or hang out in the health food store.
Today, a few short decades later, alternative medicine and anti-aging therapies are practically the new orthodox. If anyone had told me that my passion for health and nutrition and my passion for helping seniors and families would converge into an interwoven path, I would have been shocked. Nevertheless, here we are at this junction where aging meets nutrition and the "Anti-Aging" discipline, and we can contemplate some possibilities for delaying the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia associated with the aging brain.
As for the first category, there seems to be a consensus that a brain-healthy lifestyle includes the following basic pillars:
1. A Healthy Diet. An abundance of research suggests that the same diet that protects the heart also protects the brain. This is a diet low in saturated fat, (preferably no trans fats), lean protein and healthy carbohydrates. Those healthy carbs would be those on the lower end of the glycemic index (think vegetables and whole grains). Not surprisingly, the brain likes the same type of diet that keeps diabetes in check and cholesterol low. It also likes Omega 3 fatty acids, such as fish oils and flax seed oil. The Mediterranean Diet is thought to be a brain- and heart-healthy diet.
2. Exercise. The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation quotes a study showing that physical exercise reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s by 50%. That statistic speaks for itself - we need to get moving. According to Helpguide.org, we should combine aerobic exercise with strength training, and for those over 65, this may cut Alzheimer’s risk in half. Need I say more?
3. Stress Management. Chronic stress leads to shrinkage in the hippocampus (a key memory area of the brain) and hampers nerve cell growth, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Studies show regular meditation, prayer or other spiritual or relaxation practices are associated with better brain health.
4. Mental Stimulation. Research shows that learning new things, challenging the brain observing details, capturing visual details and varying your habits all create new brain pathways. (In my business, keeping up with the changing Medicaid rules probably has me covered in this category.)
5. Quality Sleep. An adequate amount of nightly deep REM sleep is necessary for optimal brain health. Sleep deprivation impairs thinking, problem-solving and memory. Average adults tend to require approximately eight hours of sleep a night.
6. Active Social Life. Studies have consistently shown that the more socially connected we are with other people, the better we perform on memory and cognition tests. Thus, it is very important to avoid isolating ourselves or letting our aging parents or loved ones become isolated. This can be kind of tricky, because people often do tend to withdraw when they feel their functioning declining. It is crucial to encourage your loved one to participate in social activities if you see this starting to happen.
Now, for the newer, more cutting-edge science....Shortening Telomeres. Harvard researchers found that women with shorter telomeres were 12 times more likely to have a condition call Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which is a prelude to Alzheimer’s. Telomeres are regions of repetitive DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes that protect the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusing with neighboring chromosomes. The shortening of telomeres is said to cause brain shrinkage. The researchers say inflammation and free radicals are the major causes of shortened telomeres - which are caused by things such as bad diet, pollution, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and stress. According to this study, taking vitamins containing Vitamins A, the Bs, C, E, D and Folic acid counteract telomere shortening. Of course, adhering to a brain-healthy lifestyle in general is important in reducing both inflammation and free radicals.
Natural Estrogen. A University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) study is another of many studies showing that the use of Estradiol (a natural Estrogen) may be beneficial for post-menopausal women with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. I discussed the Estrogen-brain connection in my ebook Empower Yourself and Beat Back the Symptoms of Menopause a couple years ago. This is not new information, but neither is it commonly known, even at the present time. However, it merits consideration.
Dr. Oz’s picks. Here are a few supplements and foods recommended by Drs. Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil on the Dr. Oz show recently:
- - Vitamin E
- - Gingko Biloba
- -egg yolk
I didn’t hear green tea on the list, but that is also a good antioxidant with proven health benefits. And let’s not forget dark chocolate (my personal favorite).
The good news is that there is a lot we can do to be proactive with our health. The longer we delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, or any disease process, the better.
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