Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Is Alzheimer's Disease Avoidable?

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzhei...Image via Wikipedia
Many individuals have wretched images indelibly etched in their minds of getting older and becoming "senile" as was so often discussed a generation or so ago.  But, is Alzheimer's Disease or cognitive impairment an inevitable part of growing older/disabled mentally and physically?

This post will discuss some things that can be done to stave off this disease.

 Alzheimer's and reducing the risk

There are definite risk factors for Alzheimer's that many people don't know about.  According to "Age Proof your Brain" by Beth Howard statistics from University of California show that a change of only 25% in risk factors can stave off the disease  so that some could live without ever having to experience the symptoms.

What are those risk factors? Obesity, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle.

Researchers are also demonstrating that there are definite benefits to be gained by engaging in brain-power boosting activities.  Here are a few of the suggestions:

1. Exercise.  According to Art Kramer, in "Age Proof Your Brain", Higher exercise levels can reduce dementia risk by 30 to 40 percent.  Physically active people maintain better cognition and memory than inactive ones.
2. Weight-training. In the same article, Ms. Howard points out that  in a University of British Columbia study, resistance training helped increase the levels of growth factors in the brain.
3. Learning new things that challenge the brain increases the number of brain cells and the number of connection between those cells.  Make sure that you are challenging the brain by learning new things and not simply engaging in routine activities like crossword puzzles.
4. Remember that chronic stress flood the brain with cortisol, a stress hormone.  So, keep stress down in your life.  Practice relaxation and visualization techniques.
5. Expand your life socially.  Studies show that having multiple social contacts helps lower the incidence of dementia.
6. The Mediterranean diet: fish, beans, fruits and nuts all contributed to a one-third less risk of Alzheimer's.
7. Healthy spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, basil, parsley, ginger and vanilla are all high in antioxidants which may help to build brain power. Turmeric is an Indian spice that researchers are investigating since it appears to reduce the anyloid plaques in the brains of people with the disease.
8. Vitamin deficiencies. Older adults run the risk of vitamin deficiency since age related changes in digestion affect absorption of vitamins. 


Howard, Beth "Age Proof Your Brain" AARP Magazine
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