||Can Alzheimer's Be Prevented?
No, not currently. There will be no proven way to prevent Alzheimer's until the cause of the disease is better understood. In the meantime, new programs are being developed which encourage those at risk to adopt a healthier lifestyle to maintain their brain health. Essentially all we have to do is delay the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer's - which in itself is a cure. If symptoms can be delayed by just 10 years, scientists say the disease would in practice be eradicated (because at that stage most people will have reached the end of their natural life span anyway).
One recent study (2013) by the York University's School of Kinesiology and Health Science in Toronto found that people over 65 who were physically active were 38 percent less likely to develop degenerative brain disease. The researchers suggest 150 minutes of moderate to physical activity a week. That is, 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. Moderate or vigorous activity is defined as exercise that makes breathing harder but still allows you to sing. How does exercise help the brain? It appears that physical activity increases the number of small blood vessels which feed our brain cells. In another trial of older people, those who walked 40 minutes a day showed improved connectivity in the part of the brain responsible for recalling the past, envisioning the future and daydreaming, compared to those who did not exercise. They also showed improved ability in planning and organization.
In 2010, a study conducted by the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation (ARPF) and published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, reported on the effects of meditation on people with memory loss. Researchers found that performing 12 minutes of Kirtan Kriya meditation every day for 8 weeks increased brain activity and well being in people with memory loss. It may also go some way to preventing memory loss in the first place. Kirtan Kriya is a type of meditation that involves singing the sounds, Saa Taa Naa Maa along with repetitive finger movements.
Having fewer years of education is associated with a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease (see causes of Alzheimer's). A recent study showed that those with less education can lower their risk by performing daily activities that engage their brain such as crossword puzzles, reading books and newspapers and letter or email writing.
Age related conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer's. Controlling or preventing these diseases and conditions through diet, exercise, weight management and/or medications is a desirable goal. Currently researchers are looking at how lowering blood pressure levels to below current recommended levels impacts the advancement of Alzheimer’s. Diabetes is another condition associated with Alzheimer's. Abnormal insulin production contributes to brain changes associated with Alzheimer's. Researchers are investigating if restoring normal insulin levels can improve brain functions. Results so far are mixed, but preliminary testing of an insulin nasal spray has showed promising results.
Yes, some studies show that certain foods are good for brain health, and others are detrimental. We know that a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, low grains, and low in fat and sugar helps to prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many other chronic illnesses. It may also help prevent Alzheimer's. One study showed that adults who ate a Mediterranean diet had a 48 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. A Mediterranean type diet involves eating vegetables, fruit, fish, olive oil, cereals, moderate alcohol and low amounts of dairy, meat, poultry and saturated fats. While these foods stave off mental decline, and should be included in your diet, others do the opposite and can promote mental decline - namely foods high in saturated fat and sugar. For more, see alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s.
1. Avoid stress, it stimulates the adrenal glands to produce excess levels of the hormone cortisol which can be bad for the brain. Read more about the dangers of stress.
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