While it is not yet clear if Alzheimers can be prevented, there is increasing evidence that you can take specific steps to help reduce your risk of getting Alzheimers disease.
Good health starts with your brain. Its one of the bodys most vital organs and it needs care and maintenance.
Ongoing mental and physical exercise
Exercise keeps the brain healthy. Either use it or lose it. Regular physical activity increases the blood flow to the brain and provides the nutrients necessary to render its tissues resistant to Alzheimers. Exercise also increases the number of connections among the millions of brain cells needed for normal mental function. Get into the habit of walking for thirty or sixty minutes a day as briskly as possible. Stair climbing is particularly effective, so take the steps when going up or down one or two flights and leave the elevators and escalators to the kids.
Several population studies have shown that the more schooling you have, the greater are your chances against Alzheimers. That may be because the educated are more likely to eat more nutritiously and receive better medical care throughout their lives. However, like physical exercise, ongoing intellectual challenges stimulate the formation of nerve connections. Even if you are destined to develop Alzheimers, the more neutrons you develop when you are young, the more you can afford to lose before symptoms set in.
Many retired seniors sign up for classes in accounting, law, art, music, economics, or whatever else interests them to stay mentally active, and not necessarily to start a second career. The longer you continue your education at any age, or keep your mind busy in some other way, the more likely your neurons are to connect with each other later on.
Chronic stress (as well as anxiety and depression) raises your bodys production of the adrenal hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol have been shown to lead to memory impairment and atrophy of memory centers in the brain. Stress reduction techniques such as exercise, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and biofeedback may help to combat chronic stress, anxiety and depression.
Eat as little animal fat as possible to reduce your vulnerability to Alzheimers. The incidence of Alzheimers in different countries correlates with the consumption of total fat. Fro example, in the United States, 5 percent of all persons over the age of sixty-five have the disease, while in China and Nigeria, where the fat intake is much lower, the incidence is only 1 percent. Japanese who move to America and double the amount of fat in their diet have twice the incidence of Alzheimers than do those who do not emigrate and presumably maintain their old eating habits.
Nicotine is a prime example of how new research data can supersede and negate previously acquired information. We used to believe that smokers were less likely than non-smokers to develop Alzheimers. But the anti-tobacco community is now breathing easier because more recent studies indicate that smoking doubles the risk of getting Alzheimers.
Hardly a day does by without some favorable report about vitamin E. I cant think of any downside of this vitamin, with the possible exception of its raising blood pressure and causing some extra beats in some people. Vitamin E increases fertility in rats; its good for the heart; and many doctors prescribe it for the treatment of vascular disease, particularly for narrowing the arteries in the legs. Now comes word that vitamin E may also delay the onset of Alzheimers, presumably by virtue of its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants, of which there are many, are said to neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals, the byproducts of bodily process that involve oxygen. These radicals carry an extra electron that can damage the protein in the brain and other organs and accelerate the aging process. The bodys own antioxidant normally neutralizes these free radicals, but this defense can be enhanced by supplemental vitamin E.
Hold off on heavy metals
Heavy metals such as mercury and lead are known to cause brain injury that may not be reversible. Sources of heavy metals include large fish (such as swordfish, tuna steaks, tilefish, king mackerel, shark, halibut and mahi-mahi), which are high in mercury and silver dental fillings. Lead exposure may occur from old paint and some calcium supplements, which have recently found to be contaminated with lead.
Along the way, neurologists have discovered that the brain is much more adaptable as it ages than they realized. They have determined that the so-called plasticity of the brain, which allows the formation of new neurons as well as new connections between those neurons, can last a lifetime. “As far as our brains are concerned, learning something new or even retrieving something from memory is a plasticity response,” says Molly Wagster of the National Institute on Aging