The notion that Alzheimer’s Disease is the result of a genetic precondition or that the disease itself is not preventable is a myth, according to Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Center on Aging. There is growing research conducted over the past several decades that shows your lifestyle choices do have an impact on your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other memory related conditions.
Health and nutrition author Jean Carper compiled results from thousands of studies and interviewed dozens of researchers which led to her book 100 Simple Things You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age Related Memory Loss. Her research revealed ten strategies that she found most surprising.
1. Drink coffee. A large European study showed that drinking three to five cups of coffee a day in midlife cut Alzheimer’s risk 65% in late life. Researchers say caffeine reduces dementia-causing amyloid in animal brains. Others credit the antioxidants found in coffee and tea. One cup of black or green tea a week cut rates of cognitive decline in older people by 37%, but only brewed tea works. Bottled tea doesn’t have any antioxidants.
2. Floss. The health of your teeth and gums can help predict dementia. Research from the University of Southern California found that having periodontal disease before age 35 quadrupled the odds of dementia in later years. Other studies show that older people with tooth and gum disease score lower on memory and cognition tests.
3. Search the Web. Doing an online search can stimulate your brain even more
than reading a book according to research conducted at UCLA. Researchers used brain MRIs and found that novice web surfers between the age 55 to 78, activated key
memory and learning centers after one week by web surfing for an hour a day.
4. Grow new brain cells. Once thought impossible, scientists now believe that thousands of brain cells are born daily. The trick is to keep the new brain cells alive. What works: daily aerobic exercise of at least 30 minutes a day, strenuous mental activity, eating salmon and other fatty fish. Avoid obesity, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, heavy drinking and vitamin B deficiency.
5. Drink apple juice. Apple juice can boost the body’s production of acetylcholine, a chemical linked to reducing Alzheimer’s symptoms. In the laboratory, old mice given apple juice did better on learning and memory tests than mice that received water. A comparable dose for humans: 16 ounces of juice, or two to three apples a day.
6. Protect your head. Blows to the head, even mild ones early in life, increase odds of dementia years later. Professional football players have 19 times the typical rate of memory-related diseases. Research from Columbia University found that Alzheimer’s is four times more common in elderly people who suffer a head injury. Another study found that accidental falls doubled an older person’s odds of dementia five years later.
7. Meditate. Brain scans show that people who meditate regularly have less cognitive decline and brain shrinkage – a classic sign of Alzheimer’s – as they age. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that yoga meditation of 12 minutes a day for two months improved blood flow and cognitive functioning in seniors with memory problems.
8. Vitamin D. A study at the University of Exeter in England found that severe deficiency of vitamin D boosts older people’s risk of cognitive impairment by 394%. Most Americans lack vitamin D. Experts recommend a daily dose of 800 IU to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3. Vitamin D is manufactured by the body with exposure to sunlight. Just 20 minutes of sun exposure each day is sufficient to provide enough Vitamin D for good health.
9. Build your cognitive reserve. Fill your brain with a rich accumulation of life experiences through education, marriage, socializing, a stimulating job, language skills, having a purpose in life, physical activity and mentally demanding leisure activities. This makes your brain better able to tolerate plaques and tangles that are associated with the pathology of Alzheimer’s. Researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center report that you can even have significant Alzheimer’s pathology yet have no symptoms of dementia if you have high cognitive reserve.
10. Avoid infection. New evidence is linking the development of Alzheimer’s to the frequency of common infections like cold sores, gastric ulcers, Lyme disease, pneumonia and the flu. Researchers at the University of Manchester in England estimate that the herpes simplex virus that produces cold sores is related to about 60% of Alzheimer’s cases. The theory is that these infections trigger production of beta amyloid plaque that kills brain cells.
Some simple things you can do that can have a big impact, not only on the health of your brain as you age, but on your entire body. Let’s get started today!