Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a devastating syndrome most often associated with ageing. Environmental factors, lifestyle and genetics are believed to contribute to the onset of AD. The hallmarks or “disease footprints” are plaques of beta-amyloid protein and tangles of a protein called “tau” in the brain; both of which interfere with cognitive functioning. Below are a few tips from the experts on how to halt or potentially reverse cognitive decline and AD.
Stay Mentally Active to Prevent Alzheimer’s
Exercising the brain is one of the best ways to stave off AD. As people age, they often become more entrenched in routine and less likely to try new things. But new activities and brain teasers may be just what the doctor prescribed. Exercising the brain does not decrease Alzheimer’s “disease footprint,” but it does appear to help your brain cope with the consequences of the disease.
It is a wise idea to work your brain in many different ways, as an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015 by Ball found that brain exercises don’t appear to generalize to different areas, though they do significantly improve the area worked on for up to two years, and may even reverse age related decline.
For example, if you work on improving your memory, the benefits do not cross over and increase your mental processing speed. So work out your brain by trying lots of new things, reading, puzzles, learning to dance or taking on a new language.
Maintain Healthy Weight
Keep your weight healthy, ideally by increased activity and a balanced diet. Maintaining a healthful diet helps your body and brain to stay robust. Diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and obesity have all been linked to higher prevalence of AD. In a review article published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews by Angevaren, it was found that participants who exercised for just four months showed an increase in cognitive function.
One way that exercise may exert beneficial effects is by increasing chemicals in the brain that work to repair damaged neurons. Interestingly, an article by Adlard in the Journal of Neuroscience published in 2014 showed that a mouse model of AD kept busy and occupied by high levels of physical activity saw a decrease in beta amyloid plaque formation, a footprint of AD.
Eat Healthy to Prevent Alzheimer’s
Though the evidence is inconclusive as to whether antioxidant supplements alone, say, vitamin C or E, can decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s, it appears that a healthy balanced diet, high in fresh fruits and vegetables, and low in “bad fats” can. In a review published in the Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging by Guyonnet, saturated and hydrogenated fats were found to be associated with an increased risk of AD and polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish, walnuts) and monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil) and fish consumption were found to be protective. Interestingly, vitamins B9 and B12 also appeared to be protective against cognitive decline and dementia.
In 1999, Dr. Joseph reported in the Journal of Neuroscience that rats supplemented with blueberry or strawberry extracts show a reversal of age-related declines in motor function, and learning tasks that are not attributable solely to their antioxidant characteristics. This effect is believed to be due, at least in part, to the high content of polyphenols in certain foods, such as blueberries, beans, spices, tea and coffee; these foods are all rich in polyphenols.
Polyphenols do not work simply by acting as antioxidants, though that is certainly one of their stellar benefits, they appear to have a wide range of beneficial activities from binding and sequestering metals to directly modulating neuronal activity.
Indeed, in order to best protect yourself from the risk of AD, eat a diet heavy in a variety of fruits and vegetables; ensure that your diet contains plenty of berries, nuts, and fish, as well as healthy oils such as olive oil, and eliminate hydrogenated oils.
Happiness and a Sense of Purpose May Prevent Alzheimer’s
In a meta-analysis published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, Ownby found that a history of depression almost doubles the risk of developing AD. But depression is not a sure ticket to AD, as Doraiswamy reports in an article published in the Journal of Gerontology in 2015; this study found that the treatment of depression consequently improved cognition. So, if you are depressed, do your brain a favor, don’t ignore it – treat it.
A person’s sense of purpose has recently been shown to ward off AD. An article published in the General Archives of Psychiatry by Boyle states that a person with a strong sense of purpose is 2.4 times less likely to develop AD than a person with a meager sense of purpose.
And last, but definitely not least, stay social. Participation in social events has been shown to be linked to decreased incidence of AD. Socialization takes place in the form of attending church, volunteering, or simply lunching with friends. Whatever activity you choose, having a hale and hearty social life is beneficial for your brain.