An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, a form of brain cell degeneration that ultimately results in severe dementia. The most recent data suggests that well over half a million Americans die from Alzheimer’s disease each year, making it the third leading cause of death in the US after heart disease and cancer.
While early diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease are in short supply and successful treatments are nonexistent, the disease is currently not curable, evidence shows that there are things you can do that may help to reduce your risk of developing the disease. According to the Alzheimer's Association, the vast majority of cases, like many other common chronic conditions, probably develop as a result of complex interactions among multiple factors, including age, genetics, environment, lifestyle, and coexisting medical conditions. While some risk factors — such as age or genes — cannot be changed, other risk factors — such as high blood pressure and lack of exercise — can be changed to help reduce risk.
Here are four simple tips that you can easily adopt in your lifestyle to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
While the direct connection between diet and Alzheimer's has not been proven, there are benefits to eating a heart healthy diet for proper brain function and to avoid developing other conditions that do increase the risk for developing the disease. Here are our tips for eating well for optimal brain function and health:
Say No to gluten, sugar, and fructose. Research shows that your blood-brain barrier is negatively affected by gluten. It makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into the bloodstream. This sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in developing Alzheimer’s.
Research does suggest that diabetics have a doubled risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In 2005, researchers discovered that your brain produces insulin that is necessary for the survival of your brain cells. It was found that a toxic protein called ADDL removes insulin receptors from nerve cells, thereby making those neurons insulin resistant. As ADDLs accumulate, your memory starts deteriorating. Therefore, it is recommended to keep your sugar levels to a minimum and your total fructose below 25g per day and 15g per day for diabetic patients.
Say Yes to a diet rich in folate and all healthful fats, including animal-based omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetables are rich in folate that boosts brain health. Health-promoting fats that your brain needs include krill oil and fish, which help by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s and lower risk of developing the disease. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.
Try our recipe for Super Salmon Salad Wraps
Exercise affects the way the amyloid precursor protein (APP) gets metabolized, thus slowing down the progression or onset of Alzheimer’s by preventing accumulation of β-amyloid peptide in the brain. Research has shown that people with Alzheimer’s have less of the PCG-1 alpha protein. With exercise, however, PCG-1 alpha levels can be increased which may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease as cells which have high levels of PCG-1 alpha protein have less of the toxic amyloid protein forming in the brain.
Researchers found that the brain removes toxic waste during sleep which has been termed the glymphatic system. By pumping cerebral spinal fluid through your brain’s tissues, the glymphatic system flushes the waste from your brain into the circulatory system which eventually reaches the liver, where it is eliminated. With decreased sleep leading to decreased glymphatic activity, toxic wastes, and β-amyloid peptides could get built up, leading to Alzheimer’s. The latest sleep guidelines confirm that most adults need around eight hours of sleep for optimal health. So, make sure you are getting enough sleep, people!
4) Mental Challenges
Mental stimulation, especially learning a new language or a new instrument, has been found to reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s. Researchers speculate that such activities build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Note: These tips are not to be viewed as medical advice but rather as lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk of developing certain conditions and maintain good health. Please seek and follow the advice of your medical doctor and stick to the medications and recommendations prescribed by him/her.