Alzheimers 3Did you know that Alzheimer’s disease cannot be cured once diagnosed, but the risk of developing this mind-robbing disease  in the future may depend on what you decide to do today?

Alzheimer’s disease, the most frequent form of dementia, is a devastating neurological disorder that slowly destroys the ability to think and eventually robs a person of their memory and ability to function independently.  Current research suggests that it starts as an inflammatory process in which the brain’s cells deteriorate over time and no longer regenerate, causing it to shrink.

Worldwide, 44 million people have been diagnosed with Alz­heimer’s disease or dementia, but only one in four people with Alzheimer’s have been diagnosed according to Alzheimer’s Dis­ease International.  About one in nine Americans are afflicted with this disease in their 60s, and some as early as their 50s.  From a recent poll taken from people ages 40-60, almost half said they would rather have cancer than Alzheimer’s.

Scientists now believe this mind-robbing disease is in part due to “lifestyle diseases” which are conditions that are primarily brought on by unhealthy daily choices/habits people make.

Lifestyle diseases include poor eating habits, diabetes, obesi­ty; hypertension , elevated cholesterol, lack of exercise and mo­bility, stress, and smoking.  All of these can increase the risk of developing dementia by causing the brain to age and degener­ate more rapidly than normal.

The good news:  With some desire and dedication, and for some, medical care, lifestyle diseases can be treated, changed and most likely reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Here are five key lifestyle changes you can take right now that will help your body and brain reap the benefits tomorrow:

  • Take any excess pounds off and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eliminate inflammatory foods from the diet.
  • Get some daily exercise.
  • Supplement with micronutrients to help reduce inflammation  in the body.
  • Exercise your  brain.

Allow me to expand on these key changes. It’s time to get off any excess weight for good.  Loss of excess fat will reduce inflam­mation significantly, which can help prevent diabetes, heart dis­ease, elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.  Even a 10-percent drop in weight will get you started in the right direc­tion in reducing your risk for Alzheimer’s.

Weight loss is not easy, but if you cut back on sugar intake (highly inflammatory food) from your diet and incorporate more fresh vegetables and berries into your meals instead, the body can heal itself quickly from inflammation.  Try an avocado, strawberry and plain Greek yogurt smoothie for a delicious, low-sugar breakfast alternative on a hot summer day.  If you’ve been eating high-sugar foods most of your life such as cereals, cookies, pizzas, et cetera, it’s time to grow up and eat adult-like foods.  Learn to enjoy cooking and eating vegetables and tasty omega-3-rich fish.

Time to dust off the bike and hit the trail at Folsom Lake.  Ex­ercise does more than just build muscles, burn fat and improve overall health. New studies show it also boosts brain power by improving oxygen and blood flow to the brain, which nourishes brain cells.  Exercise positively affects cognition – studies show that people who exercise regularly develop AD later in life and less often than sedentary people.

Start taking the supplements you have stashed in the back of your cupboard.  Although there are not many scientifically-val­idated supplements recommended to reduce AD, there are a lot of dietary supplements on the market today that can help maintain and improve memory and reduce inflammation in the body.  Here are a suggested few:

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) – ALA activates an enzyme that fa­cilitates increased acetylcholine production, which is used in brain transmission.  ALA is also a powerful antioxidant that helps combat insulin resistance, an inflammatory process seen in diabetics and AD patients.

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (OM3) -The OM3 fatty acid, DHA, plays an important role in learning ability and memory. Recent studies show a correlation with low levels of DHA and dementia, anger, depression and aggression. Unfortunately, Americans on average are deficient in OM3 fatty acids due to low dietary intake of cold water fish.  A good reason to supplement.

Folic Acid – Studies have shown that people taking folic acid (folate) have lower levels of homocysteine, a substance be­lieved to be partially responsible for dementia.  One study showed that folic acid supplementation  improved perfor­mance on tests that measure information-processing speed and memory, which are known to decline in adults with high levels of blood homocysteine.

L-Carnitine – Studies show that acetyl-L-carnitine stimulates the release and synthesis of acetylcholine and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play vital roles in maintaining com­munication pathways in the brain. It also promotes cellular energy which helps burn fat, reduce carbohydrate cravings and improve insulin sensitivity.

Green Tea Extract Scientists report that this extract protects the brain against oxidative stress and degeneration.  Green tea extract was shown to improve and protect the memory areas in the brain from neurodegeneration.

You’ve heard of the saying “use it or lose it”?  Studies have shown that mental stimulation promotes the formation of new nerve cells in the brain.  The best mental stimulation you can do is to learn something new everyday.  Reading about new ideas, playing word games or puzzles, taking up a new hobby or sign­ing up for a computer class promotes mental stimulation.  Even surfing the internet can stimulate the brain – just not for hours on end or you’ll run out of time for exercise.

Get social.  Keep friendships strong throughout life, whether with family members, neighbors, your church, volunteering, or a book or chess club.  Social stimulation is good for the brain and the soul.  Go to your local library and checkout books they have on Alzheimer’s disease to learn more about how you can protect yourself.