Alzheimer’s disease is a frightening and debilitating brain disorder that causes loss of memory and mental acuity, and ultimately leads to dementia. Alzheimer’s currently affects more than four million people in the United States, and that number is likely to rise as the average American lifespan continues to increase. The disorder typically begins to manifest when patients are in their early to mid 60’s, though early onset Alzheimer’s can occur in much younger individuals.
Typical symptoms include loss of memory, mental confusion, difficulty speaking, and an inability to recognize friends and family members. Ultimately, Alzheimer’s patients will require full time care as their condition worsens and they become unable to care for themselves. While there is no known cure, there are some preventative measures that everyone can take to protect themselves from the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Common Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s
While the precise cause of Alzheimer’s remains unknown, recent research indicates that there are a number of common risk factors associated with the disorder. Age is accepted as a prime factor in the onset of Alzheimer’s, with an individual’s risk increasing exponentially as they enter their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. This may be misleading, however, as all chronic debilitating diseases are likely to worsen as the patient ages. What can be agreed upon however, is that patients with a family history of Alzheimer’s tend to be at a higher risk for developing the disorder themselves, as do individuals with a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. A history of alcohol and tobacco abuse also seems to be tied to the onset of Alzheimer’s.
The Impact of Diet and Nutrition on Alzheimer’s Disease
Good nutrition is vital to maintaining mental and physical health, and making certain dietary changes can help to ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Adopting a vegetarian based diet rich in organic fruits, vegetables seeds and nuts can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 40%. Eliminating red meat from the diet, and replacing it with vegetable protein or flax seeds rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids will help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels while promoting healthy brain function. It is also advisable to remove as much processed sugar from the diet as possible, as diets high in sugar have been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Recent studies indicate that people whose diets included high amounts of nuts, tomatoes, dark green leafy vegetables and fruit were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s in later life. These simple dietary changes not only help to prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease, they can also help the body stave off the onset of dementia.
Certain nutritional supplements can also be added to the diet to help the body maintain its optimal physical and mental health. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, typically found flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts can be taken in supplemental form for those individuals who find it difficult to get the desired amounts from their daily diet. Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been shown to fight the vascular inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and when taken in combination with vitamin D helps to clear the plaque forming substance amyloid beta from the brain. Resveratrol, a compound found in grapes, has also been shown to be effective in reducing the levels of amyloid beta in the brain.
The Impact of Exercise and Weight Control on Alzheimer’s
Recent research has shown that people who are overweight in their 30’s and 40’s are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s later in life. These same studies indicate that weight gain in middle age impairs the brain’s natural functions, and can hasten the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition to diet, regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight, as well as reducing the risks of heart disease, COPD and diabetes. Moreover, regular exercise helps to oxygenate the blood. Oxygenated blood is vital to the healthy functioning of the brain, and helps brain cells to repair themselves. Regular daily exercise also helps with anxiety and stress which, while not strictly linked to Alzheimer’s, puts undue strain on a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
Mental exercise is also important to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Crossword puzzles are very good as in any activity that stimulates memory. Remember “if you don’t use it you will lose it.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a frightening disorder that can rob people of their very identity. By making some important lifestyle changes it is possible to postpone, or even prevent, the onset of this debilitating disorder. With good nutrition, regular exercise, and a dedication to keeping the mind active and engaged you can maintain your total health well into your twilight years.