There is, as of now, no cure for dementia, so prevention strategies are essential. A reading of 30 recent studies suggests the following top 10 preventative measures. The good news is that you can retain your memory and remain mentally sharp with this 10 point plan. None of them involves pharmaceuticals.
(Of course advice is only effective when it degenerates into action!)
1. Cut pro-inflammatory sugar and sweeteners
Dementia is very closely linked to inflammation in brain tissues, so decreasing pro-inflammatory foods and increasing anti-inflammatory foods in your diet is a key preventative action. Severely cut down on sugar, fructose and refined carbohydrates which are all pro-inflammatory and avoid aspartame which has been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s.
2. Increase Omega 3 (with polyphenols) and add curcumin
Omega 3 in fish oil is anti-inflammatory. If in supplement form, increase your omega 3 intake to at least 1000mg a day as long as it is accompanied by polyphenols.
In food form, polyphenols are anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant compounds found in vegetables that include kale, spinach, broccoli and cabbage or in fruits like berries, currants, grapes and tomatoes. In supplement form, grape seed extract or green tea extract provide valuable polyphenols.
Curcumin (derived from the yellow curry spice turmeric), is a very important polyphenol for brain health and ideal when combined with Omega 3 as it needs oil to be properly absorbed.
Recent studies have shown that curcumin can bind to and break down what are called beta amyloid plaques. These are abnormal proteins found in the brain of Alzheimer’s sufferers.
An animal study at the Brain Functional Genomics Laboratory has even shown that curcumin enriched diets enhanced memory as well as actual brain cell growth compared to a control group.
The only side-effect of curcumin is reduced inflammation body-wide – so it helps ease arthritis pain and supports cardio-function.
3. Optimise zinc, vitamin D and vitamin B3
Deficiency of zinc can contribute to Alzheimer’s by encouraging the accumulation of defective tau and beta amyloid proteins in your brain, which is a characteristic of the disease.
Vitamin D may increase the effectiveness of the glial cells in the brain and it appears that glial cells may help remove debris and toxins from the brain that can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin D may also reduce dementia through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
A report in the Journal of Neurological and Neurosurgical Psychiatry showed that niacin (B3) helped slow or even prevent the progression of age-related cognitive decline.
4. Reduce stress
Nearly 3 out of 4 of newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients experienced severe emotional stress during the two years preceding their diagnosis. Chronic stress has been shown to lead to shrinkage in the hippocampus, a key memory area of the brain. Deep breathing, walking, social engagement and mindfulness exercises are all stress reducers.
5. Beware aluminium
Many people with Alzheimer’s are found to have above average levels of aluminium in their brain. Sources of aluminium include some anti-perspirants and non-stick cookware.
6. Avoid anti-cholinergics, statins and benzodiazepines
Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. Statin drugs are known to suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble anti-oxidants to your brain. Studies show that adults who use benzodiazepines are about 50% more likely to develop dementia, especially if used continuously.
7. Stimulate your mind
Learning something new, such as playing a musical instrument or speaking a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s.
8. Drink moderately (2 units/day) and stop smoking
But you don’t smoke, do you?
9. Increase physical exercise
The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation calculates that regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%! Exercise helps your brain produce new neurons, thus helping prevent neural degeneration. Excess sitting is associated with an increased risk of neurological (and other) illnesses. Stand up and walk frequently, with the aim of walking 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day. Combining aerobics and strength training is better than either activity alone.
10. Reduce calories
Lower calorie consumption is associated with lower dementia risk. Intermittent fasting can help reduce insulin/leptin resistance that is a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s. A 30+ year study of over 10,000 people found that people who were overweight in midlife were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s in later life, and those who were obese had three times the risk.
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