Tips on how to avoid Alzheimer – simple things you can do to prevent it
UCLA on Alzheimer…
“The idea that Alzheimer’s is entirely genetic and unpreventable is
perhaps the greatest misconception about the disease,” says Gary Small, M.D.,
director of the UCLA Center on Aging. Researchers now know that Alzheimer’s,
like heart disease and cancer, develops over decades and can be influenced
by lifestyle factors including cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity,
depression,education, nutrition, sleep and mental, physical and social activity.
The big news: Mountains of research reveals that simple things you do
every day might cut your odds of losing your mind to Alzheimer’s.
In search of scientific ways to delay and outlive Alzheimer’s and other
dementias, I tracked down thousands of studies and interviewed dozens of
experts. The results in a new book: 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent
Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss (Little, Brown; $19.99). Here are 10
strategies that were most surprising:
1. Have coffee. In an amazing flip-flop, coffee is the new brain tonic.
A large European study showed that drinking three to five cups of coffee a
day in midlife cut Alzheimer’s risk 65% in late life. University of South
Florida researcher Gary Arendash credits caffeine: He says it reduces
dementia-causing amyloid in animal brains. Others credit coffee’s antioxidants.
So drink up, Arendash advises, unless your doctor says you shouldn’t.
2. Floss. Oddly, the health of your teeth and gums can help predict
dementia. University of Southern California research found that having
periodontal disease before age 35 quadrupled the odds of dementia years later.
Older people with tooth and gum disease score lower on memory and cognition
tests, other studies show. Experts speculate that inflammation in diseased
mouths migrates to the brain.
3. Google. Doing an online search can stimulate your aging brain even more
than reading a book, says UCLA’s Gary Small, who used brain MRIs to prove
it. The biggest surprise: Novice Internet surfers, ages 55 to 78,
activated key memory and learning centers in the brain after only a week of Web
surfing for an hour a day.
4. Grow new brain cells. Impossible, scientists used to say. Now it’s
believed that thousands of brain cells are born daily. The trick is to keep
the newborns alive. What works: aerobic exercise (such as a brisk 30-minute
walk every day), strenuous mental activity, eating salmon and other fatty
fish, and avoiding obesity, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, heavy
drinking and vitamin B deficiency.
5. Drink apple juice. Apple juice can push production of the “memory
chemical” acetylcholine; that’s the way the popular Alzheimer’s drug Aricept
works, says Thomas Shea, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts. He was
surprised that old mice given apple juice did better on learning and memory
tests than mice that received water. A dose for humans: 16 ounces, or two
to three apples a day.
6. Protect your head. Blows to the head, even mild ones early in life,
increase odds of dementia years later. Pro football players have 19 times the
typical rate of memory-related diseases. Alzheimer’s is four times more
common in elderly who suffer a head injury, Columbia University finds.
Accidental falls doubled an older person’s odds of dementia five years later in
another study. Wear seat belts and helmets, fall-proof your house, and
don’t take risks.
7. Meditate. Brain scans show that people who meditate regularly have
less cognitive decline and brain shrinkage – a classic sign of Alzheimer’s –
as they age. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania School of
Medicine says yoga meditation of 12 minutes a day for two months improved
blood flow and cognitive functioning in seniors with memory problems.
8. Take D. A “severe deficiency” of vitamin D boosts older Americans’ risk
of cognitive impairment 394%, an alarming study by England’s University
of Exeter finds. And most Americans lack vitamin D. Experts recommend a
daily dose of 800 IU to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3.
9. Fill your brain. It is called “cognitive reserve.” A rich
accumulation of life experiences – education, marriage, socializing, a
stimulating job, language skills, having a purpose in life, physical activity and
mentally demanding leisure activities – makes your brain better able to
tolerate plaques and tangles. You can even have significant Alzheimer’s
pathology and no symptoms of dementia if you have high cognitive reserve, says
David Bennett, M.D., of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.
10. Avoid infection. Astonishing new evidence ties Alzheimer’s to cold
sores, gastric ulcers, Lyme disease, pneumonia and the flu. Ruth Itzhaki,
Ph.D., of the University of Manchester in England estimates the cold-sore
herpes simplex virus is incriminated in 60% of Alzheimer’s cases. The theory:
Infections trigger excessive beta amyloid “gunk” that kills brain cells.
Proof is still lacking, but why not avoid common infections .
What to Drink for Good Memory. A great way to keep your aging memory sharp
and avoid Alzheimer’s is to drink the right stuff.
a. Tops: Juice. A glass of any fruit or vegetable juice three times a week
slashed Alzheimer’s odds 76% in Vanderbilt University research.
Especially protective:blueberry, grape and apple juice, say other studies.
b. Tea: Only a cup of black or green tea a week cut rates of cognitive
decline in older people by 37%, reports the Alzheimer’s Association. Only
brewed tea works. Skip bottled tea, which is devoid of antioxidants.
c. Caffeine beverages. Surprisingly, caffeine fights memory loss and
Alzheimer’s, suggest dozens of studies. Best sources: coffee (one Alzheimer’s
researcher drinks five cups a day), tea and chocolate. Beware caffeine if
you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, insomnia or anxiety.
d. Red wine: If you drink alcohol, a little red wine is most apt to
benefit your aging brain. It’s high in antioxidants. Limit it to one daily glass
for women, two for men. Excessive alcohol, notably binge drinking, brings
e. Two to avoid: Sugary soft drinks, especially those sweetened with high
fructose corn syrup. They make lab animals dumb. Water with high copper
content also can up your odds of Alzheimer’s. Use a water filter that removes