Alzheimer's Disease Prevention

Written by Wendy Leonard, MPH | Published on August 29, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on August 29, 2014

Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Overview

There is no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Researchers, pharmaceutical companies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations are all involved with research aimed to slow, delay, and prevent AD. These include: 

  • cognitive training
  • antioxidants (e.g., vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene)
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) supplementation
  • hormones, type-2 diabetes treatments (insulin seems to play a role in AD)
  • exercise
  • cardiovascular treatments

There are certain steps you can take now to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Consult your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Some evidence suggests a Mediterranean diet may decrease your risk of developing AD. This diet includes little red meat and emphasizes:

  • whole grains
  • fruits and vegetables
  • fish and shellfish
  • nuts
  • olive oil
  • other healthy fats

Other studies suggest that antioxidants may affect age-related changes in the brain. Blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries have shown to improve cognitive function in rats and mice. This includes both during normal aging and in animals that develop AD. 

Another study examined curcumin, the main ingredient of the yellowish spice used in curry, turmeric. It’s a powerful antioxidant. Curcumin can suppress the build-up of harmful amyloid plaques in the brains of rodents.

Keep Up Your Mental Exercise

An active brain may reduce your AD risk. Activities like listening to the radio, reading newspapers, playing puzzle games, and visiting museums help to keep the brain active.

Engaging in mental exercises seems to create or contribute to your “cognitive reserve.” In other words, you develop additional neurons and pathways in your brain. Why is this important? 

Normally, your brain has one road to transport information from point A to point B. If there is a roadblock or dead end, the information won’t make it. People who develop new ways of thinking through mental exercises create multiple and alternative routes in their brains. This makes it easier and faster for vital information to travel. 

So exercise your brain. Do crossword puzzles, take up bridge, or learn a new language.

Increase Your Social Engagement

Compelling research suggests seniors who spend most of their time in their immediate home environment are almost twice as likely to develop AD compared to those who travel more. These findings, however, may also reflect the general health of individuals.

Still it’s well documented that being engaged with your surroundings is good for your mental, physical, and emotional health.

Aerobic Exercise Daily

When older adults with AD engage in aerobic exercise, it improves their psychological and behavioral symptoms.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is much evidence suggesting that 30 minutes of exercise per day is crucial to preventing Alzheimer’s disease. One 8-year study examined the connection between mental function and physical activity in 6000 women age 65 and older. It discovered that more active women were less likely to have a decline in mental functions than less active women.

StopSmoking

Smoking may increase your risk for AD and dementia. However, former smokers or those who smoked less than half a pack per day do not appear to have an increased risk. So if you still smoke, now is the time to quit. Talk with your doctor about methods that could work for you.

Lowering Homocysteine

Homocysteine is an amino acid that’s a building block of protein. It naturally circulates in the blood. Recent studies indicate that higher than average blood levels of homocysteine is a risk factor for AD, vascular dementia, and cognitive impairment.

Foods high in folate (folic acid) and other B vitamins (such as B6 and B12) have been shown to lower homocysteine levels. Whether or not increasing these B vitamins in one’s diet might offer a protective effect for AD is yet unknown.

Some good sources of folate include:

  • romaine lettuce
  • spinach
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • collard greens
  • parsley
  • cauliflower
  • beets
  • lentils 

Sources of B6 and B12 include:

  • fish
  • red meat
  • potatoes
  • non-citrus fruit
  • fortified cereal
  • poultry
  • eggs 
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