Alzheimer’s…the word alone is enough to scare most people over 50. Whether it be because we know someone or some family that has been effected by this condition or whether we fear it for ourselves, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has become a popular concern for my older patients. By the way, many of my patients in their 30’s also fear it when they walk into a room and can’t remember why they went in there. This luckily is not the cardinal sign of Alzheimer’s; otherwise, we would be in real serious trouble. Ok, back to the stats. It affects 10% of Americans over 65 and nearly 50% of those over 85. It’s one of the more genetically studied diseases and while several genetic markers have been identified, the reality is that less than 1 in 1,000 of people with Alzheimer’s has these genetic markers. So when it’s unlikely to be caused by genetics, the medical community starts digging for another cause. Well, diet & lifestyle are back in the medical news because of some very impressive findings recently.
Here are a few tips from the world of Functional Medicine known to support both the prevention of Alzheimer’s and also the improvement of early stage cognitive function issues (‘cognitive function’ is just medical fancy for your brain’s ‘thinking abilities’).
- Watch ‘Therapeutic Lifestyle Change’ on LivingWellnessUniversity.com – learn how a lifetime of smoldering inflammation impacts your health, and more importantly, how you can stop it.
- Watch ‘The Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid’ – develop your personalized action plan for getting good fats, antioxidants and whole foods into your diet. Additionally, eating this way will keep your blood sugar and insulin levels stable, which leads me to…
- Get your diabetes under control ASAP – current research published just this week in Neurology, a respected medical journal, has shown a significant link between type 2 diabetes and the development of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. This is huge with diabetes affecting so many families and likely going to get much worse with childhood obesity on the rise.
- Get moving! – A recent study at the Mayo Clinic showed that exercise promotes better brain health as you age and reduces your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Set the goal of 150 minutes per week (in divided sessions) of moderate exercise. Be sure to start low and go slow if you haven’t been exercising and check with your physician to be sure you are safe to start.
- Play Smart! – That’s right, play games. Studies have shown that our brains have a ‘Use it or Lose it’ function. In the infamous Nun Study conducted in the early 2000’s, research had proven that exercising your brain frequently is protective. What a great excuse to grab that Sudoku or crossword puzzle, or just engage in a good old fashion debate with a friend.
- Quit Smoking! – For many, many reasons, but regarding dementia and Alzheimer’s the data show that individuals who have experienced a stroke significantly increased their chances of getting Alzheimer’s. Smoking any amount doubles your risk of stroke and the longer you smoke, that risk increases even more.
Remember, your genes load the gun, BUT your lifestyle pulls the trigger! If someone in your family has dementia or Alzheimer’s, you are not doomed like so many believe. You can change the course of your future by making smarter lifestyle choices now. Get educated, get your diet and exercise on track (the way you know is really best for your body), and keep that brain active!