No drug can cure Alzheimer’s disease (AD). But one key nutrient can significantly help slow the progression of the disease. In fact, a brand new study found that a once maligned vitamin performs far better than a commonly prescribed AD drug. I’ll tell you more about that miracle vitamin tomorrow.
But today, let’s talk about the basics of prevention. And four things you should do today and every day to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. According to the latest research, these four steps can go a long way in lowering your AD risk.
1. Eat smart
To prevent Alzheimer’s disease, you don’t just need to eat right. You need to eat smart. And make sure to eat more of the vegetables proven to help brain function.
Which vegetables work best?
Well, in one excellent Harvard study published about 10 years ago, researchers followed a group of 13,000 women. Over a 25-year-period, they asked the women to fill out occasional questionnaires about the foods they ate. They also administered periodic cognitive tests.
The researchers found that women who ate more vegetables overall had better retention of their cognitive function. And women who ate lots of cruciferous and green, leafy vegetables got the biggest boost. These same vegetables have been consistently shown for the past 100 years to lower your risk of cancers as well.
So, when I tell you to eat smart, here’s what I mean. Eat broccoli or cauliflower every day. They are both cruciferous vegetables. And eat spinach or another leafy green every single day as well. Your brain will benefit. Research also shows that spices like turmeric, used in traditional Indian curry, can also help prevent AD. You should also eat plenty of healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Or, take a high-quality fish oil supplement. And cut out all trans fats.
2. Get moving every day
Try to get moving every single day. You don’t have to run a marathon. Just go for a nice brisk walk after dinner. And the sooner you start, the better. In fact, according to a recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, women who regularly exercise at midlife are less likely to develop dementia after they hit 65. That’s compared to their sedentary peers. An older study, publishedin the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed even stronger results. It found that adults who exercised–and followed a healthy diet–slashed their AD risk by as much as 60 percent!
But it’s never too late to get going. In that Harvard study I mentioned earlier, women who exercised the most at age 60 were almost twice as likely to become “AD survivors” 10 years later. The researchers defined an “AD survivor” as anyone who lived past 70 without developing cognitive decline. Plus, these AD survivors didn’t develop any of the top-10 chronic diseases on the Harvard researchers’ list. Including cancer or cardiovascular disease. Most women survivors exercised at a rate equivalent to a brisk walk, totaling five to six hours per week. This amounts to a one-hour walk per day, even with one or two days “off.” Regular brisk walks after dinner will also help lower your blood sugar, yet another risk for AD (which I call “Type III diabetes”).
3. Keep a healthy weight
Without a doubt, what you do at midlife matters. And obesity during midlife appears to raise the risk of AD later in life. In fact, Kaiser Permanente followed 10,000 men and women for 27 years. They found that men and women who were 30 or more pounds overweight at midlife were 74 percent more likely to develop dementia later in life. Excess abdominal fat showed an especially strong link. (Please note: These findings do not apply to carrying a moderate amount of excess weight. In fact, studies link five to 10 extra pounds with a lower overall disease rate and mortality rate.)
Studies also show that diabetes increases your risk of AD. But taking Metformin reduces blood sugar. And it reduces the risks of complications associated with diabetes, such as dementia and AD. As you’ll recall, Metformin derives from the European medicinal herb, French lilac. (Just remember, studies show that Metformin may deplete your vitamin B12 stores. So, if you take Metformin, just make sure to take a high-quality B vitamin supplement.
4. Give your brain a daily work out too
Exercise your mind. Read books. Especially non-fiction and fiction books that you always wanted to read, but never got around to. Work on crossword puzzles. Play cards with friends. Take an Intro to Spanish class at the community college. Try to learn a new skill, like painting or photography. People who engage in new activities that challenge the brain are twice as likely to avoid AD and dementia. When you use your brain to solve problems, learn new information, form new memories, and recall memories, you maintain existing brain circuits. And you help create new circuits.
- “The Association Between Midlife Cardiorespiratory Fitness Levels and Later-Life Dementia: A Cohort Study,” Ann Intern Med 2013;158:213-214
- “Physical activity, diet, and risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” JAMA 2009;302:627-637
- “Obesity in middle age and future risk of dementia: a 27 year longitudinal population based study,” BMJ 2005;330:1360
- “Fruit and vegetable consumption and cognitive decline in aging women,” Ann Neurol. 2005 May;57(5):713-20