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Can You Prevent Alzheimer's Disease? What You Need to Know
Without a doubt, there is nothing more painful than watching someone you love wither away from Alzheimer’s disease.
Nothing is more upsetting than discovering that your parent doesn’t recognize you anymore, and can’t remember where he lives — or even tell you the year. Let’s face it, it’s scary to think that one day, your mind might degenerate and leave you mentally crippled for the rest of your life.
Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. has been President and Medical Director of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation since 1993, and has been studying the disease for two decades. He believes that the best way to defend against Alzheimer’s is to incorporate a series of prevention methods into your life. Dr. Khalsa has developed his “4 Pillars of Prevention” to aid in the process:
Pillar 1: Diet and Vitamins
Keeping your brain healthy and nourished is an important step in preventing Alzheimer’s and memory loss. According to Dr. Khalsa, a good Alzheimer’s disease prevention diet should include the following:
1. 20% “good” fat: omega-3s from extra virgin olive oil, avocado, flax seed oil, and eating fish
2. 50% lean protein: fish, chicken, turkey, and soy
3. 30% complex carbohydrates: fresh vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fresh fruits
4. Superfoods for the brain: blueberries, spinach, and seaweed
It is also important to avoid a diet high in trans-fat and saturated fat. These fats produce free radicals, which in high quantities can damage and even kill brain cells. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E help eliminate free radicals from your body. Other brain and memory specific nutrients are also important.
Pillar 2: Stress Management
Research has shown that chronic stress is among the biggest factors in developing Alzheimer’s. When you experience stress, your body produces the hormones cortisol and adrenaline to respond to the situation. With chronic stress, your cortisol levels remain high, and this adversely affects your brain.
Cortisol affects the hippocampus, the section of your brain responsible for storing memories. It prevents the hippocampus from getting proper amounts of glucose and it slows nerve impulse transmission, which can kill brain cells. Brain studies of people suffering from late stages of Alzheimer’s disease show that they have a hippocampus that is considerably smaller than that of a normally functioning brain.
By using regular stress relaxation techniques, you can improve your focus, attention, and mental performance. Meditation is an effective method for stress reduction – it helps lower cortisol levels, which will ultimately improve your mental functioning. Other stress management techniques include prayer, deep breathing, and massage.
Pillar 3: Exercise and Brain Aerobics
Of course physical exercise is important. However, neurologists have also found that frequent mental exercise will reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 70%! It is important that you spend at least 20 minutes, three times a week engaging in some sort of mental exercise. In order for an activity to be considered brain aerobics, it must meet the following criteria:
1. It needs to engage your attention
2. It must involve more than one of your senses
3. It must break up a routine activity in an unexpected, non-trivial way
Examples of mental exercise include visiting a museum and discussing it, reading, writing, playing board games, and so on.
Pillar 4: Pharmaceuticals
There are a few pharmaceutical drugs that can help improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in some patients several years. However, it is important to be careful with these drugs. Many have serious side effects such as dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea that you should discuss with your doctor.
Some of the most effective drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease include Aricept (donepezil), Exelon (rivasigmine), Namenda (memantine), and Razadyne (galantamine).
Fortunately, using the positive and practical strategies in this article, if asked “can you prevent Alzheimer’s?”, you can now answer in the affirmative.
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