What can I do to protect myself against Alzheimer’s disease?
While there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, one can take the following steps to reduce risk and increase overall health.
Exercise - Studies have revealed a possible protective role of physical exercise, particularly if it starts early and is maintained. In one study, over 1,700 people aged 65 and older, none showing any signs of dementia at the start, were examined over a six-year period. These studies revealed that older people who had increased physical activities when they were middle-aged had significantly decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The authors believe that exercise may improve brain function by boosting blood flow to areas of the brain used for memory.
While any amount of exercise is beneficial, aerobic exercise is preferable, and a recommended amount is 3-6 hours per week.
Diet - A diet that is healthy for the heart is generally healthy for the brain. There are no reliable published data to suggest that any one diet is better than another in slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s or ameliorating symptoms once they have begun. Obesity in middle age does significantly increase a person’s chances of succumbing to dementia later in life.
Regarding specific foods: Red wine has been associated with slightly decreased risk for Alzheimer’s when taken in moderation (a glass per day).
The use of coconut oil to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s is not supported by any clinical data. The oil might provide a temporary energy boost to the brain, but it also contains very high levels of saturated fat – even more than lard – and may therefore be detrimental to the cardiovascular system if taken regularly. Read more here.
Learning and novelty - Building new synapses (connections between nerve cells in the brain) will help to back up the ones you already have. This is best achieved by learning new and novel things – not by playing mental games or practicing “brain fitness” exercises.
Social stimulation is important as well. Maintaining an active social life will help to prevent cognitive decline.