Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, but probably the most dreaded. Research shows that only 2% of all Alzheimer’s disease cases are linked to genetic inheritance. So, what is causing the other 98%? It does appear that there are nutritional and lifestyle choices you can make to help prevent this awful disease. Here are the top 10 strategies, according to current research.
1. Control your cholesterol. Keep your blood cholesterol below 150 mg/dL by avoiding hydrogenated (trans) fats completely, and reducing animal fats. If cholesterol clogs brain arteries, brain cells get starved for oxygen and food.
2. Balance your blood sugar. People with Type 2 diabetes have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Insulin dependent diabetics have four times the risk. In fact, some researchers now call Alzheimer’s “Type 3 diabetes”! How do you control your blood sugar? Limit your intake of refined sugar – pop, candy, pastries, jam, ice cream, etc. Think of refined sugar as a drug, not a food!
3. Maintain a healthy weight. The issue here is the same as the blood sugar issue. Too much sugar causes higher levels of insulin in the body. Extra insulin affects an enzyme in the brain which otherwise works protectively to prevent plaque build-up. So a healthy diet and exercise, among all their other benefits, also helps to protect your brain, by normalizing insulin levels.
4. Take a multivitamin/mineral supplement. Vitamins which help maintain healthy brain function include the B vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin C.
5. Get plenty of fatty acids. Take an essential fatty acid supplement each day that contains fish, flaxseed, and borage seed oil. Fish has always been known as good “brain food”, and it still is, but now fish also increases the risk of mercury toxicity. So a fatty acid supplement is important, even if you enjoy eating fish.
6. Take melatonin. After age 40, take a melatonin supplement around bedtime. Studies show that melatonin reduces the progression to Alzheimer’s disease in cognitively impaired people. No medical interventions have this beneficial effect.
7. The memory chemical. After age 55, supplement with acetylcholine. Low levels of this important neurotransmitter are a hallmark feature of Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Take care of your brain. Avoid known brain killers! For example, don’t overdo alcohol. Don’t smoke cigarettes.
9. Use your brain. Keep your brain active! Learn a new language, a musical instrument, take dance lessons, a new hobby. Your brain is growing new circuits whenever you learn, which keeps it in good working order.
10. Protect your head. Wear a helmet when cycling, skiing, motorcycling, etc.
As always, these holistic approaches offer side-benefits instead of side-effects. Healthy diet, healthy supplements, and avoiding unhealthy practices will benefit your entire body as well as promote a healthy mind.