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Preventing Dementia and Alzheimer’s


Dementia is the loss of mental abilities and most commonly occurs late in life. Of all persons over age 65, 5-8% are demented. This percentage increases considerably with age. Twenty-five to 50% of people over 85 are affected. The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, accounts for 50-75% of all cases of dementia.

Tucking into more fresh tuna, trout, sardines, mackerel, anchovies and salmon could help you reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It is well-known that oil-rich fish paves the way to a healthy heart. But recent studies are showing that oily fish has a beneficial effect on the brain.

Eating fish just once a week reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 60%, according to a recent study by Dr. Martha Morris and her colleagues of the Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. They followed 815 people, aged 65 to 94 years, for seven years and found that the dietary intake of fish was strongly linked to Alzheimer’s risk.

They found that the strongest link was the amount of DHA, a form of omega 3 fat found in fish. And those who consumed the most total omega 3's (from fish, vegetable oils and nuts combined) had 70% less risk. The more a person’s DHA, the lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

With the right nutrition and the right attitude, age-related memory loss can be prevented.

A study led by Dr. Robert Friedland, a neurologist at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, combined mental, physical and even social activities in adults, and compared activity levels with the rate of Alzheimer's disease. Friedland's team measured changes in 26 activity levels in 193 patients with likely or possible Alzheimer's and 358 healthy people. Some activities were physical, like exercise and gardening; some were passive, like television viewing and going to church; others were intellectual, including reading and writing letters. In addition to the variety of activities people pursued with age, the researchers also were interested in how intensely subjects stayed involved between ages 20 and 60.

Compared with Alzheimer's patients, people with healthy brains had been involved in a broader variety of activities during adulthood, the researchers say. Those whose activity levels fell below the average had nearly a four-fold increase in the risk of the disease, even after accounting for other Alzheimer's risk factors like age and education level.

What's more, people who spent more time pursuing the 26 activities as they got older appeared to gain significant protection from brain changes linked to Alzheimer's.

In fact, Alzheimer's patients, or their caretakers, reporting doing less of every activity than healthy subjects except one, television watching, says Friedland. “TV represents an activity which is often not intellectual, and is not physical except changing the channels.”

Nutrition expert Patrick Holford, author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan, offers tips to keep your memory and mind sharp:

  • Eat fish and seeds high in essential omega 3 fats. Sprinkle flaxseeds on your cereal. Snack on pumpkin seeds, also rich in omega 3 fats.
  • Eat eggs, high in phospholipids. The best eggs are “omega 3-rich” eggs, from chickens fed flaxseeds because you also get omega 3 fats. Lecithin, which you can buy in health food stores in either capsules or granules, are also high in phospholipids. Sprinkle a dessertspoon on your cereal.
  • Eat “slow-release” carbohydrates such as oat-based cereals, oat cakes, whole-wheat pasta and brown basmati rice.
  • Eat vitamin-, mineral- and antioxidant-rich food like berries, and dark green leafy and root vegetables.
  • Avoid “hydrogenated” fats found in junk food and burnt fats like fried food, sugar and excess caffeine and alcohol.
  • Take a high-strength multivitamin, with vitamin E, C and at least 20mg of vitamin B6, 10mcg of B12 and 250mcg of folic acid.
  • Test your homocysteine level. (Elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood can lead to a higher risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's-related dementia.)
  • Use your brain. Keep learning throughout your life.
  • Keep physical. Ideally, take up an exercise that helps develop “yogic” breathing, such as yoga, tai chi or psycho-calisthenics. Dancing to the music helps to improve memory.
  • Make sure you get enough light. Spend some time outdoors most days.

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