Alzheimer's Prevention: Nutrition & Lifestyle
Alzheimer's disease is a complex disorder, for which there is currently no known prevention or cure. Although there is preliminary data to support the benefit of some interventions, nothing at this time has definitively been shown to prevent Alzheimer's disease or other dementias.
There are healthy actions people can take to improve and maintain health, no matter what conditions they may be facing.
Alzheimer's disease is a complex disorder, for which there is currently no known prevention or cure. Some research has generated hope that one day it might be possible to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, delay its symptoms, or even prevent it from occurring at all. Although there are preliminary data to support the benefit of some interventions—such as physical activity and cardiovascular risk reduction—nothing at this time has definitively been shown to prevent Alzheimer's disease or other dementias.
The scientific advisors of the BrightFocus Foundation do not currently recommend or endorse any commercial nutritional supplement, exercise program, or cognitive training exercises for the purposes of preventing Alzheimer’s disease. BrightFocus does encourage people to evaluate the role of these interventions on the overall health and spirits of both patients and caregivers.
A number of preliminary studies suggest that how we eat may raise or lower our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Eating a diet that is high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and low in sugar and fat can reduce the incidence of many chronic diseases. Researchers are studying whether these dietary modifications are also applicable to Alzheimer’s disease. The strongest research supporting these modifications has been performed in animal studies, and findings remain to be rigorously established in randomized and controlled human clinical trials.
One example of Alzheimer’s disease nutrition research that BrightFocus funded is the work of Wolfgang Quitschke, Ph.D., of the State University of New York. He and his team are exploring the role of curcumin (from the spice turmeric) in a model of Alzheimer's disease in mice. This trailblazing project is expected to open up new ways for testing other nutritional ingredients and to help ascertain whether sufficient quantities would be consumed by maintaining a healthy diet or whether these ingredients need to be medically administered.
Healthy Lifestyle Actions You Can Take Right Now
- Eat a varied, nutritious, and low-glycemic diet. Include foods that contain vitamins C, D, and E, omega-3 fats, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. As can happen with diabetes, researchers suggest that production of higher levels of insulin and blood sugar may harm the brain and contribute to the progression of Alzheimer's.
- Get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight. This will improve not only your immune system and blood pressure, but your brain and eye health. Being obese can increase inflammation in your body and increase your risk of developing other diseases.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at normal levels. Having a cardiovascular disease could contribute to the progression of Alzheimer's
- Don't smoke. Toxins found in first-, second-, and third-hand smoke have been linked to an increased risk for developing a number of diseases.
- Get enough good quality sleep, as recommended for your age group. Researchers have shown some association between poor sleep and an increased risk for mild cognitive/memory issues.
- Reduce stress.
- Maintain regular check-ups with healthcare practitioners—Take all medications, as prescribed. Have one pharmacy or doctor confirm that the drugs you receive from different sources have no risks for interactions or interference from non-prescription drugs or herbal supplements.
- Keep your mind active. While the debate continues over whether cognitive exercises will help lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease, keeping your mind nimble will enhance your overall well-being.
- Keep an active social life and strive to widen your social network. Studies have shown that having a large social network may lower the risk of developing dementia. Volunteering for nonprofit organizations with missions that are important to you is one way to expand your circle of friends and acquaintances.
- Keep yourself informed. Learn about recent advances in research on preventive activities and treatments for your condition, for instance through the services and news alerts provided to you by BrightFocus Foundation.