UCLA on Alzheimer's Disease - Young or Old Must Learn
J. Carper

Food for Thought

"The idea that Alzheimer's is completely genetic and unpreventable is probably the greatest misunderstanding regarding the disease, " says Gary Small, M. D., director of the UCLA Center on Aging. Researchers now understand that Alzheimer's, similar to heart disease and cancer, evolves over decades and can be affected by lifestyle factors including cholesterol, blood pressure, being overweight, depressive disorder, education, diet, sleep and mental, physical and societal activity. The significant news: Mountains of research explains that basic things you do every day could minimize your odds of losing your mind to Alzheimer's. In search of scientific ways to delay and outlive Alzheimer's and other dementias, I tracked down thousands of studies and interviewed a lot of experts. The outcomes in a new book: 100 Very simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer's and Age-Related Memory Decline.

Here are 10 techniques I found most surprising.

1. Have coffee. In an amazing flip-flop, coffee is the new brain tonic. A large European study demonstrated that drinking 3 to five servings of coffee a day in midlife cut Alzheimer's chance 65% in later life. University of South Florida researcher Gary Arendash credits caffeine: He says it decreases dementia-causing amyloid in animal brains. Other people credit coffee's anti-oxidants. So drink up, Arendash advises, unless your doctor says you should not.

2. Floss. Strangely, the wellbeing of your teeth and gums can help predict dementia. University of Southern California analysis found that having gum disease before age 35 quadrupled the possibility of dementia years later. Elderly individuals with tooth and gum disease score lower on memory and cognition tests, additional studies indicate. Industry experts speculate that inflammation in diseased mouths migrates to the brain.

3. Google. Doing an online search can stimulate your aging brain even more than reading through a book, affirms UCLA's Gary Small, who used brain MRIs to demonstrate it. The biggest surprise: Novice Internet users, ages 55 to 78, triggered essential memory and learning facilities in the brain after just a week of Web surfing for an hour a day.

4. Develop new brain cells. Impossible, scientists used to declare. Now it's believed that thousands of brain cells are born everyday. The key is to keep the newborns alive. What is effective: cardiovascular exercise (such as a brisk 30-minute walk every day), intense psychological activity, consuming salmon and various other fatty seafood, and averting morbid obesity, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, heavy drinking and vitamin B deficiency.

5. Drink apple juice. Apple juice can motivate generation of the "memory chemical" acetylcholine; that's the way the well-known Alzheimer's drug Aricept functions, says Thomas Shea, Ph. D., of the University of Massachusetts. He was surprised that old rodents given apple juice did better on learning and memory assessments than rodents that received drinking water. A dosage for humans: 16 oz., or two to 3 apples a day.

6. Protect your head. Blows to the head, even mild ones early on in life, increase possibilities of dementia years afterwards. Professional football players have nineteen times the typical rate of memory-related conditions. Alzheimer's is 4 times more common in elderly who undergo a head injury, Columbia University confirms. Unintentional falls doubled an older person's odds of dementia 5 years later in another analysis. Wear seat belts and helmets, fall-proof your residence, and don't take risks.

7. Meditate. Brain scans indicate that people who meditate frequently have much less cognitive decline and brain shrinkage - a traditional indicator of Alzheimer's - as they grow older. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine states yoga meditation of twelve minutes a day for 2 months enhanced blood circulation and cognitive functioning in seniors with memory difficulties.

8. Take Vitamin D. A "serious deficiency" of vitamin D boosts elderly Americans' risk of cognitive impairment 394%, an alarming study by England's University of Exeter finds. And the majority of Americans lack vitamin D. Experts recommend a day-to-day dose of 800 IU to 2, 000 IU of vitamin D3.

9. Fill your brain. It's called "cognitive reserve. " A rich accumulation of life experiences - education, marriage, socializing, a stimulating job, language skills, having a goal in life, physical activity and mentally demanding leisure activities - makes your brain better equipped to tolerate plaques and tangles. You can even have significant Alzheimer's pathology and no symptoms of dementia if you have higher cognitive reserve, says David Bennett, M. D., of Chicago's Rush University Medical Center.

10. Avoid infection. Shocking new research ties Alzheimer's to cold sores, gastric ulcers, Lyme disease, pneumonia and the flu. Ruth Itzhaki, Ph. D., of the University of Manchester in England estimates the cold-sore herpes simplex strain is incriminated in 60% of Alzheimer's scenarios. The hypothesis: Bacterial infections induce increased beta amyloid "gunk" that wipes out brain cells. Proof is still incomplete, but why not avoid common infections and receive proper vaccines, antibiotics and antiviral agents?

 

 

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