Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, Naturally
By: Corey Howard, MD, FACP
Dementia. The word conjures up the notion of “losing one’s mind” and it is a scary thought for most people. Alzheimer’s disease is a common cause of dementia affecting more than 5 million people in the United States and this number is rising rapidly. The risk increases as we age. Even worse is that it becomes a more common cause of death in older Americans as well. The brain shrinks significantly with advanced disease potentially causing the body to shut down eventually leading to death.
What are the risk factors?
Alzheimer’s can be a genetic disease and scientists have identified a specific area called APOE4 which leads to an increased risk of developing this illness. Having the gene does not mean 100% of people will develop Alzheimer’s but it does increase your risk. When done early, the test may help you make better choices that may decrease your risk of developing it or how late in life the gene manifests itself. Your lifestyle choices, which can lead to many chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, increase your risk of developing this type of dementia. The human body is made up of over 37 Trillion cells and there are thousands of reactions occurring every second in your all requiring a healthy environment to work efficiently. This healthy environment begins with your nutrition. In fact, poor dietary habits increase the risk of most chronic illnesses and lead to obesity which is the leading cause of death in the United States. Let’s explore some of the ways you can help your brain become healthier and possibly decrease your risk of dementia of all types.
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that you can take and to decrease your chances of developing this illness. You have to participate in your life and improve your lifestyle. Lifestyle choices are associated with 80% of all chronic diseases, most of which can be avoided. The treatments are not sexy and they require a lot of effort and time on your part and the part of your doctor. The 5 main areas that help Alzheimer’s risk also decrease your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer. Here they are: Nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress and environmental toxicity. With aging it is always important to throw in an active social life. This last area is well addressed in Dan Buettner’s Book: “The Blue Zone”. With the aging brain as well as Alzheimer’s disease you also have to make sure you have regular mental stimulation. There are many sites these days that can help you with this in addition to puzzles, word games and reading.
Nutrition goes beyond just eating a few vegetables and calling it a day. It involves a conscious effort to obtain the proper amount of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) as well as micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements) that are needed to run the complex machinery of the human body. There is not a shortage of books on the topic and most authors want you to purchase their book and follow their specific diet. Sometimes that is important, especially if you are way off track and need a way back. For others it can really be a life or death decision. And for others still, it these resources may be overcomplicating something that should be easy. The problem is that the odds are stacked against us in a world filled with crazy marketing techniques geared to ensure the sale of products, may of which you don’t need or may harm you in some way. This is true of the food industry. That is why you need to shop with both eyes wide open. Increasing the number and variety of vegetables you consume is a great start. Adding nuts, seeds, beans, greens and whole grains to your diet can help immensely. You should talk to a health professional before changing your dietary habits so that you can make the best changes for you.
Fitness is basically exercise. You need to do something most days and what you do is important as well. Going for a walk for 15 minutes 4 days a week can decrease your risk of early death by up to 40%. Adding some resistance training can decrease your risk of bone issues and increase your muscle masswhich results in an improvement in your underlying metabolism.
There is much more to talk about and in future issues I will explore the other areas of brain health that may help you prevent the most common cause of dementia in the United States. For now, stay tuned to my website: www.physicianslifecenters.com where you can sign up for my free newsletter as well as seminars that I will hold on topics such as brain health, eating your way to health, motivation to live better and many more.