11 Ways to Ward Off Alzheimer's Disease

Prevention is the best medicine and there are things you can do right now to ward off Alzheimer's disease. Best-selling health writer Jean Carper shares some simple solutions from her book "100 Simple Things You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer's."

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    Drink Apple Juice

    Apple juice can boost the production of acetylcholine in the brain. That's the same ingredient found in the number-one-prescribed, highly advertised pharmaceutical drug Aricept (donepezil), which is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.  When researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell spiked the drinking water of old mice with apple juice concentrate they showed increased speed and accuracy on memory and learning tasks, such as maneuvering their way through mazes.  Go with the old adage of an” apple a day,” but make that two apples or two cups of juice.
    11 Ways to Ward Off Alzheimer's Disease
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    Go Crazy for Cinnamon

    Dr. Richard Anderson, an expert on diabetes at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, found that eating cinnamon can invigorate weak, inefficient insulin, enabling it to process sugar normally. That’s a big deal, because about 80 million Americans have wimpy insulin, technically called “insulin resistance,” a sign of diabetes and prediabetes.  Anderson’s latest research shows that cinnamon may stop the genesis of Alzheimer’s disease because it blocked the formation of “tau filaments,” which help to initiate the disease.  Add cinnamon to your foods and drinks. A total of one-half to one teaspoon a day is plenty for most people. You can also get a high dose of the active ingredients by taking a standardized water-soluble extract of cinnamon as a dietary supplement. 

    “At least 250 mg twice a day, but 500 mg twice a day is better,” said Anderson.
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    Say Yes to Coffee

    Coffee, once considered the drink of the unhealthy, is now emerging as a tonic for the aging brain, as well as a deterrent to several chronic diseases that promote Alzheimer’s. Moreover, several studies suggest that coffee drinking earlier in life reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  In one large Finnish study, men and women who drank the most coffee - three to five cups per day - during middle age were 65 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s 20 years later.  What’s coffee’s secret? It’s an anti-inflammatory, helps block the ill effects of cholesterol in the brain, and cuts the risks of stroke, depression, and diabetes, all promoters of dementia. It’s also high in antioxidants and caffeine, both strong players in brain biochemistry.  Wise words from the Mayo Clinic: “For most people, it appears that a moderate daily intake of coffee - two to four cups - doesn’t seem to hurt and may even help.”
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    Get a Higher Education

    Study after study shows that the more years of formal education you have, the better your brain can withstand the pathological onslaught of Alzheimer’s disease.  There are several theories as to why higher education makes brains more resistant to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. College encourages concentration, focus, reading, and other mental activities that may stimulate brain cells to build better connections. Or maybe higher education fosters better ways of compensating for failing memory as we get older.  Whatever, the fact remains: People with a higher education cope better with brain damage for a longer time, say researchers, reducing the severity and delaying the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. If you didn’t get a higher education when you were younger, consider taking adult-education courses.
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    Be an Extrovert

    Rush University Medical Center published a study that found that a busy social life signified all-around better cognitive abilities.  People who tested higher on memory and thinking tests more often went to restaurants and sporting events; took day trips; did unpaid community and volunteer work; visited relatives and friends and attended church or religious services. In short, they were committed extroverts.  Engaging in any social activity is a pretty powerful booster of brain functioning so join something, anything; go to a party; throw a party; go to a movie, a concert, or a political meeting; go out to dinner; invite people over for dinner; join a swim club, bridge club, dance club, or book discussion club.
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    Get an Eye Exam

    If you preserve good or excellent vision as you age, your chances of developing dementia drop by an astonishing 63 percent. And if your vision is poor, just seeing an ophthalmologist for an exam and possible treatment at least once in later life cuts your dementia odds by about the same amount — 64 percent, according to a recent study at the University of Michigan Health System.  Be aware that your eyes reflect and influence how your brain is functioning, especially as you age. Don’t tolerate poor vision. It can often be corrected, dramatically cutting your risk of dementia. See an ophthalmologist for at least one examination in late life, and have yearly screenings if possible.
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    Practice Meditation

    It’s a quiet way to build a bigger, better brain. Faithfully practicing meditation for even a few minutes a day could help preserve your mental acuity as you age and cut your odds of getting Alzheimer’s.  People who meditate regularly tend to retain more brain gray matter, show more sustained attention, and suffer less cognitive decline as they age, said Dr. Giuseppe Pagnoni, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Emory University.  How meditation could so powerfully alter brain structure is mysterious.  Theories: it might somehow increase the number of neurons, stimulate growth of larger neurons, or create a particular “wiring” pattern. Meditation can also lower blood pressure; reduce stress, depression, and inflammation; improve blood glucose and insulin levels; and increase blood flow to the brain. If you are unfamiliar with meditation, look for meditation centers in your area. You can also get books, audiotapes, and DVDs showing how to meditate.
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    Follow the Mediterranean Diet

    Leafy greens, olive oil, and a little vino help keep Alzheimer’s away. The Mediterranean diet, no matter where you live, can help save your brain from memory deterioration and dementia.  Following this diet - rich in green leafy vegetables, fish, fruits, nuts, legumes, and a little vino -can cut your chances of Alzheimer’s in half. And the closer you follow the diet, the more dramatic the benefits to your aging brain.  What makes the Mediterranean diet so powerful is that it does not depend on just one food or a few nutrients. It is a rich menu of many complex brain benefactors including array of antioxidants in olive oil, red wine, and fruits and vegetables, particularly tomatoes, onions, and garlic which shield brain cells from oxidative damage.
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    Take a Nature Walk

    It can calm your mind and improve short-term memory. You can spend an hour either walking down an urban street, with all its distractions, or strolling around a botanical garden, taking in nature.  A University of Michigan study found that walking in the surroundings of trees and plants restored attention and even improved short-term memory by a remarkable 20 percent. Memory scores did not change after the city walk. Clearly, it was a victory for nature over urban clamor. Further, the benefits were the same whether people walked in 80 degree summer heat or 25 degree January cold.
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    Cut Down on Sugar

    Too much sugar creates Alzheimer’s plaques in the brain. Feeding your brain too much sugar is a huge mistake, because ordinary sugar spurs production of the toxic stuff that leads to Alzheimer’s in susceptible brains, as studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have demonstrated on mice.  Make a conscious effort to cut back on sugar of all types. Don’t drink obesity -generating sugary soft drinks; a 12 ounce can has eight teaspoons of sugar, usually high fructose corn syrup. Depend mostly on fruits and other natural sources for sweeteners. Fructose as it comes in fruits is okay. But replace sugary soft drinks with plain or carbonated water, unsweetened iced tea, juices, low-fat milk, and occasional artificially sweetened soft drinks.
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    Take Care of Your Teeth

    Bad gums may poison your brain. People with tooth and gum disease are apt to score lower on memory and cognition tests, according to a University of West Virginia School of Dentistry analysis.  Researcher Richard Crout theorizes that an infection responsible for gum disease gives off inflammatory by-products that travel to areas of the brain involved in memory loss. These inflammatory agents may be toxic to brain cells.  Consequently, Crout said brushing, flossing, and generally preventing gum disease may help keep your gums and teeth healthy, and also your memory sharper. Be sure you and everyone in your family get treatment early in life to control bleeding, inflamed gums. It could help save your brain from inflammatory assaults leading to memory loss and dementia later in life, experts say.
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    More Tips to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

    For 89 more unique ways to ward off Alzheimer's disease pick up Jean Carper's book "100 Simple Things You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer's."  You can also check out her website.  
    Little, Brown and Company
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