UCLA ON ALZHEIMER'S
- Food for Thought: This is GREAT information.
- "The idea that Alzheimer's is entirely genetic and unpreventable
is perhaps the greatest misconception about the disease," says
Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Center on Aging.
- Researchers now know that Alzheimer's, like heart disease and
cancer, develops over decades and can be influenced by lifestyle
factors including cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity, depression,
education, nutrition, sleep and mental, physical and social activity.
The big news: Mountains of research reveals that simple things
you do every day might cut your odds of losing your mind to
In search of scientific ways to delay and outlive Alzheimer's and
other dementias, I tracked down thousands of studies and
interviewed dozens of experts. The results in a new book:
100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer's and
Age-Related Memory Loss (Little, Brown; $19.99).
Here are 10 strategies I found most surprising.
1. Have coffee. In an amazing flip-flop, coffee is the new brain tonic.
A large European study showed that drinking three to five cups
of coffee a day in midlife cut Alzheimer's risk 65% in late life.
University of South Florida researcher Gary Arendash credits
caffeine: He says it reduces dementia-causing amyloid in animal
brains. Others credit coffee's antioxidants. So drink up, Arendash
advises, unless your doctor says you shouldn't.
2. Floss. Oddly, the health of your teeth and gums can help predict
dementia. University of Southern California research found that
having periodontal disease before age 35 quadrupled the odds of
dementia years later. Older people with tooth and gum disease
score lower on memory and cognition tests, other studies show. 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 a book, says UCLA's Gary Small, who
used brain MRIs to prove it. The biggest surprise: Novice Internet
surfers, ages 55 to 78, activated key memory and learning centers
in the brain after only a week of web surfing for an hour a day.
4. Grow new brain cells. Impossible, scientists used to say. Now
it's believed that thousands of brain cells are born daily. The trick
is to keep the newborns alive. What works: aerobic exercise
(such as a brisk 30-minute walk every day), strenuous mental
activity, eating salmon and other fatty fish, and avoiding obesity,
chronic stress, sleep deprivation, heavy drinking and vitamin B
5. Drink apple juice. Apple juice can push production of the
"memory chemical" acetylcholine; that's the way the popular
Alzheimer's drug Aricept works, says Thomas Shea, Ph.D., of
the University of Massachusetts. He was surprised that old mice
given apple juice did better on learning and memory tests than
mice that received water. A dose for humans: 16 ounces, or two
to three apples a day.
6. Protect your head. Blows to the head, even mild ones early in
life, increase odds of dementia years later. Pro football players
have 19 times the typical rate of memory-related diseases.
Alzheimer's is four times more common in elderly who suffer a
head injury, Columbia University finds. Accidental falls doubled an older person's odds of dementia five years later in another study.
Wear seat belts and helmets, fall-proof your house, and don't
7. Meditate. Brain scans show that people who meditate regularly
have less cognitive decline and brain shrinkage - a classic sign
of Alzheimer's - as they age. Andrew Newberg of the University
of Pennsylvania School of Medicine says yoga meditation of 12
minutes a day for two months improved blood flow and cognitive
functioning in seniors with memory problems.
8. Take D. A "severe deficiency" of vitamin D boosts older Americans'
risk of cognitive impairment 394%, an alarming study by England's
University of Exeter finds. And most Americans lack vitamin D.
Experts recommend a daily 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 purpose in life, physical activity and
mentally demanding leisure activities - makes your brain better able
to tolerate plaques and tangles. You can even have significant
Alzheimer's pathology and no symptoms of dementia if you have
high cognitive reserve, says David Bennett, M.D., of Chicago's
Rush University Medical Center.
10. Avoid infection. Astonishing new evidence 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 virus is incriminated in
60% of Alzheimer's cases. The theory: Infections trigger excessive
beta amyloid "gunk" that kills brain cells. Proof is still lacking, but
why not avoid common infections and take appropriate vaccines,
antibiotics and antiviral agents?
What to Drink for Good Memory
- A great way to keep your aging memory sharp and avoid Alzheimer'sExcerpted from Jean Carper's newest book:
is to drink the right stuff.
a. Tops: Juice. A glass of any fruit or vegetable juice three times
a week slashed Alzheimer's odds 76% in Vanderbilt University
research. Especially protective: blueberry, grape and apple juice,
say other studies.
b. Tea: Only a cup of black or green tea a week cut rates of cognitive
decline in older people by 37%, reports the Alzheimer's Association.
Only brewed tea works. Skip bottled tea, which is devoid of antioxidants.
c. Caffeine beverages. Surprisingly, caffeine fights memory loss
and Alzheimer's, suggest dozens of studies. Best sources: coffee
(one Alzheimer's researcher drinks five cups a day), tea and
chocolate. Beware caffeine if you are pregnant, have high blood
pressure, insomnia or anxiety.
d. Red wine: If you drink alcohol, a little red wine is most apt to
benefit your aging brain. It's high in antioxidants. Limit it to one
daily glass for women, two for men. Excessive alcohol, notably
binge drinking, brings on Alzheimer's.
e. Two to avoid: Sugary soft drinks, especially those sweetened
with high fructose corn syrup. They make lab animals dumb.
Water with high copper content also can up your odds of Alzheimer's.
Use a water filter that removes excess minerals.
5 Ways to Save Your Kids from Alzheimer's Now
Alzheimer's isn't just a disease that starts in old age. What
happens to your child's brain seems to have a dramatic impact
on his or her likelihood of Alzheimer's many decades later.
Here are five things you can do now to help save your child from
Alzheimer's and memory loss later in life, according to the latest
1. Prevent head blows: Insist your child wear a helmet during
biking, skating, skiing, baseball, football, hockey, and all contact
sports. A major blow as well as tiny repetitive unnoticed concussions
can cause damage, leading to memory loss and Alzheimer's years
2. Encourage language skills: A teenage girl who is a superior
writer is eight times more likely to escape Alzheimer's in late life
than a teen with poor linguistic skills. Teaching young children
to be fluent in two or more languages makes them less vulnerable
3. Insist your child go to college: Education is a powerful Alzheimer's
deterrent. The more years of formal schooling, the lower the odds.
Most Alzheimer's prone: teenage drop outs. For each year of
education, your risk of dementia drops 11%, says a recent
University of Cambridge study.
4. Provide stimulation: Keep your child's brain busy with physical,
mental and social activities and novel experiences. All these
contribute to a bigger, better functioning brain with more so-
called 'cognitive reserve.' High cognitive reserve protects
against memory decline and Alzheimer's.
5. Spare the junk food: Lab animals raised on berries, spinach
and high omega-3 fish have great memories in old age. Those
overfed sugar, especially high fructose in soft drinks, saturated
fat and trans fats become overweight and diabetic, with smaller
brains and impaired memories as they age, a prelude to Alzheimer's.
"100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer's"
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