Last week my grandfather, Rev. Joe Brown, lost his battle with Alzheimer’s. I also have another very close family member who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Having several family members with this disease has definitely ignited a spark in me to understand more about Alzheimer’s.
Over five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and it affects over 10 million women as the primary caregivers, advocates and caregivers, according to studies conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s is currently the 7th leading cause of death and mortality rates will continue to rise as the baby boomer generation ages. Alzheimer’s is particularly challenging because it is a progressive disease, in which the symptoms gradually worsen over time and there is currently no cure. Research has come to light in recently that show treatments that can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and improve the quality of life for both those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
Unfortunately there is not a clear-cut prevention strategy for Alzheimer’s, but recent studies do show certain foods, diet and lifestyle that can be therapeutic for treating Alzheimer’s and contribute to prevention. Here are the top five things you can do to help prevent and even treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s:
1. Eat a Mediterranean diet
A recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Volume 20, Number 3 / 2010) found that people who regularly consumed a Mediterranean diet were 38 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. A Mediterranean diet is rich in nuts, healthy fats (from salad dressings, avocados), tomatoes, fish, cruciferous vegetables, dark and leafy vegetables and fruits. A Mediterranean diet is also known for being low in red meat, organ meat, butter and high-fat dairy.
2. Quit smoking
A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that smoking is directly linked to dramatic increase in dementia in later years. The study found that those who reported smoking two packs of cigarettes a day had a 100% greater risk of dementia diagnosis than non-smokers.
3. Eat celery and green pepper
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at the effects of luteolin on the brains of mice, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Luteolin, which is found in celery and green pepper, was found to reduce brain inflammation caused by Alzheimer’s and can ease symptoms of memory loss.
4. Drink coffee
The European Journal of Neurology found that those with an increased caffeine intake had a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those who with little or no intake of caffeine. Another study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that caffeine significantly decreased abnormal levels of protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease and 50 percent reduction in levels of beta amyloid, a substance forming sticky clumps of plaques in the brain of those with Alzheimer’s. This means that not only have these studies found that caffeine can be a critical in preventing Alzheimer’s, but it can actually be a therapeutic treatment for those already diagnosed with the disease. This is a huge development! This is also a great excuse to continue your daily latte habit.
Several studies have shown the benefits of exercise in persons with Alzheimer’s. The Journal of the American Medical Associate published a study that found that exercise training for patients with Alzheimer disease not only improved physical conditioning and extended their independent mobility, but it also helped improve depression. Independent mobility is important as we age, especially for those with Alzheimer’s, because one symptom of Alzheimer’s that is often not discussed is the lack of balance, falls and tripping. This leads to injury and the need for constant supervision in Alzheimer’s patients. By incorporating 60 minutes of exercise on most days of the week, and “active” days of rest, one can greatly improve their mobility as they age.
While there is not a “cure” for Alzheimer’s today, that does not stop researcher’s from working hard to find new ways to prevent, treat and cure the disease. I am passionate about contributing to finding a solution to this rapidly growing diagnosis. I am walking in the Memory Walk in Charlotte, NC on Saturday, November 13 to help raise money to fight against this devastating disease. Visit Memory Walk 2010 to find a Memory Walk in your area. You can also find out more information about Alzheimer’s disease and prevention at Alzheimer’s Association.
Do you know anyone affected by Alzheimer’s? Have you read about any therapeutic measures those with Alzheimer’s can do to lessen the worsening of symptoms?