Top Five Things You Can Do Today to Combat Alzheimer’s

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.

5.       Exercise

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?

67 thoughts on “Top Five Things You Can Do Today to Combat Alzheimer’s

  1. Please accept my condolences first for your grandpa.
    I can not believe the prevention so simple. I am especially happy about the findings in favor of coffee.

  2. My mother seems to be sliding down that road and it’s heartbreaking. It feels cruel for me to ask “how was your day?” knowing it’s a challenge for her to remember. Thanks for the blog.

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  4. I have a good friend with a mother that is struggling with this disease. She recently fell twice in just about a 3 month period and broke her hip–both times! She is probably going to have to remain in a care facility for the remainder of her life. This disease seems to have greatly affected her ability to take care of herself or be alone.
    My friend is trying to do things now to prevent this from happening to her own self. She takes vitamins and is trying to be better at what she eats. I will send this info along to her, as she does not want to be a burden to her own daughters when she gets older and worries about this because of her mother having the disease.
    I’ve also heard doing crossword puzzles and other types of mind and memory games can help to keep your mind crisp and clear. Sort of a “use it or lose it” type of a thing.

  5. I’m so sorry about your grandfather and for all others and their families who are struggling with this. While there is still a bit of controversy over what, exactly, has an impact on the disease, hopefully people will feel empowered to change their lifestyles as a result of this post. Other things are avoiding stress, controlling colesterol, and learning something new.

  6. Thank you for posting! And congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    It’s inspiring that you rose from your tragedy and decided to educate others.
    I certainly look forward to adding a Mediterranean influence to my meals.

  7. I heard in the news about a study regarding aspirin- taking 1/4 of an aspirin a day (starting from when you are in your 40s…) it amongst other health benefits – reduces signs/delays onset of dementia…
    Very sorry to hear about your grandfather.

  8. Fantasic informative article. It is such a sad disease, but it is hopeful to know maybe there are things that can help. I accidently gave this article one star but meant to give it five!

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    • Thanks so much! I was so happy to hear that coffee has a whole host of benefits! God thing since I can’t give up my morning cup! Now if only half and half was found healthy too LOL

  10. I’m sorry about the loss of your grandfather.

    Thanks for this excellent overview, and congratulations on making Freshly Pressed. My dad had Alzheimer’s, as did his identical twin, so I’m very interested in this topic. There’s so much info out there, but you summed up the basics well. Boiled down the advice is: What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.

    Another risk factor is having had a head injury, so protect your noggin!

  11. Thanks for the info. I’m sooo sorry about your Grandfather. I feel your pain. I have been dealing with the sickness affecting my Mom for about 5 years, so sad, she is slowly loosing it more and more , and it breaks my heart every time I talk to her to hear how she is fading away. I was glad to hear about the turmeric and coffee, though, so thanks. Good luck to you on your future. Take Care!!

    evelyngarone.com

  12. Thank you so much for your research!
    I have read that selenium, found in rose hips, broccoli, collard greens(green leafy veggies)etc., is helpful for those suffering with Alzheimer’s disease.

    I can relate to your loss. I lost my Uncle to this disease. I hope you find comfort in knowing that your grandfather is at peace.

    Once faced with a challenging illness, my body intuitively led me to the correct nutritional choices. Fresh pressed celery, carrot, and fennel juice became a “must have”. Green salads with loads of beets, red onions, and sunflower seeds…a necessity. And, last but not least, nasturtium flowers plus the leaves.
    I appreciate your post and will tune in to your blog.
    Congrats on your Carolina magazine venture. I will check it out.
    -from a Carolina woman:-)

  13. I am so sorry about your grandfather. What a great memorial to him to spread information to others about avoiding that terrible disease.

    Great blog! I am on a journey towards healthiness myself, after years of neglecting my health. I look forward to reading regularly.

  14. Great post, these are all great ways to reduce the risk of ending up with Alzheimer’s. It was so sad when my grandfather spent his last years in such painful confusion.
    Just a thought: A healthier caffeinated alternative to coffee would be Green Tea.
    Unfortunately, many individuals are misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer’s when inevitably they have contracted Lyme Disease. The American Medical Association (AMA) discredits these finding, and it is so sad to see such an enormous amount of people suffer needlessly. For those interested in understanding more about Lyme & Chronic Lyme Disease, my advice to you would be to watch a documentary called ‘Under Our Skin.’
    In addition to Alzheimer’s, Lyme disease can be misdiagnosed as ALS, Fibromyalgia, Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Dementia, a multitude of psychiatric illnesses etc.
    The more awareness we bring to this subject the better 🙂

  15. My deepest condolences to you and your family on the loss of your grandfather.

    Also, thank you for the great work you’re doing in putting these tips together. It’s a shame that Alzheimer’s is so poorly understood; the research I’ve been reading recently suggests that scientists are all but at a stalemate in their quest to understand the disease and potential treatments.

    It seems that we have the many-hands-on-the-elephant problem here: we keep seeing expressions of the disease but nothing we can tag as etiological.

    With people living longer and science ever evolving, I hold out hope that we’ll all soon understand and treat this terrible disease more efficiently and effectively.

    Thanks again!

    -Mike Raven
    http://survivingcorporate.wordpress.com

  16. My grandma recently passed away at the age of 81 and she had what the doctors described as “early on-set Dementia” a.k.a Alzheimer’s. It didn’t kill her (the culprit was leukemia), but while she lived with it, it really depressed her and lowered her quality of life drastically. She definitely drank a lot of coffee and she never smoked, but she wasn’t big on the Mediterranean diet lol. Now I wonder how her life would have been different if she had followed these tips as a younger woman.

  17. Thankyou for your post it’s always good to get tips.. My father suffers from alzheimers so it’s hard managing it and it runs in his side of the family.. What I’ve discovered is to make sure your minds well being is looked aftered aswell, as long term mental health issues that aren’t managed earlier in life increase the risk of getting alzheimers.

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  19. This is wonderful information and I can definitely relate. My grandmother on my dad’s side is currently suffering from Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. It has hit her so fast and it is so devastating. Three months ago she was speaking coherently, walking relatively fine, and remembering names, faces, events, etc. Now she cannot walk or go to the bathroom, she speaks gibberish words and noises, does not seem to recognize anyone, and most of what she says makes no sense and has no relevance to the conversations we unsuccessfully try to have with her. Alzheimer’s also struck her mother and her older sister, so it seems that she is going down the same path. It is so sad and heart-breaking to watch her health and mind plummet like this.

    My grandfather on my mother’s side is also starting to be really forgetful, paranoid, and over-anxious. While we’re not sure if it’s definitely Alzheimer’s, it certainly is the start of something that we are afraid to see happen to him.

    Thank you so much for your post.

  20. My father-in-law suffered from dementia for many many years until he finally passed on; it was never officially declared Alzheimer’s (apparently there are some 80 forms of different dementias out there), but the effect on him, and those around him, was the same.
    It is a horrible, wretched, inhumane, dreadful disease, the only little light of goodness coming out of it being the warmth and kindness that those around him — even complete strangers — would extend, as they innately recognized that this gregariously friendly man was just . . . not . . . all there.
    I took Dad out on shopping expeditions for years, my youngest daughter accompanying me as an extra assistant, and we saw this generous kindness happen over and over. I am glad that people were kind to Dad.
    My sympathies to you for the loss of your beloved grandfather.

  21. dear Stacy

    I hope that your healthy eating writing goes very well but please don’t attempt to write something that you don’t seem to know much about it and probably read somewhere else like we all done.
    Some of us have experienced Alzheimer very very close through family and when you read the five things to do to avoid it, it makes me angry especially because I KNOW it is just bullshit.
    Don’t give people false hope because this desease really hurts and it’s not right to read more fabricated facts based on trendy topics.

  22. Stacy sorry for the previous ranting but it’s something that upset me dearly when I read about this. My mother is affected and not a distant relative and it hurts badly.
    The woman I based my life on. The woman that now is not herself anymore and also the woman that did all of those 5 things that studies around the word bullshit us with. She still got it and it hurts. Is this a single case? No I know many others like my mom and I can categorically say that those 5 things could easily be replaced with any other 5 things and still have the same meaning. None.
    When studies like these are done they are sometimes distorted and we all know that. The reasons are many.
    I just wish to hear the truth but I know that it’s too much to ask.
    Bye M

  23. This is helpful for a lot of people out there. I work at a nursing home and I see residents with this horrible disease from start to finish. It’s truly devastating. I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m happy that you are taking what you know and what you’ve learned from the situation to help others.

    marlowesnymph.wordpress.com

  24. Sorry about your grandfather. This was a good read and I learned some new tips, especially 3 & 4. I have a friend who’s family has a history of Alzheimer’s so this helps a great deal. Thank you.

  25. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    This was one of the most interesting articles on Alzheimer’s, I have ever read. It wasn’t scary, like I was expecting it to be. I find Alzheimer’s scary since it also runs in our family. Great information on the food. At least it can be prevented in some cases.

  26. Falling at the fourth hurdle: Caffeine. Can’t metabolize it. Might possibly share this genetic characteristic with Ozzy Osbourne who also gets the jitters after the first hit. My heart starts racing. My stomach takes revenge. Maybe I am a goner already.

    You mean well, for sure. But there is a danger – when being specific about what might or might not help prevent a condition – of either stating the obvious or putting the living daylights fear into someone given to hypochondria.

    Interestingly you didn’t mention the link made some years ago between using aluminium pans and Alzheimers. I was perfectly compos mentis at the time but all my aluminium pans flew out of the window faster than you can say “Demented”. It was excellent new for stainless steel pans sales and Le Creuset.

    U

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  28. So sorry to hear about your loss. =(

    To answer your questions, my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, my grandfather is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, and my husband’s grandmother is the last stages of Alzheimer’s. Actually, she just moved into an assisted living home (not a nursing home) this last weekend. It’s so sad for the person living with it, but I think it’s harder on the family to see their loved ones forget who they are, and to see them struggle with their lives as they lose their memories. The only reason my grandfather is not in an assisted living home or a nursing home is because he is at the point where he is only awake about 5 hours a day, and his wife is able to manage.

    Thank you for the information. I’m so glad I stopped smoking, and that I love coffee. I am particularly interested whenever I read anything that supports the use of caffeine (mild to moderate consumption). “Funny,” my husband’s Nana is Mormon and avoided caffeine at all costs. However, my grandfather had coffee every morning and he still developed the disease. Just two examples out of thousands, I know.

    Again, sorry for the loss of your grandfather.

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  30. Very interesting post.
    Last night I saw the movie “Iris” with Judy Dench and Kate Winslet in the title role. Describing the life with progressing Alzheimers of British author Iris Murdoch. It brought back my memories of caring for my grandmother. While my grandmothers illness lasted almost 25 years from the first moment it was discovered and still was not common dementia, the movie shows the stages in fast motion. I can recommend this movie but it kept me awake afterwards…

    Originally from Northern Europe, I am very weary of the term “Mediterranean diet”. The research for this diet was done in war times and does not reflect how rich the diet is today. Following recipe’s of the 50’s were rich in fat and sugar and celebrated food availability after tough war times. People adapting to today’s Mediterranean diet would end up with similar civilzation induced diseases as anywhere else in the rich world. Especially if they adapt the Americanized versions and pour olive oil on it.

    Another factor I recommend looking out for is who makes your food – taking tomato for tomato and thinking our food is still natural and nutritious as it used to be for centuries is not safe anymore. Just using Mediterranean recipes with supermarket food won’t do it, as so many food groups have been tinkered with. Maybe meat and dairy was safe at some point but it is not anymore with what is fed and vaccinated into farm animals. Just alone for that reason I lost my appetite and would only buy animal products with extreme caution, if at all. Likewise I would take a look at how much the plant food on your plate was sprayed and GMOed.
    And lastly cookware. Aluminum cookware, not only your pots and pans – takeout food, cookout food, buffet food, doggie bag food – is often stored and served in aluminum dishes. This does not only produce huge amounts of problem garbage, and red sludge during production, (currently threatening the Moldova) but is also linked to Alzheimers. Likewise aluminum is found in food, such as baking soda.

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