A patient I???ll call Katherine came to see me a few years ago with a problem that???s becoming more common every day. Two of her mother???s four siblings were coping with early-onset Alzheimer???s disease.
Now Katherine wanted to know if there was anything she could do to spare her mother, Judith, from the ravages of this horrific disease. Since her mother lived in New York, Katherine was gathering information from doctors she thought could help.
???I know there???s no cure, but Mom???s only 68 and in very good health right now,??? Katherine explained. ???I hate to think of her spending years in a facility while her mind deteriorates. There must be something we could do to prevent that.???
Now here???s a wonderful example of being proactive about an issue that most people prefer not to think about until it???s too late. I had to hand it to Katherine???if everyone took control of their health???and their loves ones??? situation???the way she was, there would be far fewer people tearing their hair out over these chronic problems.
And make no mistake???there are going to be millions of new Alzheimer???s patients in the years ahead. If there???s a ray of hope, it???s this:
Even though there???s no ???cure??? for Alzheimer???s, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the risk of developing the disease.
A new study from Finland, for example, confirms earlier findings showing that the personal choices you make each and every day can have a tremendous difference in your risk of developing Alzheimer???s disease.
Researchers found five behaviors that protect against the brain-wasting disease. They are:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a diet of nutritious, whole foods
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Being active mentally and socially
- Managing chronic ailments like depression, diabetes, and high blood pressure
Individuals who practiced all five lifestyle behaviors during the two years of the study had significantly better scores on memory and brain function tests than participants who did not.
And, as I stressed to Katherine, this is not the first time lifestyle practices have outperformed medication with this disease.
A second study, published in the prestigious journal Lancet Neurology, identified an additional two Alzheimer???s protective behaviors???not smoking and continuing to learn.
Experts involved in both studies say that if more people followed these guidelines, millions of people could avoid developing Alzheimer???s disease.
In other words, why wait for scientists to discover a magic bullet? That could be years away. But right now, you have the power to dramatically reduce your dementia risk. Why not take advantage of this knowledge and make the most of it?
I suggested to Katherine that her mother start with the number-one recommendation from the study authors???exercise! They noted that inactivity is the biggest problem for Americans, with an astonishing one-third of the population being sedentary.
Other than an occasional bowling night, Judith was not very active. So I recommended daily walks totaling 40 minutes or so, preferably broken up in two or three shorter walks throughout the day.
The next most important factor in minimizing Alzheimer???s risk was treating depression. This wasn???t a problem for Judith. But if it was, the walking recommendation would help, since exercise consistently turns out to be the best remedy for depression.
In addition, I recommended Judith follow a few other simple suggestions to maximize protection of her precious memories.
One of my top recommendations to Katherine was to make sure her mother realizes how important it is not to let blood sugar levels spiral out of control.
In 2005, a landmark study published in the Journal of Alzheimer???s Disease proposed a theory that???s gaining support. Researchers attributed brain changes that occur with Alzheimer???s to insulin resistance in the brain.
This new theory proposes that Alzheimer???s could be ???diabetes of the brain.???
As I told Katherine, it???s important for her mother to do everything possible now to keep blood sugar levels low and protect her brain from damage caused by insulin resistance.
That means taking all the necessary steps to combat obesity, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes. Even if it turns out there???s nothing to the theory, you???ve done your health a huge favor by keeping insulin and blood sugar levels low.
Take omega-3 supplements: Since the brain is mostly made of fat, it makes sense to supplement with the most brain-friendly fat I know???omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), especially one known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
I explained to Katherine that research shows a link between a decreased risk of dementia and high levels of EFAs. In one study, for example, researchers found that brain volumes were smaller in individuals with the lowest levels of DHA, and their brains showed signs of cognitive impairment, even though they had not been diagnosed with dementia.
Take 1 gram up to three times daily. Look for a sustainable product that???s been purified or molecularly distilled to remove heavy metals and toxins.
Discover curcumin: I recommend curcumin supplements for a number of ailments, simply because it???s so versatile. Here???s a quick look at some of its abilities:
- Reduces inflammation, one of the root causes of all disease
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Reduces the risk of developing certain cancers
- Improves digestion
- Eases joint and muscle pain better than ibuprofen
- Provides antioxidant power five to eight times as strong as vitamins C and E
- Stimulates circulation
Plus, a growing number of studies show that curcumin protects the brain from changes that occur as we age. And we know that in regions of the world where curcumin is an important element in the diet, dementia rates are far lower than they are in the U.S.
I recommended Katherine???s mother take the same thing as my patients???500 mg of curcumin one to three times daily. Look for a product with enhanced absorption or bioavailability, because without that, you???ll only be getting a fraction of a dose.
Being proactive about her mother paid off for Katherine. Judith was willing to make the changes I suggested after seeing what her brother and sister were going through.
And now, several years later, she???s thriving in a senior community where she teaches dance and cooking classes, walks every day, and reports no memory problems.
If you???re concerned about your brain or worried about memory failures, there???s no better time to begin your brain and memory-enhancing program than right now!