Ways To Prevent Alzheimer's Disease Naturally
Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of Americans. It is labeled "irreversible" in the current medical context. Taking neuroprotective ayurvedic or TCM herbs, practicing yoga and meditation, or even doing some "brain workouts" every other day could make all the difference. Eating brain-friendly foods like berries, walnuts and quitting smoking could help cut risk factors.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that is believed to affect an estimated 5.4 million or more Americans.1 Those affected by Alzheimer’s see a gradual deterioration in thinking skills and memory. This interferes with carrying out simple tasks and can heavily impact quality of life. What makes it harder is that as of now, there are no known “cures” and the disease is labeled “irreversible.” Which is why there is so much emphasis on preventive care as well as alternative methods to slow the progress of the disease.2
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s typically affects seniors and is the most common form of dementia in the United States. Symptoms usually first surface in the sixties. Early-onset Alzheimer’s affects under 5 percent of those with the disease, with symptoms showing up anywhere from age 30 to 60. While genetics do a play part in bringing on Alzheimer’s in some people, other factors could play a part as well. Like the impact of other health problems including cardiovascular problems, and metabolic issues like obesity and diabetes. Diet, physical activity, mental stimulation, and social engagement may also influence the risk of developing the problem.3
Prevention Of Alzheimer’s
As the Alzheimer’s Association explains, the answer to whether Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented isn’t clear just yet. What is known, however, is that most cases are the result of complex interactions between multiple lifestyle, genetic, environmental, and medical factors. And many of these can be controlled. So while you can’t do much about how old you are or the genes you have inherited, you can certainly work at getting physically active, eating healthy, losing weight, or getting your blood pressure in check. And it is these aspects that you can use to lower your risk of developing the disease. Reversing the damage isn’t possible, and slowing the progress once it sets in may be harder. But you can get the odds in your favor with some of the natural solutions that follow.4
8 Ways To Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally
While the research is promising, with the National Institute on Aging backing multiple clinical trials, studies so far have not conclusively shown that lifestyle changes or dietary supplements can prevent or slow Alzheimer’s.5 However, while further studies and trials are on, there are some things you can do to improve your health both mental and physical. This, in turn, could possibly improve your chances of warding off Alzheimer’s
Your diet plays a central role in your mental and physical health, making it an important part of a holistic approach to keeping dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay for as long as possible.
Brain-Friendly Foods: While there is no magic pill or specific diet that can reverse or prevent Alzheimer’s, there are foods you can eat that are good for your brain in general.
- Blueberries are rich in antioxidants that can help improve your spatial memory.6
- Walnuts, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can prevent inflammation thereby reducing damage to your brain. Studies have found that having as little as a handful a day can help improve how subjects perform on cognitive tests.7
- Vitamin B12 rich foods like shellfish, liver, or soy can help your nerve cells develop normally so your memory functions well and could possibly delay the onset of dementia.8
Heart-Friendly Foods: Keeping your weight within healthy limits so that you are not overweight or obese is good for your cardiovascular health. As experts now know, there is a link between your cardiovascular health and the health of your mind or brain. Without a well-functioning vascular system, your blood vessels do not supply the nourishment the brain needs. And that could compound problems like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Keeping cholesterol levels in check, avoiding hypertension in midlife, as well as steering clear of midlife obesity and diabetes, all help improve cardiovascular health and seem to also be important in lowering risk of dementia.9 Eat foods that are good for your heart. High-fiber foods like whole grains, lean protein like fish and chicken, low-fat dairy, nuts, legumes, and plenty of fresh produce can go a long way in keeping up heart health.10
Staying physically active can help brain health in addition to keeping your cardiovascular system in good shape. As researchers point out from one animal study on primates, this is possibly because exercising improves blood flow to your brain.11 Health authorities suggest that you exercise about 150 minutes a week. This moderate intensity aerobic exercise will help both physical as well as mental health, not to mention the risk of cardiovascular disease, which may in turn delay the onset of dementia.12
If you can also manage some sunshine when you exercise that’s even better. That’s because your body produces Vitamin D when it gets enough sunlight exposure. And this vitamin is needed to protect you from neurodegenerative diseases as well as neuroimmune disorders.13
4. Mental Workouts And Social Activity
Staying mentally and socially active could also help. The National Health Services, UK, suggests taking up activities like reading, writing, enrolling in adult education programs, playing a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, or taking up a sport that also involves social engagement like bowling or golf.14 Doing puzzles or a crossword or Sudoku can be a good way to spend your mornings and are a great workout for the mind. The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation suggest doing mental exercises they call “Brain Aerobics” thrice a week for at least 20 minutes at a time.15
5. Quitting Smoking
Research has shown that smoking heavily when you are middle-aged increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.16 If you’re a smoker, quitting could help improve your cardiovascular health, which in turn could improve the blood supply to your brain. This could help with brain function, as vessels would supply the organ with nutrients and oxygen it needs to thrive or even just operate normally.17
6. Yoga And Meditation
One study highlighted the benefits of yoga and meditation along with several other actions, including getting adequate sleep and cutting out all processed food, gluten and simple carbohydrates from the diet, to help with fighting memory loss. The 36 point therapeutic regimen for the health of the brain included a suggestion to start doing yoga and to practice meditation (twice daily) to combat stress.18 According to experts, yoga is able to help you treat chronic stress which is responsible for adversely affecting brain structures and causing inflammation in the brain and central nervous system. This inflammation due to stress damages cognition and memory centers in the brain and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease as well as other aging-related disorders.19
Ayurveda has some herbal remedies that have been used for nearly 4000 years, and others which are now being explored for their potential in mainstream clinical trials and studies.20
- Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is a herbal remedy that is used for treating attention deficit disorders as well as memory problems.
- Guggulu (Commiphora mukul): Research has shown that this ayurvedic remedy with antioxidant and cholesterol lowering effects can protect against some forms of dementia.
- Shankhpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), another plant used in Ayurveda, helped enhance the memory of test subjects in an animal study, by increasing the functional growth of their neurons.
- Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is said to help improve memory and increase intelligence.
- Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi): Animal studies have found this herb can help reverse aging induced amnesia. This has spurred interest in its application to restore memory due to age-related dementia.
+Turmeric: Anti-inflammatory remedy turmeric is also being explored for use in treating Alzheimer’s after some promising animal studies.
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Among its many benefits is the possible application in Alzheimer’s. The neuroprotective potential of the herb is being investigated for use in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. These effects are possibly connected to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.21
8. Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine has used herbal extracts like Huperzine A (derived from Huperzia serrata) for their antioxidant as well as neuroprotective properties for centuries. More recent animal studies have shown potential for the herbal remedy that can aid learning and memory. Ginkgo biloba extracts also have such neuroprotective and antioxidant benefits. The root of Polygala tenuifolia (Polygalaceae) is prescribed in TCM as a cerebrotonic and for treating forgetfulness and amnesia among other things. It is supposed to help strengthen the memory. All of these herbs are being explored in studies and trials to see if they can directly impact Alzheimer’s disease, but are likely to be relevant to the treatment.22
References [ + ]
|1, 4.||↑||Prevention and Risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Alzheimer’s Association.|
|2, 3.||↑||Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet. Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center.|
|5.||↑||What Do We Know About Preventing Alzheimer’s? NIH Medline Plus. 2015.|
|6.||↑||Casadesus, Gemma, Barbara Shukitt-Hale, Heather M. Stellwagen, Xiongwei Zhu, Hyoung-Gon Lee, Mark A. Smith, and James A. Joseph. “Modulation of hippocampal plasticity and cognitive behavior by short-term blueberry supplementation in aged rats.” Nutritional neuroscience 7, no. 5-6 (2004): 309-316.|
|7.||↑||Memory Boost From Walnuts. UCLA Longevity Center.|
|8, 13.||↑||Bourre, Jean-Marie. “Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 1: micronutrients.” Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging 10, no. 5 (2006): 377.|
|9, 17.||↑||Alzheimer’s Association. “2016 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia 12, no. 4 (2016): 459-509.|
|10.||↑||The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. American Heart Association.|
|11.||↑||Rhyu, I. J., J. A. Bytheway, S. J. Kohler, H. Lange, K. J. Lee, J. Boklewski, K. McCormick et al. “Effects of aerobic exercise training on cognitive function and cortical vascularity in monkeys.” Neuroscience 167, no. 4 (2010): 1239-1248.|
|12, 14.||↑||Preventing Alzheimer’s disease. NHS.|
|15.||↑||Pillar 3: Exercise & Brain Aerobics. Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation.|
|16.||↑||Rusanen, Minna, Miia Kivipelto, Charles P. Quesenberry, Jufen Zhou, and Rachel A. Whitmer. “Heavy smoking in midlife and long-term risk of Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia.” Archives of internal medicine 171, no. 4 (2011): 333-339.|
|18.||↑||Bredesen, Dale E. “Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program.” Aging (Albany NY) 6, no. 9 (2014): 707-717.|
|19.||↑||The Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Yoga Journal.|
|20.||↑||Rao, Rammohan V., Olivier Descamps, Varghese John, and Dale E. Bredesen. “Ayurvedic medicinal plants for Alzheimer’s disease: a review.” Alzheimer’s research & therapy 4, no. 3 (2012): 22.|
|21, 22.||↑||Sun, Zhi-Kun, Hong-Qi Yang, and Sheng-Di Chen. “Traditional Chinese medicine: a promising candidate for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.” Translational neurodegeneration 2, no. 1 (2013): 6.|