Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia through proper nutrition.

Age and genetics are factors that cannot be controlled, but in the case of uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, fatty foods that cause obesity and lack of exercise, preventive action can be taken to help reduce your risk of developing dementia.

Most experts agree that Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) is the result of several conditions and factors, such as age, genetics, environment, lifestyle and other medical conditions.

Prevention is a general term used for any dietary or lifestyle change that is thought to prevent the onset of disease symptoms as much as possible or slow the progression of the disease in its early stages.

It is important to note that none of the prevention strategies have been shown to be effective once a person is in the advanced stages of the disease. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the stage of Alzheimer’s disease that is considered to be influenced by prevention measures. MCI involves mild problems with reasoning and judgement, language, memory and thinking skills. Although considered mild, the symptoms are more severe than normal age-related changes.

As the disease progresses and symptoms worsen, later stages of the disease include the onset of dementia. At this stage the person is no longer able to manage the activities of daily living (ADL) independently.

Clinical trials aimed at preventing dementia primarily involve those factors that prevent the onset or improve memory in the early stages of the disease.

So what are these diet and lifestyle changes that could possibly slow the onset of the disease?

“Alzheimer’s Diet”

The diet that has been studied most for dementia prevention is the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean-DASH intervention for neurodegenerative delay or MIND diet is a hybrid of two different diets combined, drawing attention to its possible positive effects on preventing cognitive decline in older people.

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), developed to reduce high blood pressure, is another diet known for its effects in the early stages of Alzheimer’s dementia (AD).

Although many diets are said to promote brain and heart health, no diet is as strongly supported by clinical research as the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet gained popularity after it was observed that people from Mediterranean regions of the world seemed to have a lower incidence of heart disease. Not only were the people of the Mediterranean Sea healthier, they also lived longer. So researchers began to look more closely at what these people (mainly in Greece and southern Italy) ate and what their lifestyle was like.

As more research has become available, scientists have begun to realize that cardiovascular health has a huge impact on the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. They came up with a saying: “what’s good for the heart is good for the brain”. Thus, the Mediterranean diet began to be studied in terms of brain health.

Scientists have found that the Mediterranean diet reduces inflammation, lowers oxidative stress and helps prevent diabetes. A 2015 study of 6,000 seniors found that study participants who followed the Mediterranean diet (and the MIND diet) showed a 35% lower risk of cognitive decline.

Mediterranean Diet

Here is a breakdown of some of the foods included in the diet:
Wide variety of vegetables leafy greens and other vegetables with deep colours (such as beetroot, bright red peppers, aubergines and sweet potatoes)
Beans andpulses (plant protein and healthy carbohydrates)
Fruit coloured fruit (especially red fruit, but also apples, grapes, pears and many others)
Fish fresh, wild fish eaten two or three times a week (such as cod, mackerel, oysters, sardines and salmon), which is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids
Olive oil and nuts
Limited amount of low-fat dairy for protein (plain yogurt and milk)
Moderate amounts of lean meat no more than twice a week (such as skinless chicken or turkey)
Olive oil at every meal
Fresh herbs and spices
Red wine (1 glass per day)
Cereals wholemeal (complex carbohydrates instead of white bread)
Very limited quantities of red meat

Foods to avoid:
Eggs, low-fat cheese, poultry and full-fat yoghurt
Fried food
Processed foods (doughnuts, cakes, prepared packaged foods)
Red meat must be limited (rare)
Starchy foods (white bread and other foods made with white flour)
Sugary foods (pre-packaged cereals, fruit juices, sugar)
Unhealthy saturated fats (butter)
White pastes

Antioxidants that impact the onset of Alzheimer’s

The colourful fruits and vegetables included in the Mediterranean diet are loaded with antioxidants, chemical compounds (derived from food) that protect cells from the negative effects of free radicals.

Free radicals are molecules produced from the destruction of oxygen that occurs during normal metabolism. Exposure to environmental pollutants such as cigarette smoke or radiation also causes free radicals.

Antioxidants and the brain

Recent studies have shown that antioxidants reverse some of the symptoms of ageing, such as cognitive impairment. The brain has a very high level of metabolic activity and therefore uses a large amount of oxygen. The high level of oxygen utilization makes the brain susceptible to free radical attack.

One example of adverse reactions resulting from free radical attack on the brain is memory loss. Studies in laboratory animals have shown that a type of antioxidant called “flavonoids” relieves Alzheimer’s symptoms, reduces the risk of heart disease and reduces some of the symptoms of diabetes. Flavonoids are available in apples, berries, citrus fruits, citrus juices, legumes and red wine.

Fruit and other vegetables with high levels of antioxidants:

Sfecla
Currants, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cherry
Corn
Sandpiper
Red and green peppers
Kale and other leafy green vegetables
Onions
Oranges
Plum
Raisin
Red grapes

Top 6 Antioxidants:

1. Lutein-Zeaxanthin

An important nutrient found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli helps protect the nerve cell from the negative effects of free radicals.

2. Lycopene

A natural substance that gives fruits and vegetables their red hues, found in tomatoes, guava, papaya and apricots, may reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

3. Selenium

Provides immune support, protects against free radicals, found in fish, shellfish and chicken. Brazil nuts are a very good source of selenium.

4. Vitamin A

From fruits and vegetables such as: sweet potatoes, carrots, helps regulate the immune system.

5. Vitamin C

Water-soluble vitamin that cannot be stored (which means it must be consumed regularly). Foods richest in vitamin C include red berries, lemons, limes and kiwi fruit. Vitamin C also helps prevent free radicals, supports the immune system and contributes to healthy tissue development.

6. Vitamin E

An antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage, found in whole grains, corn, nuts and seeds.

Other prevention methods

Studies have shown that several lifestyle changes can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. These causes include:

Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption and quitting smoking
Regular engagement in social activities
Getting eight hours of restful sleep every day
Daily exercise (including cardio and resistance training)
Implement regular screening for diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases
Effective stress management
Stimulating the brain through reading, writing or other activities

Cutting-edge research has revealed that Electrical stimulation of the brain makes it possible for an ageing brain to function like a young one again – according to LiveScience.com – April 2019.

Thus, a brief session of electrical stimulation can reverse some of the effects of brain ageing; thus there is hope that this method will improve cognition in both healthy adults and patients diagnosed with AD or other types of dementia, offering the hope that brain changes caused by ageing will no longer be considered irreversible.

Click here to find out more

Conclusions

In conclusion, certain dietary and lifestyle changes were found to promote brain health and improve cognitive functioning in older adults. Interventions are most effective when implemented earlier in the disease process. The strongest research indicates that people who implement preventive measures during their youth are the most protected against cognitive decline.

Although we often use the phrase “better late than never”, waiting for the diagnosis of dementia certainty in Alzheimer’s disease before starting a healthy diet or changing lifestyle is far from an effective prevention plan!

What diet and lifestyle changes have you made to prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

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