Alzheimer's disease, or AD, affects over five million people in the United States alone. While family history can definitely play a role in your risk of inheriting the disease, there are a number of ways to slow or stop the progression of AD in many healthy adults. The following guide provides an overview of some ways you may be able to keep your brain healthy and your cognitive functions intact, even if AD runs in your family.
AD Runs in Families
Alzheimer's disease is hereditary. The Alzheimer's Association has identified genetics as a major risk factor of Alzheimer's. Plus, the risk of developing Alzheimer's increases if there is more than one family member with the disease.
So, does this mean you are doomed to inherit AD someday if your parent or grandparent was diagnosed with it? Not necessarily. Although a sure-fire way to prevent AD has yet to be discovered, ABC News reports that you may be able to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's by up to 80 percent by making changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Avoid Certain Types of Fats
Besides increasing cholesterol levels, eating saturated fats and trans fats produces free radicals and causes inflammation in the brain. These types of "bad" fats also support the production of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain – a telltale characteristic of AD. Reduce or eliminate your consumption of full-fat dairy, red meat, fried foods and foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils.
Increase Intake of Omega-3s
Studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids reduce beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, thereby decreasing your risk of developing Alzheimer's. Foods high in omega-3s include salmon, mackerel and other cold-water fish. Fish oil supplements are also helpful for increasing omega-3 levels.
Drink Green Tea
Regular consumption of green tea can increase the brain's cognitive function and enhance memory, according to researchers at the University of Basel. An organic molecule in the tea, known as EGCG (short for epigallocatechin-3 gallate), prompts the production of new brain cells in the hippocampus and creates new neural connections between the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain. White and oolong teas are also great for the brain.
Get Vitamin E from Food Sources
Adequate Vitamin E intake has been linked to a decreased risk of developing AD. This can easily be achieved each day by eating a handful of nuts or seeds, or by adding more vitamin E rich foods to your diet such as avocados, red bell peppers, tomatoes and spinach. Keep in mind that vitamin E supplements don't seem to offer the same brain benefits, so eat your vitamin E instead of popping a pill.
Supplement with Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 has been shown to slow down or reduce brain atrophy and improve memory, so it's important to get adequate amounts of this vitamin each day (about 2.4 mcg daily). Vitamin B12 can be found in animal proteins and fortified foods. If you are a senior or a vegetarian, your doctor may encourage you to take B12 supplements if you don't get enough of this vitamin in your daily diet.
Stimulate the Brain
Learning new things and challenging your brain on a regular basis keeps brain connections alive, enabling you to stay sharp mentally. Fun activities like crossword puzzles, memorization games and brain teasers increase your capacity to maintain cognitive associations. Staying mentally active will keep those neurons firing, while creating new pathways in the brain.
Research continues in the quest to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. In the meantime, integrate these tips into your daily life to help boost your brain function and stay mentally alert. And for more information and tips, visit a treatment center that focuses on Alzheimer's, like Alta Ridge Communities.