The prospect of losing the
ability to think, reason and remember people,
places and events strikes fear into the hearts of
everyone as they age, and rightly so. Dementia is on
the rise, every seven seconds a person’s future is
forever altered by the diagnosis. In the US ,an
estimated 4.5 million Americans live with
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common form of
dementia. Experts expect that number to quadruple
by 2050, when the last baby boomers turn 90.
Genetics Doesn’t Dictate Fate.
A growing sense of helplessness has emerged as the
evidence mounts that AD risk is influenced by your
genes. The most recent evidence of this is from
researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, who
looked at the genes of 100 healthy 90 year olds
living independently and found they all had genetic
profiles that protected them against AD.
But is senility an inevitable
result of aging for everyone else? Not at all.
Heredity accounts for relatively few cases of
dementia, even AD. Moreover, there’s plenty you can
do to help maintain your brain for years to come,
which conveniently includes the same things you do
to prevent heart disease and stroke. Here is some
advice for staving off dementia.
Protect Heart and Head.
Vascular dementia results from small strokes
(transient ischemic attacks also known as TIAs) that
alter blood supply to the brain, crippling cognitive
ability. To reduce the risk of TIA’s, control blood
pressure and blood cholesterol with a healthy
lifestyle and medication as needed:
plenty of fruits and vegetables to boost your
processed foods to reduce sodium intake.
saturated and trans fats by eating less meat and
more fish, whole- grains, nuts, seeds and low-fat
Mind Your B’s. People with AD tend to have
higher blood levels of homocysteine, a rogue amino
acid that increases the risk of dementia. Getting
enough of the B vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid (folate)
keeps homosysteine in check:
Eat fortified cereals, nuts, legumes, lean meats,
seafood and eggs.
Take a daily multivitamin supplement that provides
at least 100% of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid.
Feed Your Head.
Fruits, Vegetables and whole grains contain
nutrients that stave off brain cell damage:
Include at least three servings of whole grains plus
five to nine of fruits and vegetables every day as
part of a diet low in saturated and Trans fats.
Fish for Omega-3s One fish meal a week
was enough to reduce the risk of AD in the Chicago
Health and Aging Project, which followed more than
800 adults for about four years; consuming even more
omega-3s from foods further reduced risk.
Eat fish instead of meat and poultry at least twice
Include plant food rich omega-3s, such as walnuts,
flaxseed, and soy and canola oil, in your diet
Move It, Don’t Lose It. A recent study
that followed more than 1700 healthy people 65 and
older for six years found that those who exercised a
minimum of 15 minutes at least three times weekly
had a 32% lower risk of developing dementia that
those who were less active.
Participate in moderate activity for at least 15
minutes three times a week (ideally, for 30 minutes
on most days for cardiovascular and other benefits).
· Break of Cognitive Sweat.
Exercise our brain to ward off decline; people who
do mental gymnastics run a lower risk of AD.
the Morning paper.
puzzles. Try the challenge of The New York Times
· Stay Engaged. Older adults with a
rich network of friends and who participate in
social activities tend to preserve brain function
better than those who don’t socialize.
with family and friends.
social events regularly.
to new people.
Control Diabetes. You’re
more at risk for dementia if you have diabetes,
especially if blood glucose levels are not in
a healthy weight.
refined grains; emphasize whole grains, fruits and
active every day. If you can’t get outside, walk up
and down stairs.
prescribed medications regularly.