Alzheimer’s disease is a much feared condition, especially in view of the soaring numbers worldwide. What can we do to prevent the contraction of this debilitating ailment? Of course, an overall health-promoting lifestyle and dietary protocol would go a long way. How about simple steps to incorporate into our daily lives? Three recent studies put forth some suggestions.
Drink Apple Juice
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts have recently discovered that drinking apple juice may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. They found that mice which consumed the human equivalent of 2 glasses of the juice each day for 30 days produced less beta-amyloid, a small protein fragment. This substance is supposedly responsible for forming the “senile plaques” which are often detected in the brains of persons hit by Alzheimer’s disease.
This study, which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, followed previous laboratory studies, which had found that consuming apple juice helped enhance the performance of mice in maze trials, preventing the drop in performance that would otherwise take place as the mice grew old.
“These findings provide further evidence linking nutritional and genetic risk factors for age-related neurodegeneration and suggest that regular consumption of apple juice can not only help to keep one’s mind functioning at its best, but may also be able to delay key aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and augment therapeutic approaches,” said Thomas B Shea, PhD, from the university’s Center for Cellular Neurobiology, Neurodegeneration Research, who was also the leader of the study.
On top of helping to ward off Alzheimer’s disease, apple juice is a wonderfully refreshing and detoxifying beverage. Of course, fresh organic apple juice is the best.
Stay off Cigarettes and Alcohol
A study presented at the American Academy of Neurology 60th Anniversary Annual Meeting held in Chicago in 2008 had found that heavy smokers and heavy drinkers get Alzheimer’s disease several years earlier than those who did not have such habits. The study team had looked at data on 938 persons aged above 59 who had a diagnosis or possible diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, including their drinking and smoking history.
Heavy smokers, defined as those who smoked at least one pack of cigarettes each day, developed the condition 2.3 years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts. On the other hand, heavy drinkers, defined as those who drank more than two drinks each day, got the disease 4.8 years earlier than the non-drinkers.
“These results are significant because it’s possible that if we can reduce or eliminate heavy smoking and drinking, we could substantially delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease for people and reduce the number of people who have Alzheimer’s at any point in time,” said Ranjan Duara, MD, from the Wien Center for Alzheimer’s Disease at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, the leader of the study. Duara was also Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.
“It has been projected that a delay in the onset of the disease by five years would lead to a nearly 50-percent reduction in the total number of Alzheimer’s cases. In this study, we found that the combination of heavy drinking and heavy smoking reduced the age of onset of Alzheimer’s disease by six to seven years, making these two factors among the most important preventable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease,” he added.
Staying off cigarettes and alcohol not only helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, it is also an important part of any health-promoting lifestyle. Quite simply, the level of health one can reach is highly limited if one ingests and inhales toxic substances on a daily basis.
Keep the Mind Active
Going further back, a study published online in 2007 in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that an elderly person who was cognitively active was 2.6 times less likely to get dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as compared to his cognitively inactive counterparts. This reduced risk was after factors such as past cognitive activity, current social activity and socioeconomic status had been accounted for.
The study had looked at over 700 elderly persons in Chicago. Their average age was 80, and they went through annual cognitive testing for up to 5 years.
“Alzheimer’s disease is among the most feared consequences of old age. The enormous public health problems posed by the disease are expected to increase during the coming decades as the proportion of old people in the United States increases. This underscores the urgent need for strategies to prevent the disease or delay its onset,” said Robert S Wilson, PhD, from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the leader of the study.
The brain, like our physical muscles, also needs exercise. Activities which involve it, such as a game of chess, solving puzzles, reading a book or the newspapers, as well as watching a play, not only help keep Alzheimer’s disease away, but also keep us mentally active and stimulated. Importantly, they add color, meaning and fulfillment to our lives, too.
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