Getting a Grip on Alzheimer's Disease

This week we lost Gene Wilder to “complications of Alzheimer’s disease.” We are all becoming eerily familiar with the statistics about Alzheimer’s disease. Media messages attached to the statistics and tragic stories of this mind-thieving condition leave us feeling powerless or simply crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. How sad! There is so much more that is in our grasp.

The reality is that Alzheimer’s dementia, like most conditions affecting the brain, is highly sensitive to a number of straightforward steps we can take that dramatically lower our risk of developing Alzheimer’s. 

Here are 7 practical, common-sense steps you can take to lower your risk:

1.       Become more physically active. Lack of activity deprives the brain of the beneficial, youth-inducing effects of physical activity. Remember: our bodies are designed for movement and our brains are designed to move our bodies.

2.       Pay attention to disturbances of mood that can signal the presence of depression. Depression is a serious, whole-body condition impacting every cell in our bodies. Facing and tackling factors that feed depression dramatically reduces the lifetime risk of dementia.

3.      Eliminate cigarettes. Pure and simple. Cigarettes are a major toxin, starving our lungs and blood of life-giving oxygen while filling our blood with noxious chemicals that pollute our brains.

4.      Get your blood pressure into a healthy zone. There are multiple pathways by which elevated blood pressure can degrade brain functioning. The flip side is that things like exercise, healthier food choices, better quality sleep and more frequent laughter reduce blood pressure. The really good news is that those lifestyle choices also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia.

5.      Reduce excess weight, especially abdominal fat. Fat cells represent an available supply of stored energy. Healthy brains require a certain amount of fat. To be physically healthy requires fat, too. But, only up to a certain body fat percentage. Beyond that, fat cells become a source of chemicals that are released into our bloodstream that fuel inflammation throughout the body and more importantly feed brain inflammation. Dementia is associated with inflammatory reactions in the brain.

6.      Stay in school. Be a life-long learner. Learning is one way of exercising your brain. The challenge, determination, problem-solving effort, and focus that learning demands builds up our brain’s neural reserve. Many studies have shown that the age at which dementia symptoms first appear is 5-7 years later in people who are more educated or who have dedicated themselves to being life-long learners, no matter the type of learning in which they were engaged.

7.      Keep your blood sugar levels down. Even though glucose (a simple form of sugar) is the raw fuel our body uses to energize our daily activities, our blood vessels are extremely sensitive to the level of glucose in our blood at any given time. Too high, such as when we eat foods that have a high glycemic value (they are rapidly converted into blood sugar), and our blood sugar value skyrocket. Low glycemic value foods, which require our digestive system to work really hard to extract calories and produce glucose for energy, keep our blood sugar in a healthy range. They dribble sugar into our blood for hours, avoiding the sugar rush and crash that high sugar food produce. Not only does such a diet reduce our risk of developing diabetes, it also reduces the risk of blood sugar and inflammatory problems that lead to an increased likelihood of developing dementia.

Congratulate yourself! By adding these practices into your life, you will have reduced your dementia risk by 50%!

Learn more about "complications from alzheimer's" in this article from Medical Daily.