According to Alzheimer’s Society, there are around 57.4 million people living with dementia around the globe. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a disease of the brain, but it’s not only this - it is a systemic full-body disease that ultimately has the consequence where the brain gets affected. There are many mechanisms that drive Alzheimer's disease such as genes and infection but importantly lifestyle also plays a major part.
You may have been told that there’s nothing you can do about Alzheimer’s, but fortunately, that is actually not the case. Professor Dale Bredesen’s work especially shows this. Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that happens over many decades and you simply need to get onto it early. Within this blog, I will outline key ways to prevent developing Alzheimer’s later in life. It’s all about early intervention - with any progressive chronic disease like Alzheimer’s, you can’t wait til you've had a diagnosis. You need to start helping yourself out decades before ultimately running into issues or getting diagnosed. A multi-system approach is required and the way we live our life needs to change to offset the risk.
Here are 7 key tips to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
There are a number of links between poor sleep patterns and the development of dementia. Some studies have emphasized the importance of quality sleep for flushing out toxins in the brain. This is called our Giympatic system, a bit like the binmen for your brain, they take out the rubbish each night. In fact we think your brain gets squeezed each night which helps this system push unwanted rubbish that has been accumulating in the day. Evidence suggests that getting enough high quality sleep can help prevent Alzheimer's. Aim for seven to eight hours per night.
- Keep your heart healthy
Some studies show that as many as 80% of individuals with Alzheimer's disease also have cardiovascular disease. Several conditions known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's. Maintaining your cardiovascular health can be crucial in protecting your brain and lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Physical exercise
According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 percent. Exercise can also slow further deterioration in those who have already started to develop cognitive problems. A 2017 British paper looked at the ill effects of sitting for hours on end. Conclusions were that the brain starts to suffer due to the lack of blood flow. If you are going to sit for long periods of time (presumably whilst working), get up for just 2 mintues every 30 minutes. By doing this, you will really help your brain health and offset the risk of Alzheimers. We call this the ‘30 for 2’ law. Look out for the emerging protective effect of Exerkines Molecules produced from exercise and are very helpful for reducing the risk of Alzheimers.
It’s important to eat a balanced diet that's rich in vegetables, fruits, unrefined oils such as extra virgin olive oil adequate protein (both plant and animal) and particularly protein sources containing omega-3 fatty acids. The Mediterranean diet has particularly been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. It is also advised to reduce the amount of refined sugar in our diet. Many scientists call Alzheimers, type 3 diabetes as the brain loses the capacity to use sugar as a fuel due to being exposed to too much refined sugar over time.
- Social Connections
We as human beings are highly social creatures. We don’t thrive in isolation, and neither do our brains. Maintaining social connections throughout life may help to protect against symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- Intellectual Activity
Cognitively stimulating activities may be helpful in preventing Alzheimer's. It’s important to continue learning new things and challenging your brain. Perhaps study a foreign language, learn a new musical instrument or take up knitting. Strategy games and puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku are also great ways to keep your brain stimulated.
- Oral Health
Oral health and gum disease have quite a strong association with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A local disease (gum disease) can have whole body consequences. Gum disease exaggerates all other chronic disease processes and can exaggerate the development of Alzheimer's disease. We need to pay more attention to the health of our mouths. We need to go to the dentist and hygienist more often and we need to be cautious of the foods that we eat.
I recently spoke at the ICHAN conference, discussing all the evidence that diseases and bacteria in the mouth can be implicated in accelerating the Alzheimer’s disease process.
If you’d like to watch my full ‘Bad Mouth Bad Brain’ presentation, head here to get a free link.
Do you have a family history of Alzheimer’s?
Here at Functional Medicine Associates, we offer a ‘DNA Mind Pathway’. This is a bespoke and individualised health assessment and plan based on your real genetic data and lifestyle information. The rich data provided by this test offers a deep understanding of the link between your genes and any predisposed neurocognitive risks, such as your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Your results will give you more control over these risks and help you to make informed lifestyle changes that will positively impact your health and wellbeing.
As part of the DNA Mind Pathway, we provide the online CNS vitals test which can also be offered as a stand alone test. This is a scientifically validated neurocognitive assessment tool which you can do online. It is a test which analyses the main brain domains including memory, visual memory, verbal memory, and reaction time. It will help us to look for any signals of aspects not working so well, or any deviations from normal. The CNS Vitals is especially important for those who have a family history of neurocognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Sign up to receive my 5 steps to a healthier you!
When you sign up to receive these 5 steps, you will also be signed up to our newsletter. You will receive occasional functional medicine news and advice.*