Prevention is the best medicine

What sort of changes can I make in my diet and exercise regimen to prevent Alzheimer’s?
Acting Now

Dear Acting Now,
This is a relatively new approach to fighting Alzheimer’s, and applies to just about all disease and aging processes – not just Alzheimer’s disease. Eating healthy and exercising is becoming more and more relevant in the prevention of all disease processes. Of course we know that Alzheimer’s disease is a regressive, degenerative brain disorder – not just a “little memory problem” that can easily be reversed. However a healthful diet and regular exercise is the first step in trying to prevent or slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.

The most commonly touted diet for Alzheimer’s disease prevention is a typical Mediterranean diet – one that is high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil, and lean proteins and leaves out refined sugar and carbohydrates. I am far from being a diet, exercise or nutrition advisor, so talk to a nutritionist or your doctor for more specific answers to your dietary questions. If you’re searching on your own, the Mayo Clinic  and WebMD have some good information to get you started. As with all diet and or exercise programs, discuss major dietary and exercise changes with your doctor.

I have had the opportunity to attend the Dementia Congress for five of the last seven years, and in 2007 they presented a strong emphasis on the value of diet and exercise (this might be good resource to investigate, as the Dementia Congress has made much of their dietary information available on CD). In general, 30 minutes of exercise 3-7 times per week is recommended to help boost brainpower. There are also programs such as Maintain your Brain (by the Alzheimer’s Association), and a fair number of books published on the subject of Alzheimer’s prevention that include tips for ways to change behaviors to improve the brain’s ability to create new neural pathways.

This is clearly not my area of expertise, but it is an area of focus so many people – from scientists to laypeople – that information is readily available. I do believe that it makes everyone feel less fearful and helpless to know that we can take some preventative measures in determining our own potential health outcomes. Fortunately, there are a growing number of studies that indicate there is great potential for senior health when a person follows such regimens.