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Alzheimer’s and Dementia: How a Healthy Lifestyle Can Make a Difference

In Lifeby eva.katona@yahoo.comLeave a Comment

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According to the statistics, half a million people in the UK are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s is a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities that interfere with daily life. As a progressive neurodegenerative disease, it occurs when nerve cells in the brain die. With Alzheimer’s, dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.      

Currently, we don’t know enough to suggest causes and there is no cure. However medical research progressed fairly quickly in this field and treatments for symptoms are available and overall life quality can be improved for Alzheimer’s patients. We do however know, that a few changes towards a generally healthier lifestyle can lower your chances to develop the disease.

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Here are the key points:

Diet

Researchers found that eating a Mediterranean diet slows some changes in the brain that may indicate early Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid is a protein known to collect in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and Western diet is rich. But the Mediterranean diet which is rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, whole grains and fish has many heart-healthy benefits and it’s also good for your brain. Although it’s not clear which parts of the Mediterranean diet might protect brain function. Researchers think that healthier diet may improve the cholesterol and blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health, which then may reduce the risk of MCI or Alzheimer’s disease.

Sleep

It seems like sleep deprivation may increase the risk for beta-amyloid build-up, a protein in the brain associated with impaired brain function and Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep deprivation increases levels of the key Alzheimer’s protein tau and sleeplessness accelerates the spread through the brain of toxic clumps of tau. (Tangles of tau protein are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.)

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Exercise

The most convincing evidence is that physical exercise helps prevent the development of Alzheimer’s or slow the progression in people who have symptoms. 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise (anything that increases your heart rate) at least three times a week can help, if you maintain it for at least a year.

Weight

Being overweight can cause a lot of health problems just by itself as it’s also linked to blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol levels. Research shows strong connections between Alzheimer’s and these conditions. Obesity can change the brain in a way that raises your odds of getting Alzheimer’s.

Mental stimulation

There is no clear evidence here but some researches suggest that participation in social activities, studying, learning new skills at later stages in life, or even reading magazines can count as mental exercise. It can even slow Alzheimer’s progression.  (In the cases of carriers of the APOE4 gene, that is linked to Alzheimer’s and affects about 20% of the population.) 

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