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04/06/2009 - Articles

How to Try to Avoid Alzheimer's

By: Robert W. Griffith, MD

It seems that a new risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is announced every day. How can you hope to find your way through the maze? Here's a path . . . . . .

It seems that every day a new risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is advanced -- something one should do, or something one should try to avoid. We've discussed most of them in these pages, so that it's appropriate that we try to help visitors find a path through the maze. Here are thirteen ways one can try to avoid developing Alzheimer's, at different stages in life. Links to the pertinent HealthandAge article, or to an external site, are given at the bottom of this text.

 

  • Chose your parents wisely. Some forms of Alzheimer's have a strong genetic component, so an increased risk can be inherited. But a family history of Alzheimer's doesn't mean you can't reduce your risk by adapting some of the changes given here.
  • Get a good education that includes plenty of creative thought and writing. And, it's never too late to keep on learning.
  • Lead a heart-healthy life - plenty of exercise, no smoking, and watch your cholesterol level.
  • Ensure that any conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and raised blood cholesterol levels are well-controlled by lifestyle changes and medications, if necessary.
  • Eat a healthy diet - plenty of green vegetables, tomatoes, fiber, nuts, fish etc. Dean Ed Schneider in his Oxidative Damage Series discusses the relevance of antioxidants in lessening this sort of damage.
  • Keep your mind as active as you can - card games, puzzles, crosswords, board games, etc.
  • Have plenty of social interactions. If you can't get out and about easily, the Internet can be a place to start.
  • Consider taking a Vitamin E supplement. It's one way of boosting your antioxidant intake.
  • If you drink alcohol, you can increase your intake to 2-3 drinks a day, if you like. This may offer some protection. But don't start drinking if you don't drink at all.
  • Increase your daily intake of vitamin B12 and folic acid to the maximum of the recommended daily allowance level (or a bit higher).
  • Consider taking a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug (e.g. diclofenac) daily, in consultation with your physician. You certainly shouldn't take an NSAID if you are already taking a daily baby aspirin for your cardiovascular health without a full discussion with your physician.
  • If you are taking a 'statin' drug for raised cholesterol, or if your doctor is considering prescribing one, go ahead. Latest research news seems to confirm an earlier small study, namely that people taking statin medication have a decreased likelihood of developing Alzheimer's.

 

Remember, there are medications that can help control symptoms and delay the progress of the disease (see article "Medication for Alzheimer's Disease" ) , and intensive research is ongoing to find a radical treatment or cure. And a 'vaccination' approach is on the horizon. However, until a miracle cure is available, it makes sense to follow as many of the lifestyle changes outlined above as possible.

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Created on: 02/26/2002
Reviewed on: 04/06/2009

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