August 7, 2014

"7 Simple Ways to Prevent Alzheimer's" Really?

#1. Who Knew?

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Like me, you’re probably skeptical about lists that “experts” share. You’ve seen them: the special things you can do and eat to enjoy perfect health until you’re 110.

So, here’s a new one I saw in what I consider a pretty reputable info source: the August 3, 2014 edition of "Alzheimer's & Dementia Weekly." The title of the story? “7 Simple Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s.” It’s written by the online magazine’s medical correspondent, Dr. Manny Alvarez.

If preventing AD were really that easy, networks would have interrupted their regular broadcasts to trumpet the news. The internet would have been buzzing like never before. Phones would have been ringing off the hook all over the world, with people eager to share the astonishing headline with family and friends.

To be sure, we need to take these headlines with a grain of salt.

In this list, however, I saw recommendations familiar to me after years of following the latest medical and healthcare news, especially about the two chronic diseases I have – Parkinson’s and prostate cancer… and a disease I don’t have but fear more than any other – Alzheimer’s.

After seeing most of these recommendations over and over through the years, I’m already doing most of them. I could eat more cinnamon, drink more apple juice, and do a better job of protecting my eyes. 

Otherwise, I feel pretty good about the choices I’m making. I should – and could -- exercise more; I’m surprised that important recommendation didn’t make Dr. Alvarez’s list.

The idea, of course, is to prevent any kind of dementia from developing.

Here are Dr. Alvarez's recommendations to keep Alzheimer's at bay:

  1. Add cinnamon to your diet – consuming a teaspoon of this spice has been shown to block the production of proteins in the brain that contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s.(Just two weeks ago, I did a post about cinnamon for Parkinson's. Are we seeing the start of a new cinnamon craze?)
  2. Drink apple juice – it boosts the production of a chemical compound in the brain associated with learning, memory, mood and muscle movement. (I love the dried apples from my local farmer's market. I'll check to see if they have juice on my next trip.)
  3. Drink coffee – it acts as an anti-inflammatory that can block cholesterol buildup in the brain. One large study showed that men and women who drank three to five cups of coffee a day reduced their chances of dementia by 65 percent. (I drink coffee in the morning and afternoon. I've written repeatedly about it, including here: Coffee: Good or Bad for Us? The Verdict is In.)
  4. Socialize more – studies show that a busy social life can improve your cognitive abilities. (I don't think I can make any room for MORE socializing. Sometimes my calendar seems TOO full.)
  5. Protect your vision – your eyes are a good indicator of how your brain is functioning. Preserving your vision can actually cut your dementia risk by 63 percent. (Well, I need to wear hats now, after my skin cancer surgery earlier this year.)
  6. Meditate – this will lower your blood pressure and reduce stress, and it increases blood flow to the brain, which is why researchers believe it helps us retain mental acuity as we age. (OK, I admit it: I'm the poster boy for meditation. Here's just one post of many, in which I explain my own personal version of meditation.)
  7. Eat a Mediterranean diet – a diet rich in leafy greens, fish, fruit, nuts and a little red wine can cut your dementia risk in half because it’s chock full of brain-protecting antioxidants. (Here again, I can check this one off my list. This is MY diet.)
I’m toasting your efforts with my morning coffee.

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