December 29, 2005
With 2006 fast approaching, it's a good time to step back and look back at some of the progress made in the past year. The good news is, scientists continue to show that a few simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in keeping the mind sharp and alert as we age. While there are many factors that we can't control, such as the genes we inherit, here are six simple steps that may help to prevent Alzheimer's years down the road.
1. Eat some fish.
Eating fish at least once a week, particularly oily fish such as salmon rich in "good" fats called "omega-3s," may benefit both the heart and brain. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that men and women aged 65 and up who ate fish one or more times a week had, on average, a 10 percent slower rate of cognitive decline as they aged compared to those who rarely ate fish. Over time, the benefits added up to the equivalent of being three to four years younger mentally, the researchers estimate.
2. Maintain a healthy weight.
Middle-aged and seriously overweight? You may be setting the stage for Alzheimer's disease later in life, a large new study found. Researchers from Sweden report that compared to individuals who maintain a healthy weight during their middle years, men and women who are obese at midlife have an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease as they age.
3. Get some exercise.
Regular exercise during your middle years may lower your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in old age, say researchers from Sweden. Men and women aged 65 to 79 who, in their middle years, exercised during their free time at least twice a week were 60 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared to sedentary men and women who exercised less than twice a week. The active individuals were also 50 percent less likely to develop other forms of dementia and memory loss.
4. Get your folic acid.
Folic acid, a B vitamin critical for brain and nerve health sold in supplements and found in green vegetables, beans, whole grains, fortified cereals, and orange juice, was in the news in 2005. University of California at Irvine researchers report that men and women age 60 and up who regularly consumed the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic through foods and supplements cut their risk of developing Alzheimer's by over 50 percent. It is still too early to say, however, whether folic acidalso called folateor other nutrients may actually prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
5. Sip green tea.
Green tea, the popular beverage drunk by millions in Asia and, increasingly, by many in the U.S. as well, may have benefits against Alzheimer's disease, researchers from the University of South Florida report. The beverage contains a compound called EGCG that appears to reduce the formation of beta-amyloid, a toxic protein that builds up in the brains of those with Alzheimer's disease. Although the studies were carried out in mice and may not apply to humans, scientists are motivated to continue research into the possible benefits of green tea and other types of tea for people suffering from memory loss.
6. Finally toast to a healthy new year!
Ring in the New Year with a toast -- but don't go overboard. Low to moderate alcohol consumption, just a drink or so a day, may be good for the brain, a large and rigorous Harvard study of nurses revealed. Women who consumed a drink a day or less, on average, tended to perform better on memory tests than those who abstained from alcohol entirely or drank more heavily. The benefits appeared to persist for at least several years, according to the study, which appeared in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
For more on these and other stories, visit www.ALZinfo.org. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation offers regular updates and in-depth reports on keeping the mind and memory sharp and fit, visit often throughout the year for valuable tips and the latest news, or to make a year-end donation. Your contributions make a real difference in the search for a cure for Alzheimer's disease.