3 Simple Ways to Prevent Alzheimer's

Friday, 28 Mar 2014 09:41 AM

By Nick Tate

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Georgetown University researchers reported making great strides this month toward developing a blood test for Alzheimer's disease. But until such a test is widely available, one of the nation's leading experts on aging and mental health says there are steps you can — and should — take now to reduce your odds of developing dementia.
 
Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Longevity Center, tells Newsmax TV  it could take years for the breakthrough Georgetown research to translate into a viable Alzheimer’s blood test to diagnose the condition early, when drugs that slow its progression are most effective. But, in the meantime, Dr. Small recommends three simple but effective ways to protect the brain from the ravages of the memory-robbing disease: Exercising, managing stress, and eating a healthy diet.
 
ALERT: These 7 Things Activate Alzheimer’s In Your Brain

"The research is compelling that there's a lot we can do to protect our brain health," says Dr. Small, a professor of psychiatry and aging, and the author of The Mind Health Report. "The MacArthur Study of Successful Aging concluded that about a third of what determines Alzheimer's disease or cognitive decline as we age comes from genetics. That means that two-thirds is non-genetic and may be under our control."
 
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Dr. Small, author of "The Memory Prescription: Dr. Gary Small's 14-Day Plan to Keep Your Brain and Body Young," recommends being on the lookout for early signs of cognitive declines, including even minor memory lapses, if they occur frequently or become increasingly more pronounced and serious. Occasionally forgetting where you left your car keys may not be a sign of trouble, for instance, but forgetting a spouse's name or how to drive to a favorite restaurant could be a symptom of dementia.
 
"It's difficult because those 'senior moments' [can] gradually segue into mild Alzheimer's disease," he explains. "So it's often difficult to differentiate them from normal … aging or incipient Alzheimer's. If you're concerned, it's always best to check with your doctor early rather than late because the sooner you can make a diagnosis and initiate treatment, the better will be the outcome."
 
He adds that the Georgetown researchers' progress toward developing a blood test for Alzheimer's is "promising," but more work will be needed to verify their findings and market such a test. The team found that levels of 10 fats ("lipids") in the bloodstream can be used to estimate the chances of someone developing mild cognitive impairment — which involves memory loss and a decline in thinking ability — or the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease within a few years.
 
Lead researcher Howard Federoff, executive dean of the Georgetown University School of Medicine, said those 10 blood fats can predict impending dementia with 90 percent accuracy, even before symptoms appear. Doctors now must rely on expensive MRIs and PET scans that are limited in their diagnostic ability, so a blood test based on the research would be a significant step forward, and allow doctors to begin therapies early — when they are most effective — before significant brain damage and memory loss occur.
 
Alzheimer's afflicts more than 5 million Americans and kills at least 84,000 people in the U.S. every year. 
 
Until such a test is available, Dr. Small recommends the following clinically proven ways to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's and slowing its progress.
 
Exercise at least 30 minutes each day. "I recommend that people get physical exercise routinely," he says. "We know that it pumps oxygen and nutrients to your brain cells and protects them, mental exercise also probably protects your brain and can improve those age-related memory slips." He adds that you don't have to become a triathlete or spend hours at the gym every day. "Just 20 minutes a day of brisk walking will lower your risk for Alzheimer's disease," he says. It's also a good idea to exercise the mind, by engaging in mentally stimulating activities that can keep you sharp as you age.
 
Learn to manage stress effectively. Meditation, yoga, listening to music, or simply spending a few minutes each day doing something to relax and wind down have been shown to ease stress and boost mental and physical health. "Trying to manage stress better is critically important," Dr. Small advises. "Stress is really the enemy of brain health."
 
Eat a healthy diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. "Nutrition is critically important," he says, "In the average American diet, we're not getting enough omega-3 fats from fish, nuts, and flax seed. We're not getting enough fruits and vegetables that are [rich in] anti-oxidant[s] and protect brain cells."
 
ALERT: These 7 Things Activate Alzheimer’s In Your Brain

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