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Alzheimer's Disease Prevention: The Importance of Diet and Exercise

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Currently, there is no proven method to prevent Alzheimer's disease. The health of the body and brain depends upon both lifestyle factors (that are within your control), as well as genetic factors (that are outside of your control). New research reveals that lifestyle factors play a significant role in protecting the brain as people age.

In fact, research reiterates that certain elements of a brain-healthy lifestyle, including, but not limited to, regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet are critical elements for Alzheimer’s prevention.

According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent. In addition, regular exercise can slow deterioration in those who have already started to develop cognitive problems.

Strive for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five or more times per week. Walking, swimming, and other activities that elevate the heart rate are good options. And, even routine activities such as gardening, cleaning, or doing laundry can be deemed exercise.

In addition, keep in mind that moderate levels of weight training augment muscle mass and help maintain brain health. In fact, combining aerobics and strength training is much better than either activity alone.

Since falls and the resulting head injuries are more likely as people age, thereby increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, balance and coordination exercises (such as yoga, Tai Chi, or exercises using balance discs or balance balls) can help with agility and prevent falls. It’s very important to wear properly fitting sports helmets and other equipment to “trip-proof” the exercise environment, and, ideally, prevent falls.

In addition to exercise, adhering to a healthy diet is an important lifestyle factor that can aid in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. A heart- and brain-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is rich in fish, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, and abundant fresh produce.

Evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout and sardines may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Fish oil supplements are also a good source for omega-3s. In addition, it’s best to reduce consumption of full-fat dairy products, red meat, fast food, fried foods, and both packaged and processed foods.

In an effort to maintain blood sugar levels, it’s best to eat four to six small meals daily, as opposed to three large meals. Also, since sugar and white flour tend to spike glucose levels, which impacts brain activity, be sure to avoid refined carbohydrates.

Rather, put emphasis on fruits and vegetables of all colors to maximize protective antioxidants and vitamins. Generous servings of berries and green leafy vegetables each day should be part of your regimen.


Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention: The Value of Lifestyle Choices for Your Body and Your Brain. Web. www.alzprevention.org. Accessed 11 Jan. 2012. http://www.alzprevention.org

Prevention. Web. www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed 11 Jan. 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=prevention

Alzheimer’s & Dementia Prevention. Web. www.helpguide.org. Accessed 11 Jan. 2012. http://www.helpguide.org/elder/alzheimers_prevention_slowing_down_treatment.htm

Reviewed January 11, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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