"Alzheimer's Research Center -- The brains to understand what your brain needs."
Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk for Alzheimer’s
Vitamin D deficiency markedly increases the risk of
dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is extremely prevalent among
the elderly and is not uncommon in younger adults as well. In
addition, vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk
of stroke. Therefore, low blood vitamin D concentrations increase
the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease through both
neurodegenerative and vascular mechanisms. Consequently, anyone
interested in reducing their risk for Alzheimer’s disease should
have a blood test to determine their level of vitamin D. If their
vitamin D level is low, they should speak with their physician
about correcting this deficiency.
Additional Risk Factors for Developing Alzheimer’s Disease
Aging is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. The
incidence and the prevalence rate for Alzheimer’s disease doubles
every 5 years after the age of 65. However, some individuals
develop Alzheimer’s disease in their 50’s or rarely even earlier.
Family history of Alzheimer’s disease increases
the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Having the APOE4
genotype significantly increases the risk for late onset
Diabetes is associated with an increased risk
for developing Alzheimer’s and decline in cognitive function.
Obesity, or having a large amount of abdominal
fat, increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Poor Diet that contains a high intake of total
fat, saturated fat, and total cholesterol increases the risk of
dementia. Reduced consumption of fish containing omega-3 fatty
acids also increases the risk for age-related cognitive decline and
Smoking increases the risk for Alzheimer’s
Lack of mental activity and exercise in mid-life
may be a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s.
Head trauma with loss of consciousness may be a
risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Tips for Brain-Healthy Living
Our brain interprets the world around us,
gives us the capacity for rational thought, is responsible for our
person-alities, holds our memories, and controls our bodies. Yet,
despite it’s importance, brain health is often overlooked. Improve
your cognitive health with these 5 keys to brain-healthy living.
Physical activity is one of the best ways to improve or maintain
brain health. The brain receives energy and nutrients from the
blood, so getting your heart rate up while exercising helps the
brain get the fuel it needs. And it needs a lot of fuel – although
the brain only makes up about 2% of the body by weight, it uses
more than 20% of daily energy intake.
How much exercise should you get to boost your
brainpower? One study showed that older people who exercised for 30
minutes at least 3 times a week had nearly 40% lower risk of
dementia. If spending 30+ minutes at the gym seems daunting, here
are some alternate ways to get active.
Incorporate exercise into family activities. Take a walk
after dinner, play croquet in the yard, stroll through an apple
orchard or pumpkin patch, head to the park, take a bike ride, fly a
kite, enjoy a museum, go shopping, do some cleaning or yard work,
wash the car by hand, toss a Frisbee, or play with the dog.
Work in short bouts of activity throughout the day. Take
10 minutes and jump rope, do some squats, lunges and jumping-jacks,
do yoga poses and stretch, climb the stairs, or simply get up and
Take up an active hobby like gardening, dancing,
horseback riding, coaching youth sports, sailing, or golf. Exercise
doesn’t have to feel like work.
If you’re limited by physical restrictions, look for
alternate ways to exercise. Many exercises can be done while seated
(try a recumbent bike or seated weight exercises). Swimming or
water aerobics are great alternatives to weight-bearing exercise.
Yoga and tai chi are also good low-stress exercise options.
A healthy diet both improves everyday mental function and reduces
the risk for chronic age-related brain diseases.Adopt a healthy
diet by eating fresh vegetables,fruits, and lean meats.
Dark-skinned vegetables and fruits tend to have more brain
benefits. Cut back on foods high in unhealthy fats and cholesterol.
Instead, use mono- and polyunsaturated fats (like olive oil) and
choose grilled or baked foods over fried foods. The following foods
are particularly good for brain health.
Blueberries and other berries help
protect the brain from oxidative stress and may slow age-related
Fish like mackerel, trout, tuna, and
salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to
proper brain function and have anti-inflammatory properties. Fish
are also a healthier substitute for red meats high in saturated
Nuts and seeds are good sources of
vitamin E, which has been associated with decreasing cognitive
decline caused by aging. But watch the serving size and avoid
salted or coated nuts.
Avocados contain healthy fats and
vitamins and may promote both cardiovascular and brain health. Try
spreading mashed avocado on bread rather than using mayonnaise or
butter. Like nuts, avocados are high in calories, so limit a
serving to ¼ or ½ an avocado.
Whole grains have a number of health
benefits, and may play a role in decreasing risk for brain
diseases. Good options include oatmeal, brown rice, barley, rye,
millet,quinoa, or whole grain breads, pastas, and flour. But be
sure to look for the word “whole” before the grain – terms like
“multigrain,” “100% wheat,” or “stone-ground” don’t necessarily
mean the product is whole grain.
Being socially active is a great way to challenge your brain, and
also helps maintain support networks. Studies show that people who
isolate themselves have a greater risk for developing dementia than
people who remain socially engaged.
Ideas to increase social engagement:
Keep in touch with family and friends. Be the
one to initiate phone calls or get-togethers. If it seems hard to
find the time, schedule time to connect.
Join a club or activity. Find something that
interests you by looking at community newsletters, bulletin
boards, or online.
Make an effort to attend often overlooked social
events like class reunions, workplace gatherings, or community
meetings. Volunteer for a cause or campaign that you’ve always
wanted to support.
Take advantage of casual encounters. Chat with
someone in line at the grocery store, or get to know your
Keeping mentally active is an important
part of brain health. Challenging yourself to think actively and
try new things builds connections between brain cells, like
exercising your body builds up muscle cells.
Exercise your brain with these activities:
Play strategy games, or try games specifically
designed to exercise your brain.
Read and write daily.
Seek new activities and unfamiliar settings,
like traveling or a new hobby.
Continue your education by taking a class or
learning a new language.
Try doing things with your non-dominant hand. If
you’re right-hand-ed, use your left hand to brush your teeth
& open doors, or take the first stair with your left leg.
Take up new hobbies. Hobbies involving hand-eye
coordination and mental calculation (like sewing, wood-working)
are great ways to involve different parts of the brain. Either
playing or listening to music can have a positive effect on the
Heart health is closely linked to brain health. Cardiovascular
problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes,
and high cholesterol increase the risk of developing dementias like
Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Help your brain by
following these heart-healthy guidelines:
Don’t smoke, and avoid second hand smoke. There
is a strong link between heavy smoking and certain brain
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or
obese increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, which is also
strongly linked to decreased brain function.
Manage your blood pressure & cholesterol.
Moderate sugar, salt, and alcohol consumption.Looking
for other ways to boost your memory? Get plenty of sleep and
avoid excess stress.
Medications for the Treatment of Mild to Moderate
Aricept ® (Pfizer, Inc.)
- FDA approved 1996 has been shown to improve the cognitive
abilities of some patients and may slow the progression of
Alzheimer’s disease. It has become the drug of choice for treatment
of Alzheimer’s disease. However, patients treated with Aricept may
decline abruptly if the medication is ever discontinued.
(Forrest Pharmaceuticals) - FDA approved 2003, for treatment of
moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. It has been shown to
improve ability to think, activities of daily living, and behavior.
It has also been shown to provide additional benefit when taken in
combination with Aricept.
(Novartis, Inc.) - FDA approved 2000, is available for the
treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. It has been
proven to have a positive effect on the three main areas of overall
functioning, including behavior, cognition, and activities of daily
living. A skin patch form of Exelon has been approved,
which may lessen side effects such as nausea and vomiting.
(Janssen, Inc.) - FDA approved 2000, is also for patients with mild
to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. It improves activities of daily
living such as dressing, eating, using the bathroom, preparing
meals, and using a phone; all which are things that demand much of
a caregiver’s time.
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Center and Regions Hospital Foundation are not related to any of the
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