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Published on: May 16, 2012
by Amanda L. Chan for Huffington Post:
On Tuesday, May 15, the Obama administration set in stone the National Alzheimer’s Plan, aiming to find methods of prevention and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.
Part of the plan includes $8 million in funding for an insulin nasal spray study — a promising Alzheimer’s therapy — and $16 million in funding for research into amyloid plaque treatments, the Associated Press reported. Amyloid plaques are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and are linked with the disease.
Health officials and leaders noted that timing is everything for Alzheimer’s. Researchers need “to figure out exactly where is the best window of opportunity” for battling Alzheimer’s, National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins said at Monday’s Alzheimer’s Research Summit, according to an Associated Press report.
The upcoming research is exciting, but there are also some things we already know about the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Below, see what science has shown — or at least suggested — to work at warding off the memory-robbing condition.
Daily Chores And Exercise
A recent study in the journal Neurology showed that simple activities like cooking, cleaning and washing the dishes — as well as good, old-fashioned exercise — is associated with a decreased Alzheimer’s disease risk, even among people who are age 80 and older.
Researchers found that the people who were the least active each day — in the bottom 10th percentile in the study — were two times more likely to go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, compared with people who were in the top 10th percentile for daily activity.
The results were even more marked when evaluating the intensity of physical activity: Those who were in the bottom 10th percentile for physical activity intensity were three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, compared with those in the top 10th percentile.
Speak Two Languages
Being bilingual could strengthen your brainpower and protect against dementia, according to a recent study published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
HuffPost Canada Living explains why: The anticipation of having to speak one of two language at any given time forces the brain to run continually, and results in an experience that helps avoid a mental conflict between languages.
“It is rather like a reserve tank in a car. When you run out of fuel, you can keep going for longer because there is a bit more in the safety tank,” study researcher Dr. Ellen Bialystok told The Guardian.
Research in flies suggests that the main compound in turmeric, called curcumin, could have powers against Alzheimer’s.
The Telegraph reported on a study in the journalPLoS ONE, which suggested that curcumin may work by reducing the amount of oligomers, which are the “precursor” forms of amyloid plaques in the brain. A previous study in the journal Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology discussed the possible effects of curcumin on Alzheimer’s.
Researchers wrote: Due to various effects of curcumin, such as decreased Beta-amyloid plaques, delayed degradation of neurons, metal-chelation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and decreased microglia formation, the overall memory in patients with AD has improved.
Doing some puzzles and playing games every day could ward off mental decline, according to a recent study in the journal BMC Medicine.
Researchers from the University of Erlangen conducted a study in dementia patients in nursing homes, and had the study participants do exercises like bowling and solving puzzles together, the Press Association reported. They also spent some time doing things like woodwork and gardening.
The researchers found that all of these activities seemed to have the same effect on the study participants’ brain functioning, compared with the typical dementia medication, the Press Association reported. Another recent study in the journal Archives of Neurology showed that life-long reading and game-playing could decrease beta amyloid levels in the brain, which are considered a “hallmark of the condition,” MedicineNet reported.
“Staying cognitively active over the lifetime may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by preventing the accumulation of Alzheimer’s-related pathology,” study researcher Susan Landau, a research scientist at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, told MedicineNet.
Elderly people who walk six to nine miles a week could decrease their risk of dementia and brain functioning problems, BBC News reported.
The 2009 study in Neurology included 299 people whose average age was 78. Researchers found that people who walked the most in the study — six to nine miles a week — had a halved risk of developing the brain problems as people who walked the least in the study, according to BBC News. Similarly, a 2007 study that also appeared in the journal Neurology showed that people age 65 and older who regularly exercise have a decreased risk of vascular dementia. That study included 749 people.
Eat Your Fish And Nuts
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center found that eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids — such as fish, nuts and chicken — is linked with lower levels of of beta-amyloid protein, which is linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, included 1,219 people age 65 and older who didn’t have dementia. The researchers found that the higher their consumption of the omega-3 fatty acids, the lower the beta-amyloid in the blood.
Drink Green Tea
That refreshing green brew could have powers against Alzheimer’s disease, according to research from Newcastle University. WebMD reported that when green tea is digested, the released compounds have protective effects against Alzheimer’s.
“When green tea is digested by enzymes in the gut, the resulting chemicals are actually more effective against key triggers of Alzheimer’s development than the undigested form of the tea,” study researcher Ed Okello told The Guardian.
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