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Published on: January 13, 2015
by Jo Willey for Express:
Experts say that while modern science has yet to uncover a way to cure the disease, there are five easy to follow top tips which will not only delay its onset but its severity.
A growing body of research has found that making just a few changes to how you live your life could have a dramatic long-term impact on dementia risk.
Alzheimer’s experts now agree that following the five steps – regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, keeping the mind active, watching your weight and getting regular health check-ups could transform the chances of developing the disease.
Dr Roger Rosenberg, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centre at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in the US said that, although the onset of the disease is directly related to ageing, staying physically and mentally active can stave off many of its symptoms.
It can also improve quality of life and decrease the risk of other killer, chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Describing the five golden rules, Dr Rosenberg said doing plenty of aerobic exercise which gets the heart rate up to 125–130 beats per minute, for one hour, three times a week is crucial.
Evidence suggests that good circulation is related to good mental health because it improves brain function, removes waste products, delivers sugar to the brain, and favours the formation of new brain cells.
Keeping the mind healthy with mental exercise is also key which means reading, doing crossword puzzles, and being social.
People also need to eat a healthy diet, limiting sugar, carbohydrates, and alcohol, which can also help beat other heart-related disease such as high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, and cardiac arrhythmia.
Dr Rosenberg also advises people to watch their weight as being overweight or obese increases the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
And he also says people should get regular check-ups.
He said: “You wouldn’t drive your car for 12 months without getting the oil changed and taking it to the mechanic for a tune-up. The same holds true for your body.”
In December (2014), new figures revealed that Alzheimer’s disease is rapidly becoming one of Britain’s biggest killers, making lifestyle changes a major weapon in the fight against it.
An analysis of the Global Burden Of Disease Study, published in The Lancet, showed the number of lives lost to the brain condition in the past 23 years has soared by 52 per cent – and it is now the third leading cause of death in the UK, claiming nearly 50,000 victims each year.
But experts have warned this could be just the tip of the iceberg as Alzheimer’s is often not recorded as the official cause of death.
The figures showed that Alzheimer’s was responsible for 52 per cent more deaths in 2013 than 1990, up from 32,429 to 49,349.
Over the same period, deaths from heart disease fell 45 per cent from 180,395 to 98,746.
Already 830,000 people in the UK are living with dementia and that number is set to rise to one million by 2025.
Dr Rosenberg said the major risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease is ageing.
But he said that as well as genetics contributing to a person’s risk, various “environmental” factors also play a part.
High blood pressure, diabetes, reduced thyroid function and a sedentary lifestyle can all dramatically raise the chances of the disease developing.
He added: “If we can and do treat these other issues, we can slow down the rate of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Exercise and other types of physical activity have many benefits, with studies showing that they are not only good for our hearts and waistlines, but our ability to carry out everyday activities.
Exercise has been shown to increase both the number of small blood vessels that supply blood to the brain and the number of connections between nerve cells in older rats and mice.
Researchers have also found it raises the level of a protein that is key to brain health in an area of the brain important to memory and learning.
A number of studies suggest that eating certain foods may help keep the brain healthy such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
While others such as saturated fat and refined carbohydrates, which include white sugar, can have a significant impact on cognitive health.
Keeping the brain active throughout life via social engagement or intellectual stimulation is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Numerous studies link continued cognitive health with social engagement through work, volunteering, or living with someone.
Mentally stimulating activities such as reading books and magazines, going to lectures, and playing games are also linked to keeping the mind sharp.
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