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ent or Delay Alzheimer's Disease
by: Phyllis Staff, Ph.D.
Argh! Where are my glasses? I put them down . . . to do what? And when?
As the daughter of an Alzheimer's patient, this inability to keep up with everyday items, like my glasses and car keys, drives me absolutely nuts! Absent-mindedness has always plagued me. Now, it keeps me anxious and guessing. Is this an early sign of Alzheimer's disease? Could I end up like my father, crippled with this disease? I decided to stop worrying about it and act!
I searched the latest literature to see what techniques (no prescriptions, thank you!) could prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Here are some of the things I found.
Diets rich in vitamin E and essential oils may help prevent Alzheimer's disease. A study recently reported in the Archives of Neurology (2002) found that participants, aged 65-102, who ate fish at least once each week showed 36% less decline in cognitive functioning over the study's three+ years. Similar results have been found in the Rotterdam Study, a study tracking over 9000 participants. Those researchers found that participants who ate fish most often were only one-third as likely to develop Alzheimer's Disease as those who ate fish least often. These studies provide compelling reasons to add at least one meal of fish to your diet every week.
What other foods should you include? Olive oil is an especially valuable source of vitamin E and other anti-oxidants. I prefer the extra virgin variety of olive oil for its milder taste. With a squeeze of fresh lime juice, olive oil makes a very pleasant salad dressing. And I've discovered that the more I use it, the more I like it.
B vitamins, particularly folic acid and vitamin B-12, help prevent Alzheimer's as well as a host of other diseases such as heart disease and stroke. A study from the National Institute on Aging found that mice fed a diet rich in folic acid were able to repair damage to the DNA of nerve cells in the hippocampus (an area needed for memory and learning). Foods rich in B vitamins whole grains, yeast, meat, low-fat dairy products, lentils and leafy greens.
Can't I just take a pill?
B vitamins may not be readily absorbable from pills. Certainly, the supplement pills are better than nothing, but for good absorption by the body, vitamin B shots may be preferable. Vitamin E and fish oil capsules are readily absorbed, so they should help. Check with your doctor or a nutritionist for correct dosages.
Substituting Soy for Dairy products
Soy may have protective properties and is a good source of B vitamins. I've known for years that ice cream gives me a stomach-ache. The problem is that I'm an ice cream junkie, a dairy products junkie, for that matter. I never met an aged cheddar cheese I didn't like. So I was very surprised to find that I actually prefer soy-based milk and ice creams to their dairy counterparts. I haven't tried soy-based cheeses yet. If you have, or if you've tried other soy substitutes, let me know what you think.
A caution: genetically-altered soy beans are often used in soy-based products. Without labeling, such as that Western European countries require on all genetically-altered foods, it is difficult to be certain that genetically-altered beans have been excluded from the products you're eating. I get mine at the health-food store for a little added protection. Although I cannot tell if the product contains some genetically-altered soy, the fact that it is organically grown assures me it is free of pesticide residues.
What about NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)?
One of the prevailing theories is that inflammation causes or encourages Alzheimer's disease. This theory led to the suggestion that a daily regimen of NSAIDs (Ibuprofen and similar products) might prevent the disease. However, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, July 25, 2002) found no significant benefits from NSAIDS compared to a placebo.
What to Avoid
A brand-new study, also reported in Stockholm (July 23, 2002) during the 8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, found that, among people who do not have the gene that predisposes people to Alzheimer's disease, smoking is significantly related to the occurrence of Alzheimer's disease. Yet another reason to stop smoking now!
Even small amounts of mercury may create the neurofibrillar tangles (abnormal TAU proteins) that occur in Alzheimer's and related diseases according to research conducted at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine. So I'll avoid silver/mercury tooth fillings. My mercury-filled thermometer now resides in the garbage can. The newer digital thermometers are easier, quicker, and safer to use.
Other Benefits of a Nutritious Diet
A nutritious diet, combined with a healthy lifestyle may prevent or ameliorate many diseases related to aging. With a US growing population now over 65+ (17 million+ according to the latest US census), seniors with serious medical problems may soon require more care than we can as a nation provide. We must do all we can to eliminate the problems associated with aging. Then the golden years may be truly golden.
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