The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that over five million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. (causing more deaths than prostate and breast cancer combined), and costs the country $236 billion per year. The problem with Alzheimer’s disease is that by the time you have it, it’s often too late to do more than treat and slow it down.
According to a new study, however, there is a way you may be able to prevent it years before it sets in. And all it takes is a little bit of exercise and a healthy diet. A team of scientists from UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior discovered the three most important elements to preventing Alzheimer’s disease: 1) regular physical activity, 2) a healthy diet, and 3) having a normal body mass index (BMI). The combination of these three elements can help to reduce the buildup of the proteins associated with Alzheimer’s onset.
The study involved 44 adults between the ages of 40 and 85. The adults all suffered from mild memory changes, but no dementia. A PET scan measured the amount of tangles (knotted threads of tau protein, which is common in all brain cells) and plaque (deposits of toxic beta-amyloid proteins in the spaces between the brain’s nerve cells) in their brains, and the participants gave information regarding their physical activity, lifestyle, and diet. The participants’ BMI was also measured.
The participants who had the lowest amount of plaque and tangles in their brains were the ones who engaged in the most physical activity, had a lower BMI, and followed a Mediterranean diet (one heavy in fruits, veggies, fish, cereals, and legumes, and low in dairy and meat). Mild to moderate alcohol consumption also led to reduced risk of plaque and tangles in the brain.
It’s no secret that a healthy diet and lifestyle can prevent a multitude of problems. However, this is the first study to link these factors with the proteins that can cause memory problems and dementia. This study has provided simple proof on what we can do to reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And to think it’s as simple as improving our eating habits, being more active, and losing body fat.
The fight against Alzheimer’s disease starts now. Even if you’re a healthy 20-some-year-old, that doesn’t mean you can slack off on your workouts or engage in poor eating habits. Making the healthy choices today will reduce your future risk of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders. Invest the effort now, and you’ll reap the rewards later in life.
1. The University of California-Los Angeles. “Diet and exercise can reduce protein build-ups linked to Alzheimer’s, study shows.” ScienceDaily, 16 August 2016.