New Year’s Resolutions?    

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If you have resolved to adopt a healthier life style this New Year, exactly what does that mean if you want to stave off Alzheimer’s disease? Many have sought a “magic bullet” to protect against this disease; no one has found it. Sifting through the research results, here is the best thinking to date on how to maximize your brain health.


Eat a balanced diet, high in fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean protein. Some dieticians suggest a “Mediterranean diet”, which has all these attributes and uses olive oil instead of butter or margarine. Although much has been written about the protective qualities of dark chocolate, cocoanut oil, red wine and ginko balboa, there is no evidence that any of these foods, taken alone, confers measurable protection against Alzheimer’s when eaten in normal, healthy amounts.


Get 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week. As summarized in a previous blog, the link between exercise and cognitive health is not well understood. However, in both human and mouse trials, it appears that regular aerobic exercise prevents the shrinkage of the hippocampus and possibly stimulates the production of other chemicals in the brain that help maintain mental functioning.


Try to get a good night’s sleep. There is lots of evidence that sleep is important to your brain’s health. During periods of sleep, it is thought that the brain clears out beta amyloid that builds up during the day. Other researchers think that the brain completes processing of information taken in during the day while the person is asleep. Although we do not know precisely how sleep improves brain function, there is ample information that lack of sleep results in poorer cognition. Lots of people have difficulty sleeping and do not develop Alzheimer’s. However, if you have trouble sleeping through the night, follow up with your physician to see what may be done to help you get more zzzzzs.


In looking over these pointers, you will see that this is the same list is recommended to those who are concerned about heart health. The evidence seems to be mounting that health measures that are good for your heart are also good for your brain.


The disappointing conclusion for some is that eating dark chocolate and drinking red wine will not by themselves confer protection against Alzheimer’s. If you hear of a food or supplement being endorsed as a means to protect you against Alzheimer’s, be skeptical. An overall healthy approach to eating, sleeping and exercise seems to be the best bet not only for brain health, but for a healthy life in general.


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