December 21, 2018
An estimated 5.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and yet there isn't a successful treatment for the disease. Further, two of the most common medications for the progressive brain disease were found to not help, but worsen brain function in a recent study.
As a refresher, Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
While we don’t have the convenience of a pill to “treat” the disease, there are still plenty of ways to help keep the brain strong, Dr. David Perlmutter, a board-certified neurologist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, told Men’s Health.
Here are two elements of Perlmutter’s tried-and-true method for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s, as reported in Men's Health:
Eating few carbs, lots of healthy fat. Our dietary choices are hugely influential in our overall health, and perhaps nowhere else is this as evident as it relates to brain health. I limit my net carbs to around 30 to 50 g a day, and add in a lot of terrific fat in the form of extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, and wild fish. I also supplement with the omega-3, DHA, 1000mg each day, as well as MCT oil, 1-2 tablespoons daily. This diet, along with the MCT oil, helps to create ketones, a specific type of fat that’s extremely beneficial for brain function and protection.
Working out daily. Sure, we know that exercise is good for us and generally makes us feel good, but the extensive literature relating to higher levels of exercise to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease makes it clear that this is a lifestyle choice too good to turn down. So, I do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day, including running, using an elliptical machine, or biking. Resistance training is also very important, and while I do favor free weights, I certainly spend plenty of time using machines as well. Finally, although I can’t specifically relate stretching to directly reducing Alzheimer’s risk, stretching can help reduce your risk of injury and therefore will help prevent you from getting sidetracked from your exercise program.
Perlmutter, who lost his father to the disease, gives some additional advice on his web site, including to get 15-20 minutes of daily aerobic exercise to activate the DNA in your genome that codes for the production of BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which essentially the “growth hormone” of the brain.
Of course, there are things you can get wrong in your fight against Alzheimer’s, too. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic revealed that deriving most of dietary calories from carbohydrates was associated with an 89 percent increased risk for either mild cognitive impairment, or full-blown dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association suggests eating a healthy diet, staying socially active, avoiding tobacco and excess alcohol, and exercising both the body and mind.
Read the rest of Perlmutter's recommendations.