Can you help prevent Alzheimer’s?
The risks of Alzheimer’s increase with age, genetic factors, and other medical conditions. Some studies have directed their efforts to find out what conditions could interfere with the appearance of this disease.
In September 2014, a group of researchers from South Africa published a very clarifying review on this in the journal Neurobiology of Aging. This text brings together some of the answers that science has provided.
In this outreach article we will take a closer look at the compendium work of Barnard and his collaborators.
According to the data presented on the FAE website, 4.2% of the elderly between 65 and 74 years of age suffer from this disease, growing to 12.5% until they are 84 years old, and 27.7% among the over 85 years old. The prevalence is almost 4 points higher in women than in men. The FAE comments that “aging is not the cause of Alzheimer’s disease even though it generally begins after 65 years. But yes, age is the main risk factor for this pathology ”.
Even so, recent perspectives, in addition to pointing to age as the trigger, point to the intake of saturated fat, vitamin E and the practice of physical exercise as possible causes that could control the development of associated symptoms.
That is why, after the Brain and Nutrition Conference, held in Washington on July 19 and 20, 2013, seven lines to follow for prevention were drawn up, which are:
- Minimize your intake of saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are found mainly in dairy products, meats, and certain oils (coconut and palm oils). Trans fats are found in many buns and fried foods and are listed on labels as “partially hydrogenated oils.”
- Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and whole grains should replace meats and dairy as the main staples of the diet.
- Vitamin E should come from food, rather than supplements. Healthy food sources of vitamin E include seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin E is 15 mg per day.
- A reliable source of vitamin B12 (2.4 g per day for adults) should be part of your daily diet. Have your blood levels of vitamin B12 checked regularly as many factors, including age, can worsen its absorption.
- If you are supplementing with multiple vitamins, choose compounds that do not contain iron and copper and take iron supplements only when directed by your doctor.
- Although aluminum foil in Alzheimer’s disease remains under investigation, those who wish to minimize their exposure can avoid using kitchen utensils that contain it, antacids, or other products that contain aluminum.
- Include aerobic exercise in your routine, equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking 3 times a week.
The last recommendation is the one that concerns us as physical exercise professionals, and it is that observational studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have a lower risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s. Additionally, middle-aged adults who had trained were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s after age 65, compared to their sedentary peers. The recommendation to perform aerobic exercise for 40 minutes 3 times a week is due to the fact that controlled clinical trials have shown that this protocol improves memory and other cognitive functions, in addition to reducing brain atrophy.
One of the discoveries about the effects of physical activity on the brain is that it increases the size of the areas involved in the formation of memory and increases its functional activity. The review by Erickson, Weinstein and López (2012) shows that:
- The brain retains its natural capacity for plasticity even in old age, so participation in physical activity can be beneficial in promoting this characteristic.
- A relatively modest amount of physical activity is sufficient to improve cognitive function and increase the size and function of different areas of the brain.
- Even in individuals at increased risk of developing cognitive decline, higher amounts of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and associated symptoms.
To all this can be added the effects of physical exercise on Alzheimer’s markers, such as cortisol. It has been shown how exercise regulates cortisol peaks throughout the day, in addition to improving executive function indices, in people with dementia
The mechanisms underlying the improvement of Alzheimer’s disease and its prevention through physical exercise are not yet known with total certainty, however we cannot lose sight of the positive results that are being obtained in research around the world. Therefore, I do not know what you are waiting for, get going and get active..
Barnard et al. Dietary and lifestyle guidelines for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.Neurobiol Aging..
Erickson, Weinstein and López. Physical activity, brain plasticity, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Tortosa-Martínez et al. Exercise Increases the Dynamics of Diurnal Cortisol Secretion and Executive Function in People With Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment.