Alzhemier’s Disease and other dementias (medical conditions causing memory loss) have no curative treatment, yet. But research is slowly pointing towards ways of preventing or slowing down the progression.
An earlier study
An earlier study had shown that a higher level of total daily physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
In that study, 71 older participants were followed for 4 years. There was an association found between the total daily physical activities the participants performed and the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease as well as cognitive decline.
The study combined exercise, as well as non-exercise activities, for calculating the total daily physical activities.
A recent paper in Alzheimer’s & Dementia journal showed the benefit of exercise for Alzheimer’s even for people at the highest risk for developing it.
The earlier study had considered elderly, but normal participants. This study chose to study participants who had a genetic mutation which made them vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease at a younger age.
The participants were young, 30 to 60 years of age. They were at the highest risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In a way, these people were programmed by nature to get Alzheimer’s disease.
The study wanted to see if one can prevent memory loss through exercise, even in people who are predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s. If yes, the argument about preventing memory loss through exercise becomes even stronger.
The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) guideline, for judging whether the person has high physical activity, is 150 minutes a week of activity. The researchers used that as a cut–off.
The study showed the benefit of exercise even in such predisposed people.
People with high physical activity were diagnosed with milder dementia 15 years later than those with lower level of activity. These people had better cognitive performance and fewer signs of Alzheimer’s than those who did low physical activity.
It is still unclear whether it is the exercise or the associated lifestyle factors — such as healthier diet and social lifestyle — that such people follow that offer this benefit.
It is also unclear which type of physical activity helps the most.
There is some evidence that the brain benefits from healthy blood pressure and good cardiovascular health. So, an aerobic type of exercise, which reduces decline in the performance of small blood vessels in the brain, may be the most helpful.
Another possibility is that exercise might be helping in memory loss by increasing the number of synapse connections, improving cell walls to allow for better exchange of nutrients, and improving vascular health.
The current consensus is about doing 30 to 40 minutes of exercise three to four times a week.
The Alzheimer’s Association suggests 10 lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of dementia (memory loss). They are:
- Engage in regular aerobic exercise,
- Learn or study something new, even formally,
- Stop smoking,
- Reduce obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes (Alzheimer’s disease is considered insulin resistance of the brain. Read on this website: Alzheimer’s disease: the type 3 diabetes?),
- Protect against any possible brain injury (use helmets and seat belts, prevent falls),
- Eat a low fat diet, which is high in fruits and vegetables. Certain diets, such as Mediterranean diet and MIND diet (a hybrid Mediterranean-DASH diet), may help,
- Manage stress,
- If you are facing anxiety or depression, seek treatment. Sometimes, those conditions can lead to memory loss,
- Keep an eye for the signs of memory loss (read on this website: Early warning signs of memory loss) and seek help, if you notice them,
- Get adequate sleep,
- Get involved in social activities that keep you purposefully engaged,
- Challenge your brain through puzzles and games,
Nutrient deficiency and its relation to memory loss
Another important observation is high levels of homocysteine is a strong and independent risk factor for Alzheimer’s. High homocysteine levels are caused by low vitamin B levels. B vitamins supplementation may help for Alzheimer’s.
Read on this website: Are Alzheimer’s and B vitamins deficiency related?
Read on this website: Do fish oil supplements help in memory loss
Aerobic exercise, 30 to 40 minutes 3 to 4 times a week, may help prevent or slow down Alzheimer’s.
Consider lifestyle changes such as low fat diet, diet high in fruits and vegetables, adequate sleep, stress management, social activities, games, puzzles, and purposeful living.
Increase your intake of B vitamins and omega–3 fish oils through food or supplements.
First published on: 28th September, 2018