5 Ways to Fight Dementia
Too many of us have felt the pain and hopelessness of Alzheimer’s disease. Today, more than 110 years after it was first discovered, we still do not have a cure.
There are treatments that can help with some of the symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion. But the relief is temporary. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia in older people, will inevitably progress.
However, there may be ways to help prevent this devastating illness: simple, healthy choices you can and should make long before any sign of dementia appears.
Short-term memory is housed in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, and the size of the hippocampus strongly correlates with short-term memory. Bigger is better. Some research suggests that exercise can expand the size of the hippocampus and improve memory skills. Other studies show exercise may promote angiogenesis (new blood vessel growth) in the brain, which can mean more oxygen gets delivered to important brain regions.
Consider omega-3 supplements
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that plays important roles in brain health. One large trial of older adults found that daily supplementation with 900mg of DHA led to improved learning and memory function. DHA, like exercise, has also been shown to increase hippocampal volume, among other brain benefits. Omega-3 supplements are safe for many people, but they can interact with some drugs, including blood thinners. Ask your doctor what’s best for you.
Follow a healthy diet
A study in older adults demonstrated that a Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet (designed for high blood pressure) and the MIND diet (a hybrid between the two) all lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Another study found that seniors who closely followed a Mediterranean-style diet had more brain volume than their peers who didn’t. Bottom line: Eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and olive oil.
Pour some more coffee
Numerous studies show coffee can help protect against cognitive decline. One of them – the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) study – found that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day at midlife was associated with a decreased risk of developing dementia/Alzheimer’s disease late in life. There are several possible mechanisms for this protective effect, such as caffeine, antioxidants, and/or improved insulin sensitivity.
Brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF) is a protein that’s important for healthy brain function. Studies indicate that meditation and mindfulness increase BDNF levels, increase hippocampal volume and led to a decrease in cortisol levels (the stress hormone that can negatively affect health). Brain size increased significantly in those who meditated.
These only scratch the surface of what you can do to possibly help prevent dementia. There are many other foods, supplements, and behaviors that may help keep our brains sharp as we age.
Make sure you also work with your MDVIP-affiliated physician. As part of the MDVIP Wellness Program, your doctor can customize a wellness plan for you and your needs. Don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor? Learn about the benefits of MDVIP's personalized care approach and wellness program.