How to Ward Off Dementia and Alzheimer’s

While the Alzheimer’s Association estimates the costs of treating Alzheimer’s to rise five-fold to $1.08 trillion by 2050, some researchers believe these costs can be lowered if people behaved healthier. “What’s good for your brain is good for your heart, and vice versa,” said Alzheimer’s researcher Huntington Potter of the University of South Florida. “Cardiovascular disease works with Alzheimer’s disease to cause even worse dementia.”

Meanwhile, Mark Underwood, a researcher for Quincy Bioscience, suggests people can be more proactive in safeguarding their health.

He has simple tips for keeping the brain healthy to help fight the onset of dementia :

  • Eat your veggies – A 2006 study of more than 3,700 older adults found that those who ate plenty of vegetables slowed the decline of their mental abilities by 40%, compared with those who skimped on their greens.
  • Get outdoors – Your skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight. In one study among volunteers 65-years and older, those with the lowest levels of the vitamin were more than twice as likely to have cognitive impairment as those whose levels were optimal.
  • Use your brainSome studies found that people who had spent more years in school or had worked in mentally demanding jobs stayed sharper, even when their brains were damaged by the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease. Lifelong hobbies, such as playing cards or doing crossword puzzles, might also help protect against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Talk to people – A Harvard study found that socially connected people kept more of their memory intact as they aged – up to twice as much, according to one measure.

Underwood also suggests regulating brain calcium, which he says can be controlled with Prevagen – a dietary supplement made by his biotech company. According to the product’s website, the supplement lowers calcium levels, thereby restoring brain function.

But USF's Potter isn’t convinced by that claim.

“The calcium-binding protein may bind calcium as it goes through your digestive tract for awhile until it gets digested,” Potter said, “but whether it’s going to reduce calcium in the brain or not is highly unlikely. And even if it did, it isn’t necessarily something you want to do.”

Calcium supplements are often prescribed to older people because they need to boost their levels, Potter added. He also advises monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Otherwise, he says Underwood’s other four tips hold some truth, since these behaviors have shown to delay dementia in some studies.

Consumers, "be aware" : talk to your doctor before taking any dietary supplements. [HealthyState.org]