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Every year during the month of November we recognize National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in an effort to shed more light on the condition. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, A.D. is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. As more information is gathered, it’s been discovered that two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s or dementia are women, and African-Americans are two times as likely to develop the disease over our white counterparts.
A disorder leading to physical and chemical changes in the brain, A.D. causes the brain’s nerve cells to
become destroyed, and reduces its ability to communicate with parts of the brain. The most common
symptoms include difficulty remembering and concentrating, and over time can lead to memory loss, depression, anxiety, disorientation and hallucinations. Loss of control over physical functioning occurs in the later stages.
As of now, there is no known cause for Alzheimer’s Disease, however, growing evidence indicates that risk factors which contribute to the development of heart disease can also play a role in increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, excess body weight and lack of exercise can all increase the chances of developing the disease as we age.
Diet, specifically, can play a big role in cognitive functioning. Studies have shown that diets which are high in cholesterol and saturated fats can increase A.D. risk due to its effects on the brain. One study revealed that elevated cholesterol levels were associated with a three-time greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and a high intake of saturated fat led to a two-time increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Limiting the amount of unhealthy fats and increasing the amount of good fats in our diet can create a major difference in health outcomes. Studies have revealed that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is significantly associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, regular consumption of omega-3 rich oils was shown to be associated with a decreased risk of all causes of dementia. Additionally, antioxidants such as Vitamin E also have been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Adjustments to our diet and making the effort to lead a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent our mental functioning from early decline and possibly lower the risk of developing A.D. Reducing our cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium intake, increasing our consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods, and foods high in vitamin E can be very beneficial for the optimal brain health.
Studies have revealed that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is significantly associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, regular consumption of omega-3 rich oils was shown to be associated with a decreased risk of all causes of dementia.
Other factors can also contribute to maintaining mental fitness. Engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting or excluding smoking, maintaining an active social life, and partaking in brain activities such as puzzles and mind games are all key in keeping our brain healthy.
Make an effort to include some of these practices into your lifestyle, and share this information with those who are close to you. For more information, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org.
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