Nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is often associated with older age, but it is becoming more common in people in their 40’s and 50’s. It is the most frequent cause of age-related cognitive decline.
It is caused by protein deposits in the brain, which build up around the nerve cells and therefore stop them working properly. This then leads to personality changes, memory failure and problems with doing every day activities.
Most people will have some of these deposits as they get older, but those with Alzheimer’s disease have many more.
Some exciting pioneering work is currently being done to look at whether nutrition can reduce (and even reverse) cognitive decline in patients (when started doing the early stages). However, for the purposes of my article, I am going to discuss the nutrition and lifestyle factors that can play a role in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The two factors that can drive the development of Alzheimer’s disease are excess inflammation and insulin imbalances.
Nutrition and lifestyle factors that can help to regulate these:
- Reduce your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates – these contribute to insulin imbalances. Think about where you can reduce added sugar and also the hidden sugars in foods and drinks.
- Also swap refined carbohydrates such as white bread, rice and pasta for the wholegrain varieties.
- Include lots of healthy fats in your diet - oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel, olives, avocados, nuts and seeds.
- Exercise regularly. This doesn’t have to mean the gym, it could be walking the dog, gardening, going to a fun dance class or a lovely bike ride in the sunshine.
- Get adequate, restful sleep every night. This is essential for mind and body repair and function. Even if sometimes this is out of your control (if you have young children for example), there are still things you can do, such as making sure you are resting and relaxing for at least half an hour before you want to go to sleep. This signals to your body that it is time to switch off.
- Take measures to control your stress levels. Identify what is causing you stress and put actions in place to do something about it. As well as finding a nutritionist to help you create a diet plan and practice lifestyle change, if necessary, find a practitioner who can support you with reducing stress. This may be a coach, hypnotherapist or counsellor.
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Joe Alvarez BSc ANutrSeptember 4th, 2016