It's one of the most terrifying medical diagnoses today... the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S... and scientists still aren't sure how it develops...
Right now, 5.3 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, with someone developing Alzheimer's every 67 seconds.
Alzheimer's is a form of dementia that slowly erases your short-term memory, and eventually erases the memories of family, friends, and even how to perform day-to-day tasks like bathing or eating. It saps a person of the most fundamental things we use to define who we are.
Alzheimer's is a mysterious disease. And currently, we can't cure it. We can only treat many of the symptoms... but those therapies often come with severe side effects.
The best thing you can do to stave off Alzheimer's is to live a healthy lifestyle, eat a healthy diet, and prevent inflammation.
I wasn't surprised when new research hit showing eating fish could fight off Alzheimer's. Fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation (one of the risk factors of Alzheimer's).
The study – recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – showed that people who consumed fish regularly had fewer "plaques" in their brains. Plaques are a common sign of Alzheimer's where there is too much clumping of a brain protein called beta-amyloid.
Researchers found the benefit was especially true for folks with a certain gene that increases their risk for Alzheimer's.
It's important to note the benefit was from eating fresh, whole fish... not fish-oil supplements
My longtime Retirement Millionaire readers will recognize that I've said this for years. In fact, my research team has gone through many of the recent advances in brain health. While there's still no cure for Alzheimer's, there are some steps you can take to protect your mind. We've assembled three of my top tips for you today...
Three Ways to Fight Alzheimer's
1. Eat like you live in the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean diet has gotten a lot of press in the last few years. It's a diet similar to what folks living around the Mediterranean Sea eat every day – plenty of fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil.
There's good reason to try this diet. A study published last year in the journal Neurology found that people who stick to the Mediterranean diet slow the effects of aging on their brains. The research showed that older men (with an average age of 80) who followed the diet had significantly less brain decay, or atrophy. Their brains looked five years younger than their fellow participants'.
The study looked at images of brain regions that often decay as we age – the so-called gray and white matter. Gray matter in your brain is where the clusters of nerve cells live. It's responsible for much of your brain's functions, including muscle control, memory, vision, hearing, emotions, and decision making. White matter involves the long nerves that fire messages to other brain cells. The men who followed the Mediterranean diet had significantly higher amounts of both gray and white matter.
Adding extra olive oil to your diet is easier than you think – I sprinkle it on my salads and use it to cook most of my food.
2. Get plenty of sleep. Sleeping helps clean the brain, clearing away toxins that build up in the brain during the day. One study, published in the journal Science, found that the brains of sleeping mice cleared away beta-amyloid better than the brains of mice who were awake.
Researchers believe the human brain can clear out waste easier while a person is asleep because brain cells shrink during sleep. This gives waste a wider physical passage to get out of your brain.
And another study from UC Berkeley demonstrated that poor quality of sleep and insomnia lead to a buildup of this plaque. It's a vicious cycle – the less you sleep, the more these harmful plaques can form and cause serious damage.
Researchers believe that finding ways to improve sleep can help slow the growth and possibly prevent the development of Alzheimer's. You can read about my seven tips to get better sleep right here.
3. Start meditating. We've written before about the many benefits of meditation. It helps fight stress and boosts your "happiness-causing" brain chemicals... two things that help protect your brain's health.
But one study out of UCLA also found that regular meditation significantly reduced levels of inflammation in the participants' brains. Inflammation contributes to a number of illnesses, like heart disease. And researchers think inflammation damages the brain. Chronic inflammation goes in tandem with the physical signs of Alzheimer's disease.
In other meditation studies, not only did inflammation decrease, but feelings of loneliness and isolation – two factors that contribute to developing dementia – also lowered.
Plus, meditation helps preserve connections in your prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain responsible for higher-level organizing, planning, and memory.
We may not find a cure for Alzheimer's soon, but we can take precautions to protect our brains. These three easy steps will help get you started today.
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What We're Reading...
- Here's why ants don't show any signs of aging.
- Some researchers think Ronald Reagan may have had early signs of Alzheimer's while in office.
- An interview with a Harvard neuroscientist who sees physical changes in the brain from meditation.
- Something different: Would you pay $1 million for a photo of a potato?