The Science

Recent Research on Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

Plenty of research in recent years has provided good news for those who want to keep their minds sharp, prevent cognitive decline, or help a loved one’s condition improve. The research suggests that one of the best ways to achieve this is through mental exercise. Of course, there are other factors involved so tweaking your diet or spending time with friends and family can also make a difference.

Mental Exercise

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Solving puzzles, thinking through difficult problems, or challenging your mind in other ways are all times you’re exercising your mind, even if you didn’t realize it. Doing these things more often and for longer can improve your mind by building up your neural pathways (www.pnas.org). For one study, they had people train their minds and tracked their mental abilities for years. They found that the positive effects of the mental training were still clear after five years (www.nia.nih.gov).

In fact, people who don’t flex their mental muscles often can be up to 2.6 times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease as those who don’t (www.neurology.org). This isn’t because mental exercise physically bulks up your brain. One study found that elderly people with Alzheimer’s and those who did not have it actually had very similar brains. The difference was that the brains belonging to the people who had done their mental exercises had learning how to work around the parts of the brain that weren’t in good shape. Their minds knew how to essentially think around the sick areas (annals.org).

Even working on your short term or working memory can challenge the mind and cause changes to the brain’s plasticity, which is just another way of saying it made the connections between different parts of the brain stronger (www.sciencemag.org).

Another obvious benefit of practicing your reasoning and problem-solving skills that these studies found was that it improves these skills in addition to helping prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.

Nutrition and Diet

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Here are a few dietary tweaks to help prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia. You probably already knew saturated fat is bad for your heart or at least your waistline, but you should also avoid it for your brain. Of course, there are also foods that are good for your brain. Monounsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, and folate are there for you on that one (archneur.jamanetwork.com).

Purpose

One study demonstrated the importance of having a purpose in life. Purpose doesn’t necessarily mean religion, it can be anything that drives you or makes you feel as though you’re making a difference in the world (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). It was found that a crafts class for the elderly became four times as popular when they learned that the crafts would be sent overseas to soldiers.

Social Interaction

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Some researchers actually found that your social life plays a role in preventing cognitive decline. It isn’t the number of social connections a person has that helps prevent cognitive decline, it’s the depth of your relationships and how often you interact with those people. In short, it’s very much a quality over quantity thing (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).