Simple Ways to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease
You may think that Alzheimer's ailment is a by-product of aging, but author Jean Carper wants you to know that you can avoid the disease.

After the former CNN medical correspondent and bestselling author discovered she was genetically at risk for Alzheimer's, Carper interviewed experts and reviewed medical research to better understand the disease and how to prevent it. She turned her research into a book full of easy-to-follow advice. Read an excerpt from her book, "100 Simple Things You Can do to Prevent Alzheimer's."

Ask Questions About Anesthesia
It's not uncommon to be in a mental fog when you come out of surgery but on occasion, doctors see cases like the sixty-five-year-old woman who, six months after
hip surgery, develops memory loss and is later diagnosed with Alzheimer's. This has caused concern that anesthetics may accelerate the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's, especially in vulnerable elderly brains.

Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, a renowned Alzheimer's genetics researcher at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, has focused on the hazards of isoflurane, a widely used general anesthetic. As quoted in Forbes magazine, Tanzi explained, "We don't have enough data yet to ban isoflurane, but I'm convinced enough that I won't let my mother have it. I would advise any family or friends to stay away from isoflurane. There is a lot of speculation here, and a lot of work needs to be done, but at this point I wouldn't take a chance."

Reported postsurgical cognitive problems and irreversible memory loss seem to affect mainly older people who are particularly susceptible to Alzheimer's. Talk over any concerns with your anesthesiologist and be aware of the potential problem and alert for the results of further research.

Don't Shy Away From Antibiotics
Stories of people with Alzheimer's becoming lucid after taking
antibiotics are so legendary that doctors cannot disregard them. In one case, an elderly woman with Alzheimer's was near death and taken to an emergency room, where she was given an antibiotic drip for lung congestion.

She had a mental revival that astounded her daughter: "She recognized us, was able to put three words together, and understood and responded to everything we said to her. She has not been this responsive in close to a year! I attribute it to the antibiotic drip." Brian J. Balin, PhD, a professor at the Center for Chronic Disorders of Aging, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, says that he often hears such stories of cognitive recovery after patients have taken antibiotics, and he's not really surprised.

Balin is a leading authority behind the unorthodox theory that infections are a cause of Alzheimer's. However, antibiotics are not a permanent solution. As soon as they are stopped, the mental improvement disappears, says Balin. Do not take antibiotics specifically to ward off Alzheimer's, but be aware that antibiotics may be brain protective and not to shy away from taking them when they are warranted to fight a specific infection. Avoid excessive exposure to antibiotics that are not clearly needed to combat a particular illness.

Control Bad Cholesterol
You're in your forties. You find out your blood
cholesterol is high. You probably know it could mean heart disease ahead. You may not know it also predicts Alzheimer's, according to the largest study ever done on the subject.

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research and the University of Kuopio in Finland collected data for over four decades on nearly ten thousand men and women. Their conclusion: high total cholesterol is an early warning sign that appears three or four decades before dementia does.

Thus, it's important to get cholesterol down in midlife rather than waiting until old age, when it may be too late to stop or reverse its harm to the brain. Pay attention to harmful cholesterol early in life. Get the bad type down and the good type up. That means a heart-healthy Mediterranean-type diet -- low in saturated fat and trans fats, with lots of fish, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains -- aerobic exercise, normal weight, and, if required, cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Have Your Eyes Checked
If you preserve good or excellent vision as you age, your chances of developing dementia drop by an astonishing 63 percent. And if your vision is poor, just seeing an ophthalmologist for an exam and possible treatment at least once in later life cuts your dementia odds by about the same amount -- 64 percent, according to a recent study at the University of Michigan Health System.

Be aware that your eyes reflect and influence how your brain is functioning, especially as you age. Don't tolerate poor vision. It can often be corrected, dramatically cutting your risk of dementia. See an ophthalmologist for at least one examination in late life, and have yearly screenings if possible.

Surf the Internet
It's a scientific fact: doing an Internet search can stimulate aging brains even more than reading a book. So finds Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Center on Aging. "Internet searching," he says, "engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function."

Using MRI scans, Small found that activation picks up dramatically in the brains of experienced Web surfers -- mainly in regions related to decision making and complex reasoning, which are not stimulated simply by reading. Another way to stimulate your brain online is to play quick "brain games, "so look into brain-fitness-training software but check to see if there it relies on solid science before you buy.

Drink Juices Of All Kinds
It's easy to get up in the morning and have a glass of juice. It's also startling how much that simple act can slash your chances of Alzheimer's. Compelling research from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville shows that the risk of Alzheimer's plummeted 76 percent in people who drank fruit or vegetable juice more than three times a week, compared to those who drank juice less than once a week.

Fascinating research by James Joseph, PhD, at Tufts University and Robert Krikorian, PhD, at the University of Cincinnati showed that drinking Concord grape juice or commercial blueberry juice improved short-term and verbal memory in older people with early memory loss and a high risk of Alzheimer's. Make it a habit to drink a glass of juice every day. It may be smart to drink more of the deep-colored, brain-proven juices, such as grape, pomegranate, and blueberry juice, but don't forget orange and grapefruit, pineapple, mango, cherry, prune, and all the rest. They, too, are apt to have brain benefits. Be sure to drink only 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices, not "fruit drinks." Look for "no sugar added" on the label.

Don't Be Lonely
Loneliness has emerged as a prime predictor of Alzheimer's. In a Rush University study on loneliness and the risk of Alzheimer's people with the highest loneliness scores were twice as apt to develop Alzheimer's as those with the lowest. Who's most vulnerable? Not surprisingly, older people who live alone and have experienced the death of a spouse or an intimate friend.

It's not easy to fix, since loneliness strikes at various ages and may be more of a personality trait than the result of circumstances. Therapy and possibly antidepressants (loneliness is tied to depression) to help stop cognitive damage, preferably before it becomes severe. Also, you should avoid social isolation; it worsens loneliness. If you know older people who are lonely, reach out to them.

Embrace Marriage
According to a large study from Sweden and Finland, being married or living with a significant other keeps Alzheimer's away. Living alone makes you much more vulnerable, especially if you're a woman. Having a partner in midlife (around age fifty) cut the risk of being cognitively impaired after age sixty-five in half.

In contrast, middle-aged singles (the divorced, widows, widowers, and never-marrieds) were two to three times more apt to have dementia in late life than members of a couple. Researchers theorize that intense social interactions build "brain reserve," which increases resistance to memory loss and Alzheimer's but for the moment, why singles are so at risk is still largely a mystery. If you have a spouse or significant other, consider yourself lucky. If you don't, compensate by forming strong social ties among a large circle of friends and relatives. All socializing appears to keep brains happier and healthier and Alzheimer's at a more comfortable distance.

Take Care of Your Teeth
People with tooth and
gum disease are apt to score lower on memory and cognition tests, according to a University of West Virginia School of Dentistry analysis. Researcher Richard Crout, DDS, theorizes that an infection responsible for gum disease gives off inflammatory by-products that travel to areas of the brain involved in memory loss.

These inflammatory agents may be toxic to brain cells. Consequently, Crout says brushing, flossing, and generally preventing gum disease may help keep your gums and teeth healthy, and also your memory sharper. Be sure you and everyone in your family get treatment early in life to control bleeding, inflamed gums. It could help save your brain from inflammatory assaults leading to memory loss and dementia later in life, experts say.

Put Vinegar in Everything
Vinegar does not confront Alzheimer's directly but there is evidence that vinegar sinks risk factors that may lead to memory decline and dementia -- namely, high blood sugar,
insulin resistance, diabetes and pre-diabetes, and weight gain.

Studies at Arizona State University have found that vinegar can curb appetite and food intake, helping prevent weight gain and obesity. Swedish investigators agree. In one study, downing two or three tablespoons of vinegar with white bread cut expected rises in insulin and blood sugar by about 25 percent. Pour on the vinegar -- add it to salad dressings, eat it by the spoonful, even mix it into a glass of drinking water. Any type of vinegar works because it's the acidity that counts.

Reprinted from the book 100 Simple Things You  can do to Prevent Alzheimer's and Age-related Memory Loss by Jean Carper. Copyright © 2010 by Jean Carper. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved

Tim Pedrosa

    

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not  enough; we must do. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

Tim