What Is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, a brain disorder that significantly interferes with your ability to carry out daily activities. Marked by the degeneration of healthy brain tissue, Alzheimer's triggers a gradual decline in memory and mental functioning.
In many cases, people with Alzheimer's experience difficulty recalling recent events and names of people they know. As the condition worsens, patients may have trouble reading, writing, speaking, and recognizing family members. Most people with Alzheimer's eventually require complete care.
What Are the Risk Factors for Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's typically develops after age 60. The older you get, the more your risk increases. For example, about 5 percent of people between ages 65 and 74 have Alzheimer's, while almost half the people over age 85 have the disease.
How to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease
Following a healthy diet (high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in saturated fats) may help reduce your Alzheimer's risk. Getting regular exercise, keeping mentally active (by doing crossword puzzles or learning new skills or languages, for example), and maintaining social connections as you age may also help stave off Alzheimer's disease.
Natural Approaches to Alzheimer's Disease Prevention
Here's a look at several natural substances purported to help prevent Alzheimer's disease.
A compound found in the curry spice turmeric, curcumin is known to fight inflammation (a process thought to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's). In a 2009 study of nine Alzheimer's patients and four people without the disease, scientists discovered that curcumin may fight Alzheimer's when paired with vitamin D. Study results suggested that the combination of curcumin and vitamin D may prompt the immune system to clear the brain of amyloid beta (a substance that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease).
Resveratrol (a compound found in grapes and red wine) may also help decrease levels of amyloid beta, according to a 2005 study. After administering resveratrol to amyloid-beta-producing cells, the study authors found that levels of amyloid-beta in the treated cells were much lower than those in cells left untreated.
Often touted as an herbal brain-booster, ginkgo biloba has been shown to have beneficial effects in Alzheimer's prevention in several clinical trials. However, a large study published in 2008 determined that six years of ginkgo biloba treatment (at a twice daily dose of 120 mg) was not effective in preventing Alzheimer's or dementia in elderly adults.
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Marambaud P, Zhao H, Davies P. "Resveratrol promotes clearance of Alzheimer's disease amyloid-beta peptides." The Journal of Biological Chemistry 2005 11;280(45):37377-82.
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