Researchers still haven’t found a fool proof way to cure or prevent mild cognitive impairment (pre-dementia) or Alzheimer’s disease that works for everyone. However, enough strong scientific studies have linked various diet and lifestyle factors with the disease that a handful of strategies stand out in their ability to profoundly inhibit the risks.
Sometimes “diet and lifestyle” are the last things anyone wants to hear. Taking a pill is much easier. It can be hard to make changes at first, such as adding in a walking routine. But you can help your motivation by finding support online or in person from a friend. If you can do so, that walk or diet change can also be fun, give you a sense of accomplishment, and go beyond Alzheimer’s prevention to relieve other health maladies such as chronic pain, high cholesterol, or insulin resistance (pre-diabetes).
With that said, let’s look at some basic and advanced strategies for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s prevention. If you’re sedentary and accustomed to eating primarily fast foods and packaged foods, you may want to start with basic before graduating to advanced:
Diet – Basic
The links between Alzheimer’s and high blood sugar are astonishing, prompting some researchers to call Alzheimer’s type 3 diabetes. If you are serious about brain health, you need to adopt an anti-inflammatory, low sugar, lower-carbohydrate diet.
- Eliminate all sodas, desserts, sugars, and even natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.)
- Eliminate “white” carbohydrates, such as breads, pasta, white rice, and pastries. Eat small portions of whole grains.
- Go gluten-free. Gluten is very pro-inflammatory for many people, and this inflammation could help promote the formation of the Alzheimer’s-causing plaques in the brain.
- Stick to healthy fats, such as coconut oil (especially good for brain health), salmon, avocado, and natural fats from organic and preferably grass-fed meats. Avoid processed vegetable oils and strictly avoid hydrogenated oils, or trans fats.
- Make changes in stages if necessary. If you eat a diet high in sweets and starches, pick one change to make each week. For instance, week one could be to eliminate sodas. Overwhelming yourself with too many changes at once may set you up for failure.
Diet – Advanced
- Adopt a ketogenic diet. This diet has been shown to be effective in prevention and even treatment of Alzheimer’s, as it trains your brain to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar.
- Eliminate all grains. Grains are high in carbohydrates, lectins, glutens, and other compounds that are pro-inflammatory for many people.
- Avoid starchy foods such potatoes, sweet fruits, juices, and dried fruits. Although carbohydrate needs vary from person to person, they are substantially lower than what you likely eat each day. The average American eats up to 500 grams a day, much of that in the form of sugars and corn syrup; but most people do fine on no more than 150 grams of carbohydrates a day. You can obtain carbohydrates from healthier sources such as fresh vegetables, legumes, beans, seeds and modest amounts of fruit.
- Figure out which foods are inflammatory for you. The most common pro-inflammatory foods for many people are gluten and dairy. Other common immune triggers are corn, eggs, soy, all grains, or nuts. Doing an elimination diet – a diet that “eliminates” food allergies or pro-inflammatory foods – can help you figure out which foods cause inflammation, thus raising your risk of Alzheimer’s. To start an elimination diet, remove entirely from your diet specific categories of foods such as gluten, dairy, and soy and continue that for two weeks. Then reintroduce those foods back into your diet one by one. Keep a daily log of the foods you are reintroducing and how you feel after eating those. Record any symptoms you experience – tired, foggy-brained, headaches, joint pains vs. energized, focused, etc. You’ll fairly quickly determine which ones are pro-inflammatory for you by the way you feel after reintroducing them.
Exercise – Basic
Regular physical exercise reduces your risk of Alzheimer’s by 50 percent.
- Walk every day. The body was designed to walk… a lot. Walking at least a half an hour per day can greatly reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Exercise – Advanced
- Lift weights. Studies of weight lifting show it remarkably boosts prevention and even reduces symptoms for those already suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment or Alzheimer’s. You don’t have to body-build. A short and simple routine two or three times a week of weight resistance can be profound.
- High-intensity interval training. This is an exercise strategy that incorporates multiple short bursts of raising your heart rate, followed by a short rest. For some that burst may be walking more briskly. For others, it may be running up a hill.
The industrialization of farming and our food supply has rendered our food less nutrient dense than it used to be. Combine that with the fact most American diets lack vital brain nutrients, and the case for supplementation can be clearly made. Although the number of herbs and nutrients that have been linked with brain health could fill your kitchen cupboards, a few essentials stand out. These include:
- Fish oil or krill oil: Fish oil or krill oil are vital to neurons and brain health. Choose a pure, emulsified, high-quality fish oil, or a krill oil and follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions.
- Vitamin D: Even in sunny climates, Americans today are notoriously deficient in this vital nutrient. The Vitamin D Council recommends at least 5,000 IU a day of vitamin D. It is also highly recommended you boost your vitamin D uptake with vitamin K-2 or K-7.
- Probiotics: Researchers are increasingly exposing the connection between the teeming underworld of bacteria in our guts with today’s maladies, including obesity, diabetes, inflammation, and brain health. Good probiotics and eating cultured and fermented foods will help support a healthy balance between the good and bad bacteria in your gut. And, if you do not fix your gut problems, no amount of vitamins, minerals or health foods are going to make you well!
Don’t wait until you have been diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment or have dementia symptoms to begin thinking seriously about your brain health. Most experts believe Alzheimer’s disease is slowly progressing in a person for years before it ever manifests the first memory problem symptoms. So early prevention is the key. Making lifestyle changes can have profound effects – both now and in your future – ensuring quality time spent with your friends and loved ones.