There are endless claims that lifestyle changes (such as diet and exercise) and supplements can help slow down the symptoms or perhaps even prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Which (if any) of these claims are true? Is there any ironclad way for consumers to know who to trust these days?
One useful tool for those who are searching through the would-be claims of remedies for the disease, is “Cognitive Vitality.”
Cognitive Vitality is an online tool created by neuroscientists from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), to give consumers trustworthy information on products claiming to prevent or stave off symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Each product’s potential benefit for brain health is rated on the Cognitive Vitality website and every review is based on scientific evidence. Supporting evidence and safety factors are also listed for each program or product on the site, as well as detailed information about dementia prevention and whether the results might be different for those with the hereditary (APOE4) gene (a risk factor that has been identified for the disease).
“Alzheimer’s is a complex disease and will likely require several drugs to treat it effectively,” Yuko Hara told Medical News Today. “We started Cognitive Vitality to give people access to credible, science-backed information about brain health. Our goal is to empower people to make smart choices for their brains. In addition to our in-house neuroscientists, an external Clinical Advisory Board reviews all our ratings before we post them to the site,” she added.
The blog reports on promising research to prevent, treat, and cure Alzheimer’s. “Many areas of Alzheimer’s research are promising. Alzheimer’s is a complex disease and will likely require several drugs to treat it effectively,” said Hara.
Another feature of the Cognitive Vitality website is a summary on how to avoid risks, including articles on the danger of air pollution, various medications found to increase disease risks, and more. Access the Cognitive Vitality tool to view product reviews here.
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Your Alzheimer’s Risk
Many recent studies, from a wide range of sources, concur that exercise is one of the best things a person can do for brain health, during the lifespan. Exercise lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease and reduces stress — all major risk factors for the disease. Studies have also shown that regular aerobic exercise slows down normal cognitive decline (that occurs during aging) in older adults.
Another encouraging finding in clinical studies is that exercise can reduce the amyloid plaques (abnormal protein in the brain, which is thought to be a preceptor to the disease). For caregivers and family members who carry the APOE4 gene, exercise (and other lifestyle changes) was identified as being even more influential in reducing risk and protecting the brain, than for those without the gene.
Brain Health and Exercise
There are several factors at play when a person works out regularly. For example, blood flow to the brain is increased — raising the level of other healthy chemicals that work to protect the brain. Exercise has also been found to reduce the loss of neural connections that occurs naturally with age. Normal age-related brain shrinkage is also reduced.
Note, in Alzheimer’s, marked loss of neural connections and shrinkage are both hallmark symptoms of the disease. To illustrate just how much of an impact regular exercise has on Alzheimer’s prevention, one simply needs to look to recent scientific studies. One estimate from medical experts says that 20% of all incidence of Alzheimer’s is at least partially attributed to lack of regular physical activity. Mayo Clinic reports that working out for 30-60 minutes, for at least three times per week, improves judgment, memory and other thinking skills, while improving symptoms of early Alzheimer’s (MCI).
Physical Health and Socialization
Just as obesity prevention has taken center stage when it comes to health and wellness in the United States, so too has socialization for its ability to lower potential risks and provide protective factors.
Studies have shown that socializing lowers the blood pressure, cholesterol levels and heart rate — all risk factors for Alzheimer’s. A 2010 study analyzed the results of 148 different studies on survival rates for those who socialize regularly. The study concluded that there was a 50% increased likeliness of survival for participants with a strong social support network.
Recent studies have discovered that regular socialization also makes a positive impact on cognitive functioning, as people age. One study, conducted by Oscar Ybarra, Professor of Psychology at the Institute for Social Research, found that “brief, friendly, 10-minute conversations improved performance in an array of cognitive tasks,” said Ybarra.
The study also found that when the conversations were hostile (rather than friendly and supportive), the effects were not as positive on improved cognition.
What are your thoughts on the Cognitive Vitality tool? Will you use it to research ways to prevent Alzheimer’s? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.