The Alzheimer’s Association has estimated that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States will more than double in the next 40 years. Currently 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, but 13.8 million Americans are expected to by 2050. As a result, medical costs will increase to more than $1.2 trillion per year by 2050.1 And the cumulative costs for Alzheimer’s care from 2010 to 2050 is estimated to exceed $20 trillion.2
What can be done to prevent cognitive decline?
Reduce Abdominal Fat
Your belly affects your brain? It may seem like an odd connection, but a recent study conducted on more than 700 middle-aged subjects found that obesity lowered total brain volume in healthy middle-aged individuals. Lower total brain volume has been linked to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life. The findings, published in the Annals of Neurology, suggested that insulin resistance and BMI did not correlate to dementia, but visceral abdominal fat was significantly related.3
Everyone knows that exercise is good for us and we should be exercising regularly. It has been shown to help combat heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, sleep disorders, and many circulatory issues.4-7 But, did you know physical exercise can actually improve how the brain functions? Studies are increasingly demonstrating that exercise can improve memory and processing speed, and even slow down cognitive impairment.8-16Based on the accumulation of evidence, regular exercise will soon be prescribed even to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.17 Evidence is also mounting regarding exercise and its beneficial effects on Parkinson’s disease.18,19
Listen to Music
According to a study conducted at Boston University School of Medicine, Alzheimer’s patients can remember verbal information significantly better when it is set to music. Alzheimer’s patients and healthy older adults were recruited to listen to spoken words or words set to music. The results indicated Alzheimer’s patients were more accurate on memory tests when the words were set to music. Healthy older adults did not derive any significant benefits from listening to musical words. It was concluded that Alzheimer’s patients had significant memory improvements because music improved brain processes that function at a slower rate when Alzheimer’s is present.20 Two years later, more research also backed up the use of music in treating Alzheimer’s.21
Drink Blueberry Juice
Blueberries are loaded with health promoting phytochemicals, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Polyphenols and anthocyanins can slow decline in memory function by increasing cognitive signals and assisting glucose metabolism in the brain. Researchers found that individuals with memory decline showed significant improvement in learning and memory tests when they consumed 2 ½ cups of blueberry juice every day for 12 weeks.22
Polyphenols found in berries (especially the berries’ flavonoid content) have been associated with improvement in neuronal functioning with aging and cogntion. Concord grape juice has a variety of polyphenols including anthocyanins and flavonols. A 2012 study published in theJournal of Agricultural Food Chemistry showed that concord grape juice could enhance neurocognitive function in older people with mild cognitive impairment.23
- Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Retrieved on September 2, 2013 http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp
- Alzheimer’s News 5/19/10. Report: Alzheimer’s disease to cost United States $20 trillion over next 40 years. Retrieved on September 2, 2013 from http://alz.org/news_and_events_19623.asp
- Debette S, et al. Visceral fat is associated with lower brain volume in healthy middle-aged adults. Annals of Neurology. Published online early. May 20, 2010.
- Kligman EW, Pepin E. Prescribing physical activity for older patients. Geriatrics. 1992 Aug;47(8):33-4, 37-44, 47.
- O’Grady M, Fletcher J, Ortiz S. Therapeutic and physical fitness exercise prescription for older adults with joint disease: an evidence-based approach. Rheum Dis Clin North Am.2000 Aug;26(3):617-46. Review.
- Koivula RW, Tornberg AB, Franks PW. Exercise and diabetes-related
cardiovascular disease: systematic review of published evidence from
observational studies and clinical trials. Curr Diab Rep. 2013 Jun;13(3):372-80.
- Kemmler W, et al. Long-term exercise and risk of metabolic and cardiac diseases: the erlangen fitness and prevention study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.2013;2013:768431. doi: 10.1155/2013/768431. Epub 2013 Jul 30.
- Özkaya GY, et al. Effect of strength and endurance training on cognition in older people. J Sports Sci & Med 2005; 4: 300-313.
- Perrig-Chiello P, et al. The effects of resistance training on well-being and memory in elderly volunteers. Age Ageing 1998; 27: 469-475.
- Cassilhas RC, et al. The impact of resistance exercise on the cognitive function of the elderly. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007; 39: 1401-1407.
- Smith GS. Aging and neuroplasticity. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2013 Mar;15(1):3-5.
- Berchicci M, et al. Benefits of Physical Exercise on the Aging Brain: The Role of the Prefrontal Cortex. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013 Jul 5. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 23833198.
- Hayes SM, et al. A review of cardiorespiratory fitness-related neuroplasticity in the aging brain. Front Aging Neurosci. 2013 Jul 12;5:31.
- Hötting K, Röder B. Beneficial effects of physical exercise on neuroplasticity and cognition. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013 Apr 25. doi:pii: S0149-7634(13)00101-2.
- Erickson KI, et al. Physical activity and brain plasticity in late adulthood. Dialogues ClinNeurosci. 2013 Mar;15(1):99-108.
- McDonnell MN, et al. A single bout of aerobic exercise promotes motor cortical neuroplasticity. J Appl Physiol. 2013 May;114(9):1174-82.
- Farina N, Rusted J, Tabet N. The effect of exercise interventions on cognitive outcome in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. Int Psychogeriatr. 2013 Aug 20:1-10.
- Rose MH, et al. Improved clinical status, quality of life, and walking capacity in Parkinson’s disease after body weight-supported high-intensity locomotor training. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 Apr;94(4):687-92.
- Filippin NT, et al. Effects of treadmill-walking training with additional body load on quality of life in subjects with Parkinson’s disease. Rev Bras Fisioter. 2010 Jul-Aug;14(4):344-50.
- Simmons-Stern NR, Budson AE, Ally BA. Music as a memory enhancer in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychologia. 2010 Aug;48(10):3164-7.
- Simmons-Stern NR, et al. Music-based memory enhancement in Alzheimer’s disease: promise and limitations. Neuropsychologia. 2012 Dec;50(14):3295-303.
- Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, et al. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. J Agric Food Chem. 2010, 58(7):3996-4000.
- Krikorian R, et al. Concord Grape Juice Supplementation and Neurocognitive Function in Human Aging. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Apr 9. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22468945.