Dr. Day is a cardiologist and Medical Director of Heart Rhythm Services at his practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowship in cardiology at Stanford University. He is board certified in Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology.
3 Ways to Beat Alzheimer’s Disease
Even if dementia runs in your family, new research shows that Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented or reversed. In this article, I share three ways to beat Alzheimer’s disease based on the latest research from UCLA.
Bob was becoming progressively forgetful. His wife was worried. He was only 55.
Based on our research of the heart and Alzheimer’s disease, Bob and his wife came to see me. After reviewing his case, it was clear that his heart condition had played a major role in his early dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is something that starts developing years, possibly even decades, before symptoms appear. While significant damage had already been done to his brain, there still was much that could be saved.
“If we’re going to beat Alzheimer’s disease, it is going to require a significant commitment from both of you,” I said.
“We’ll do anything to stop the memory loss,” Bob and his wife said in unison.
With that, I then shared with them the latest research from UCLA. I’m happy to report that while Bob’s memory is not perfect, he did make significant progress. No further decline has been observed and he is faithfully following the new UCLA research.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
If you were to examine the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s disease you would see a mess of beta-amyloid plaques and tau-neurofibrillary tangles. Beta-amyloid plaques are basically piles of protein fragments in the brain.
It is almost as if no one bothered to take out the trash. This protein debris just accumulates and gets in the way of key brain functions.
Tau-neurofibrillary tangles are remnants of microtubules, or little pipes, that once carried nutrients and other substances in the brain. Once again, it would be as if no one ever bothered to repair the plumbing, electrical, or gas lines of an old house.
With progressive accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and tau-neurofibrillary tangles, the brain gets to the point where it can barely function. While genetic factors certainly play a role in the accumulation of plaques and tangles, lifestyle factors play an even more important role.
Indeed, studies of people who only eat real food, exercise every day, are socially connected, who embrace stress, and get restorative sleep every night rarely ever get Alzheimer’s disease. This is because healthy lifestyles flush out the beta-amyloid plaques and prevent the tau-neurofibrillary tangles from forming.
The UCLA Study
In this study, UCLA researchers under the direction of Dr. David A. Merrill, recruited 66 people with early dementia. As part of this study, Dr. Merrill and his team spent countless hours finding out everything they could about these 66 people.
For example, they wanted to know exactly what they ate, how much they exercised, what other medical conditions were going on, etc. In addition to an extensive personal history, Dr. Merrill and his team also performed a FDDNP-PET brain scan to assess the severity of the plaques and tangles.
3 Ways to Beat Alzheimer’s Disease
Based on the results of this UCLA study, these researchers identified three things you can do to beat Alzheimer’s disease.
1. Exercise a Minimum of 21.4 Minutes Daily
The number one factor in preventing brain plaques and tangles in this study was to exercise a minimum of 21.4 minutes each day (150 minutes weekly). As I have covered in a previous blog article (blog #81), exercise is the very best way to stimulate brain derived neurotrophic factor. Brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, can heal the brain and form new pathways and connections.
2. Faithfully Adhere to a Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is the best studied diet to extend life and reverse medical conditions. The traditional Mediterranean Diet is definitely not a pizza and pasta diet. Rather, it is a way of eating that is very high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, intact whole grains, olive oil, and fish.
If you eat the typical store bread, protein bars, granola, crackers, cereals, or bakery items you are definitely not following the traditional Mediterranean diet. Also, if you are eating sugar, lots of meat, or frequently visiting fast food restaurants, you are also not following the traditional Mediterranean diet.
Basically, to follow the traditional Mediterranean diet, most of what you eat has to be unprocessed and plant-based foods, without any added sugar, and some fish. In this study, the closer people followed the traditional Mediterranean diet, the less brain plaques and tangles they had.
3. Keep Your BMI Below 25
A BMI, or body mass index, between 19 and 25 meets the medical definition of a healthy weight. While the BMI way of assessing weight is not perfect, it is the most reliable and best studied method currently available.
As most Americans mistakingly believe they are at a healthy weight, follow this link to see if you really are. According to this UCLA study, if your BMI is in the normal range then it is unlikely that your brain will ever fill up with these plaques and tangles.
Take Home Message
The key message of this study is one of hope. According to research from UCLA, you can easily beat Alzheimer’s disease by just doing just three simple things.
While genes do matter, your lifestyle matters even more. If dementia runs in your family, or you want a healthy brain throughout your life, resolve now to exercise at least 21.4 minutes EVERY day, faithfully follow a Mediterranean style diet, and keep your BMI in the normal range.
Does Alzheimer’s disease run in your family? What are you doing to beat Alzheimer’s disease?
Please leave your thoughts and questions below. I’ll do my best to quickly answer every question.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.