STRONG evidence suggests that a combination of healthy changes to lifestyle can have a huge impact on reducing the risk of Alzheimerâ€™s disease and dementia.
The conference titled â€śLifestyle Approaches for the Prevention of Alzheimerâ€™s diseaseâ€ť organised by the McCusker Alzheimerâ€™s Foundation gathered international Alzheimerâ€™s disease (AD) experts who one way or another all reached towards the same conclusion.
McGill University (Montreal) Dr Serge Gauthier says, â€śKeeping an active brain, being physically active and having a healthy dietâ€”although are things that are generally advised to anybodyâ€”strongly suggest to also have protective effects on the brain and delay the onset of AD for at least five years in the general populationâ€ť.
â€śAlthough we canâ€™t tell whether eating one food more than another, or doing one type of physical/mental exercises more than others, is more beneficial to the brain our research shows that a combined approach grouping all those things together can reduce risk factors of AD, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
â€śThese arenâ€™t high-tech pieces of advice but just common sense that everyone should follow to not only prevent dementia but also heart attack and stroke.â€ť
Columbia University (New York) Associate Professor Nikos Scarmeas, revealed the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet (MeDi).
â€śMy observations suggest that a MeDi, i.e. lots of fruits and vegetables, grains, seeds, herbs and spices, fish & seafood, few poultry and eggs and very few dairy products, meats and sweets, topped up with physical activity, can increase the chance of remaining AD and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) free,â€ť he says.
Dr Michael Valenzuela of the UNSW, adds that those with more active cognitive lifestyles have 50 per cent more protection against dementia and says that â€śa combination of education, occupation complexity and social engagement can reduce the risk of MCI, which is the pre-stage of AD, from 40 per centâ€ť.
Professor Ralph Martins, head of the McCusker Alzheimerâ€™s Foundation and Chair of the conference says the time to act is now.
â€śPeople recognise that physical exercise is good for their heart but they fail to understand that itâ€™s also beneficial to their brainâ€™s health although the evidence we have is strongâ€ť he says.
â€śLet us use the knowledge we have to sensitise the public and change peopleâ€™s behaviours before we reach huge numbers of AD-affected people that we wonâ€™t be able to cure.â€ť
All speakers called for a partnership between the research profession, the public and the food industry to help Western societies change their culture and avoid the forecast of having 36 million AD sufferers by 2050.