-is a form of dementia caused by the destruction of brain cells. Dementia is the loss, usually progressive, of cognitive and intellectual functions. Alzheimer type dementia can be characterized by initial short-term memory loss, which eventually becomes more severe and finally incapacitating.
Ways to Protect
1. Physical activity
Research from the University of Illinois has suggested that regular aerobic activity—like running, walking, or bicycling, which require oxygen to produce energy—may do a better job of protecting brain function than nonaerobic activity, which does not recruit oxygen and uses short bursts of motion (golf, tennis, and lifting weights).
2. Weight control
The heavier a person is, the more likely he or she may be to develop Alzheimer's. Thompson published research that found that the brains of older individuals who were obese (with a body mass index over 30) had approximately 8 percent less brain volume than subjects of normal weight (BMI between 18.5 and 25).
3. Mental challenges
The brain's ability to reorganize neural pathways with new information or experiences means it's regularly changing; we can even generate new brain cells. But you need to work it. The general guideline, says Neil Buckholtz, chief of the dementias of aging branch at the National Institute on Aging, is regularly engaging in "some kind of new learning that challenges you."
4. Social connections
Research has found that people with larger social networks, while they had similar amounts of the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's as did more isolated people, were less affected cognitively. And separate research suggests that psychological distress over the long term significantly raises a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's.
5. Healthy diet
"What we have pretty good evidence for is that a diet higher in vegetables and lower in fat is [protective,]" explains Thies. While the evidence doesn't offer up any recipes for success, the general recommendation is to get plenty of veggies and fruits with dark skins, like spinach, beets, red bell peppers, onions, eggplants, prunes, blackberries, strawberries, red grapes, oranges, and cherries, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Some evidence suggests green, leafy cruciferous vegetables, in particular, are helpful. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial.
6. Chronic disease control
Buckholtz notes that "high blood pressure in old age is a very strong risk factor for developing Alzheimer's later on, but if you can keep the blood pressure down, that decreases your risk." And a study published in the journal Dementia & Geriatric Cognitive Disorders found that people in their 40s who had mildly elevated cholesterol were at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's later in life.