Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that afflicts one in ten Americans aged 65 years and older. It is the most common form of dementia that manifests as difficulty in cognition, memory, and reasoning.
Since 1989, the number of deaths from the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease has risen eight-nine percent and it has become the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. (1) There is no known cure. Make no mistake: Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.
More on Alzheimer’s
Contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer’s and similar diseases aren’t “common illnesses”. They occur when abnormal protein deposits form in the brain, hampering inter-cellular communication and causing neuronal death. As cells die, the brain shrinks and proper functioning becomes impossible. (2)
The cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown.
Why certain proteins begin to accumulate on the brain hasn’t been determined. Once plaque begins to form, its affects on the brain worsen over time. (3)
Risk factors include(4):
- Older age
- Down’s syndrome
- chronically high LDL cholesterol
- cardiovascular disease and hypertension
- head injury
- smoking cigarettes
While there is no one cause, there are ways to decrease risk and alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) through lifestyle and diet.
See also: preventing Alzheimer’s
10 Foods to Prevent Alzheimer’s
Here’s what you need to eat to keep your brain in optimal shape.
Beans, beans, they’re good for the heart—and the brain! Researchers at Rush University suggest eating beans at least three times a week to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Beans’ nutritional profile of high fiber and protein help to slow cognitive decline and even reduce its incidence. (5, 6)
The pigment in blueberriesʹ skin contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants (primarily anthocyanin and gallic acid). Rich also in vitamins C and K, blueberries have been shown to improve memory by signalling brain neurons in the areas of the brain related to memory storage. In addition, gallic acid reduces neural damage and improves cognitive function by reducing oxidative stress. (7) Furthermore, anthocyanin regulates blood glucose, with implications for diabetes (a risk factor for AD) and alleviates depression. (8)
Other berries and dark-skinned fruits (like plums) contain the same and other antioxidants as well.
There are many antioxidants in raw cocoa, one of which is resveratrol, which is also found in black tea, raspberries, and dark grapes. A contributing factor to neurodegeneration is inflammation in the brain that weakens the blood-brain barrier. Resveratrol in cocoa improves circulation and is anti-inflammatory. It seems to regulate the brain’s immune response from outside the brain by fortifying the blood-brain barrier, preventing damaging proteins from infiltrating the brain. (9)
If you regularly drink coffee, you might consider making it a healthy mocha (using raw cocoa, sans all the sugar in a chocolate syrup) for added benefit. Coffee has its own healthful phytonutrients and its caffeine content has been found to improve memory and prevent plaque from forming on the brain.