Healthy living has been shown to boost brainpower and extend our lives. But can eating well and exercising frequently also decrease a person’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease?
The answer, after much research, is maybe. B vitamins, for example, can help the body’s protein metabolism, reducing susceptibility to the kind of vascular disease which has been linked to Alzheimer’s, says Dr. Juan Troncoso, director of the Brain Resource Center at Johns Hopkins.
Exercise, too, has demonstrated brain benefits. Exercise increases grey matter in the brain, strengthening the communication between brain cells, says Dr. Ottavio Arancio of the Taub Institute at Columbia University. This might “build up the brain just like a muscle,” giving it a reserve of strength against dementia.
But it is difficult to translate these benefits to a program that doctors can prescribe to patients. “The challenge with all these lifestyle issues is that they have to be evaluated with what are called randomized clinical trials, the way a drug is evaluated,” says Dr. Samuel Gandy of Mount Sinai Hospital. “The challenge is turning crossword puzzles and broccoli into drugs.”
As well, there is the potential for false hope from products that won’t work. “We don’t want people to have false expectations, and at the same time spend tremendous amount of monies in useless treatments,” says Dr. Troncoso.
—University of Minnesota Nun Study
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