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Doctor’s Tip: Strategies to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Greg Feinsinger
Doctor's Tip
Dr. Greg Feinsinger.

One of the things people fear the most as they age is dementia, most of which is Alzheimer’s. A few years ago, a senior scientist at the Center for Alzheimer’s Research wrote a review article entitled “Alzheimer’s Disease Is Incurable but Preventable.” Sept. 21 is designated as World Alzheimer’s Day, so let’s talk about prevention.

There is a new Netflix documentary series (6 segments) called “Want to Live to 100, Secrets from The Blue Zones,” featuring Dan Buettner, who studied these 5 populations where people live particularly long and healthy lives: Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, an island off the coast of Greece; the highlands of Sardinia, Italy; the highlands of the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California — whose religion tells them to live a healthy lifestyle.

The common threads among these five populations are that they eat only unprocessed food; their diet is primarily plant-based; they all eat a lot of legumes; they engage in frequent, low-intensity exercise; and they maintain strong social connections throughout life. The documentary points out that although many of the people Buettner studied were over 100, dementia was very rare and in some of the Blue Zones it was non-existent. A logical question would be whether this phenomenon is genetic, but when these people leave their homeland and start eating a Western diet, they develop dementia and the other maladies associated with a Western diet.



It turns out that the risk factors for Alzheimer’s dementia are exactly the same as those for cardiovascular disease, with a few additional ones: hearing loss; family history of Alzheimer’s; and ApoE4 genotype, which increases Alzheimer’s risk — but whether or not the gene gets turned on is determined by diet. People with Alzheimer’s have more atherosclerosis in brain arteries than people without it, and it’s clear that diseased arteries play a major role in causing Alzheimer’s — and possibly the primary role.

Based on current knowledge, the following tips help prevent Alzheimer’s:



· Keep your blood pressure at 120/80 or less

· Keep your lipids at Blue Zone levels: total cholesterol < 150; LDL (bad cholesterol) in the 30s and 40s; triglycerides < 70

· Maintain ideal body weight, with BMI at or below 24.9, and in particular avoid belly fat

· Eat a Blue Zone diet, with lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes; limit or avoid animal products

· Avoid tobacco

· Exercise regularly, ideally by engaging in frequent low-level activity

· Maintain strong family or other social connections

· Treat sleep apnea

· Avoid stress, or deal with it through methods such as meditation

· Treat depression and anxiety

· Get 7-8 hours of good sleep a night

· Avoid chronic inflammation, including that caused by gum and tooth disease (there is a strong mouth-vascular connection)

Additional benefits from adopting these tips are the following: 1) lower risk of vascular dementia (multiple small strokes); 2) prevention and reversal of prediabetes and diabetes; 3) prevention/reversal of erectile dysfunction; 4) lower risk of several cancers, particularly breast, colon, and prostate; 5) prevention/reversal of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma; 6) improving and even reversing autoimmune diseases; 7) improving depression and anxiety; 8) improving athletic performance.

Additional reading: “How Not to Die,” by Michael Greger, M.D.; “Healthy Heart, Healthy Brain,” by Brad Bale, M.D. and Amy Doneen, DNP–both available on Amazon. Also, consider watching the aforementioned Blue Zone documentary on Netflix (total length around 2 ½ hours).

Food For Life

Laura Van Deusen, who is licensed by PCRM (Physician Committee For Responsible Medicine) to teach their Food For Life healthy cooking classes, will present a Foods For a Healthy Brain cooking class from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14, in the Calaway Room at the Third Street Center in Carbondale. To sign up contact Laura at 970-424-2175 or rootboundcooking@gmail.com.

Food For Life QR code.

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