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Growing Evidence Of Combined Benefits of Diet & Physical Activity on Alzheimers Disease.

Thursday, October 08, 2009
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Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of declining brain function, where incidence increases with age. Alzheimer's seriously affects ones ability to carry out basic daily activities.

This progressive and incurable brain disease results from damage of neurons caused by the clumping of amyloid plaques and ultimately leads to death. Most cases of AD usually begin after the age of 70. The risk goes up as you get older, but it can strike people at a younger age too, if they are genetically predisposed.

Risk Factors that increase the risk for developing AD:
1.    Family history
2.    Age
3.    Stress
4.    Head trauma
5.    Environment toxins
6.    Diet & lifestyle factors.
Though we cannot do anything about aging or family history, research continues to show that there are lifestyle changes we all can make to keep our brains healthier, and that in turn may lower our risk of memory decline as we age.

The New York Times recently reported on a research study conducted by Columbia University in New York, indicating that independent factors like diet and exercise may have a combined effect on the decline associated with the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Previous studies have shown a relationship between exercise and slowing the progression of cognitive decline in older individuals. Other studies have also demonstrated benefits of a Mediterranean diet in reducing the risk of Alzheimer disease.

The question to be examined is whether there is a benefit in combining the two interventions or lifestyles.

This Columbia University study followed a diverse group of 1880 participants, assessing their diets and levels of physical activity, and screening them periodically for Alzheimer's disease. At the end of a five year period the researchers concluded the following:
  • Those who followed the healthiest diets were 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those with the worst diets.
  • Those who got the most exercise were 37 percent less likely to develop the disease than those who got none.
  • Participants who followed both diet and exercise were 59 percent less likely to receive an Alzheimer's diagnosis than the rest.
Based on this study, we can assume that the combined effect of both diet and exercise results in greater benefit than the independent effect of each, because each of the behaviors is contributing something why not enjoy the benefit of both.

Based on those assumptions here are some simple tips to delay the onset of cognitive decline  specially if you have family history of AD and age against you -
  • A heart healthy diet; preferably a Mediterranean inspired one which is very low in red meat and poultry & high in fish, very high in fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and cereals &  olive oil as its main source of fat.
  • To engage in  moderate physical activity with consistency (brisk walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling etc - 45 minutes daily)
  • Remember it's not how much you eat, its how healthy you eat, so watch portion sizes.
  • Involve yourself in a good puzzle games, quizzes, playing board games and reading books that stimulate the brain constantly and are known to delay the onset of the disease.

In fact the simple analogy of a heart healthy diet is.. What is good for the heart is eventually healthy for your brain, hence eating a heart healthy diet not only keeps your heart healthy but when coupled with adequate moderate physical activity, may help preserve memory and thinking abilities as we age.

By. Kanchan Saggi



User Comments

14 July, 2010 | Mrinal | Reply

Mrinal Some updates...
Current medical criteria for diagnosing Alzheimer’s includes - steadily progressing dementia — memory loss and an inability to carry out day-to-day activities, eg. dressing or bathing — as well as a pathologist’s report of plaque and other abnormalities, known as tangles, in the brain post death.

But researchers now factually believe that the disease is present a decade or more before dementia.

New guidelines are being recommended - that there be criteria for three stages of the disease: preclinical disease, mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease and, lastly, Alzheimer’s dementia.

29 March, 2010 | Kanchan Saggi | Reply

Kanchan Saggi Hello Kavita,

Fish is a very good source of omega 3 fatty acids and hence can be a part of your diet. But beware of any kind of deep fried preparations. Fish can be grilled, baked, steamed or prepared as gravy.
It can be included 4 to 5 times a week but remember your portion size!!
Red meat should be completely avoided if you're looking at preventing heart disease and Alzheimers.

To learn more about heart & brain healthy foods get in touch with our dietitians at

Thanks & Regards
Kanchan Saggi, Dietitian,

29 March, 2010 | kavita | Reply

kavita Hi,How much of fish and red meat can be consumed in a week in order to keep Alzheimer's disease/ heart disease at bay.

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