"You may be able to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease by a whopping 70 to 80%," says Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the non-profit organizations that sponsored the first annual International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain this past weekend in Washington DC.
Sixteen researchers presented compelling evidence about why the following seven habits could help warn off many neurological disorders, not just Alzheimer's, that steal our mind.
1. Minimize your intake saturated and trans fats. These "bad" fats tend to increase blood cholesterol levels, which encourage the production of dangerous beta-amyloid plaques in the brain -- a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. In the Chicago Health and Aging Study, people consuming the most saturated fat had triple the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
(Do you know that the average person eats 580 calories a day in snacks? Click here for 16 Ways To Curb Mindless Munching).
2. Vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains should be staples in your diet. These foods are rich in vitamins and minerals that protect the brain such as vitamin B6 and folate. The Chicago Health and Aging Study found that a high intake of fruits and vegetables was associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline. A plant-rich diet also reduces your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which can play a role in Alzheimer's disease.
3. Get about 5 mg of vitamin E daily. This antioxidant has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and can easily be consumed by eating small handful of nuts or seeds or munching on mangoes, papayas, avocadoes, tomatoes, red bell peppers, spinach, and fortified breads and cereals. But stick to food sources, says Dr. Barnard. Taking a supplement doesn't seem offer the same benefit.
4. Pop a B12 supplement. Getting adequate amounts of this B vitamin (about 2.4 mcg per day., found in animal products and fortified foods, helps reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to cognitive impairment. In an Oxford University study of older adults with elevated homocysteine levels and memory problems, B vitamin supplementation improved memory and reduced brain atrophy. If you're over 50 or follow a plant-based diet, taking a supplement is extra important.
(Looking for the right supplements? Try one of these 5 All-Star Health Helpers).
5. Avoid multivitamins with iron and copper unless otherwise directed by your doctor. Most people get adequate levels of these metals through their diet, and ingesting them in excess has been linked to cognitive problems.
6. Avoid cooking with aluminum pots and pans. Instead, opt for stainless steel or cast iron cookware. While aluminum's role in brain functioning is still under investigation, preliminary data suggests that it may contribute to cognitive problems.
7. Walk briskly three times a week for at least 40 minutes. Research suggests that regular aerobic exercise can reduce your risk for dementia by 40 to 50%.
By adopting all of the above habits you may be setting your brain up to be around for the long haul.
More from MSN Healthy Living:
- The future of Alzheimer's
- Alzheimer's genes: Are you at risk?
- 10 surprising Alzheimer’s predictors
- Bing: Alzheimer's disease support groups
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