When you first hear the words Alzheimer’s and dementia it is understandable to be filled with panic, worry, anger or sadness – after all you are told that there is very little that can be done to improve these conditions.

You may also wonder why it is you or your loved one who is affected?

You may have been told that it was due to age, gender, genetics or just bad luck and that there was little you could have done to prevent it – and even less you can do to help it now.

But, in a word most of what you may have been told is WRONG!

Before I go onto share with you some very simple steps that you can take to not only improve both these conditions but also to reduce your chances of developing them in the first place I want to share with you the results of a very interesting study…

Researchers from the University of Kuopio, Finland studied almost 1500 subjects over a 21 year period. During this time they compared the effects of three known risk factors in the development of Alzheimer’s – genetic factors (the presence of ApoE – a gene that roughly triples your chance of developing the disease), high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The results they came to at the end of this period were startling. They discovered that those with the greatest risk of developing Alzheimer's disease were those that had the highest cholesterol and the highest blood pressure i.e. the only two treatable factors.

This means that those subjects who were able to maintain their cholesterol levels and their blood pressure were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease even if they were genetically prone to it!

In other words – your lifestyle, the way you live, the things that you can do something about are far more important when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than the things you cannot change like your genes.

So, what can you do to help yourself? Starting now and in the next few articles I will show you plenty of ways to not only reduce your risk, but also to reverse the changes that have already occurred to get your brain fitter, younger and performing better!

Of course, the best time to start with any health regime that you want to pay dividends in the future is now! In order to have many good years ahead you need to ensure that you have a firm, solid foundation that you can build on. You need to make sure that your present day health is as good as possible in order to safeguard your future health, and with that in mind I want to list a few areas that you may want to check up on to see how well you are doing.

The first thing is to maintain ideal blood sugar levels, and if you are diabetic to make sure that this is as accurately controlled as possible. A study in Archives of Neurology shows that the incidence of Alzheimer's disease is greatly increased amongst diabetics and those with poor blood sugar control (up 65%). Other incidences of impaired brain function were also increased (by 44%) hastening the process of senile dementia.

Various studies have indicated that chromium picolinate can have a significant effect on diabetes by helping to decrease insulin levels and improve blood sugar metabolism. Another important action of chromium is that it may also help prevent and reverse atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. I would therefore suggest supplementing with 200mcg Chromium Picolinate on a daily basis.

Another area to look at is maintaining a healthy heart and circulation. A 15 year long study carried out in Sweden showed that vascular causes of dementia may be more common than first thought. The factors most commonly found to affect circulation and therefore increase the chances of Alzheimer's disease and dementia are…

• Hypertension or high blood pressure
• Diabetes
• Hypercholesterolemia – increased cholesterol
• Hyperhomocysteinemia – high levels of homocysteine
• Atrial fibrillation – irregular heart beat and
• Atherosclerosis – the build up of plaque inside blood vessels

Space will not allow me to discuss techniques to help all of the above areas, but I will give you a few pointers to tackle the first few (I will go into more detail in later articles).

Many supplements can help lower blood pressure naturally, but one of the most beneficial is garlic. Garlic not only helps reduce blood pressure, reduce triglycerides but also the stickiness of the blood inside the arteries, which may prevent blood from clotting and therefore may decrease the risks of heart attacks and strokes. I would recommend a supplement of 500mg of garlic three times a day.

Researchers from the University of Kuopio, Finland (yes, it's that place again) teaming up with researchers from Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California have found that high cholesterol levels increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease by as much as one and a half times.

As a complementary therapist my first port of call would be vitamin E as this has many beneficial effects on the body. Regarding cholesterol, vitamin E can reduce “bad” cholesterol as well as prevent and remove the build up of fat in blood vessels (atherosclerosis). Other studies have shown that vitamin E when combined with vitamin C offers even greater protection against Alzheimer's disease and for that reason I would recommend a daily supplement of 2500-3000mg of vitamin C and up to 800mg of vitamin E to safeguard your cardiovascular system.

Also, you may want to increase the amount and type of exercise that you do to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's. Being over weight and in particular being obese (Body Mass Index of over 30 for adults) can dramatically increase the risk of all types of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, a review of the literature shows that the increase can be twice as great – and the news gets even worse…

Research showed that people who measured the greatest increase in “belly” size during a 30 year trial were more than three times as likely to develop dementia, regardless of whether or not their weight increased. So, get up out of the chair and do a little gentle exercise and movement three times a week for 15 minutes at a time.

The old adage of “use it or lose it” is very true with all parts of the body. We know that decreased exercise causes muscles to weaken and waste, and a bone to become brittle or osteoporotic – the same is true for the brain!

Studies have shown that the more education a person has, the lower their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Some studies even suggest that the risk of Alzheimer's disease is increased by 2-4 times in those who have a lower level of education. Before you start worrying that you were never good at school and now you wish you had tried harder the good news is it is never too late to make improvements!

Various studies have shown that people who participate in the greatest number of leisure activities (particularly those that are mentally stimulating) have a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Also, if a person already suffers from dementia or Alzheimer's they are less likely to deteriorate if they are actively involved in something mentally and intellectually challenging. There are literally hundreds of activities that you can do both in the home and outside that will keep the brain ticking over. These range from cards to carpentry, dominoes to disco (or sequence dancing for the not so youthful!) and I will cover these ideas more in-depth in a later article.

Other simple steps that you can start straight away are to reduce or stop smoking, drink alcohol in moderation (two to three alcoholic drinks 2-3 times a week is actually good for both you and your brain!), drink more water, increase your fruit and vegetable intake, stop using artificial sweeteners, cut down on the amount of carbohydrates that you eat (stop drinking those sodas – they’re no good for your teeth and no good for your brain!). Start enjoying a more Mediterranean diet with plenty of fish, olive oil, nuts, in fact generally eat more healthily and eat less. You can also start taking some supplements - start with an all round multi-vitamin, add some vitamin B, C and E and you are well on the way to improving your mental prowess.

For those who really want to make dramatic strides in safeguarding their mental faculties watch out for my future articles where I will go into greater depth on the above material whilst also giving you new ideas to think about. You can also learn much more about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in my new book, The Alzheimer’s Alternative available from www.alzheimersalternative.com.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Steffan H. Abel D.C. has been involved in Chiropractic and healthcare research for over 20 years. He has run his own successful practice in the north of England for the last 19 years. During which time he has treated over 10,000 patients and given over 100,000 treatments. He has lectured and taught extensively in both Europe and America to students, chiropractors and medical doctors.

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He has studied Hypnotherapy, N.L.P. and qualified as a Life Coach. He has also studied various Chiropractic-based treatments (gaining a M.Sc. in post graduate Clinical Chiropractic in 2003) as well as energy therapies such as Seichem and Reiki. In 2001 he became a Fellow of the College of Chiropractors and a Fellow of the Association of Osteomyology and in 2007 became a Fellow of the European Academy of Chiropractic.

In his spare time he spends between 15 and 25 hours per week researching all areas of “alternative” and allopathic healthcare in order to bring the best advice to his patients through his practice and writing and has just finished his latest book The Alzheimer's Alternative (www.alzheimersalternative.com). When not working he is to be found enjoying life with Sue, his partner, – whom he loves tremendously!