For people who are at risk for Alzheimers, lifestyle changes improve cognition

Personalized lifestyle changes as interventions not only stopped the cognitive decline in people who were diagnosed with Alzheimers but it also increased their thinking and memory skills within approximately 18 month, a new study found.

Actual cognitive improvement was shown by the data accrued, reports Dr. Richard Isaacson, who is the founder of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center.

This study, according to Isaacson, the first of its kind to be done in a real-world clinic setting, showed that individualized clinical management improved cognitive ability as well as reducing Alzheimer’s and risks for cardiovascular disease.

This study was published in The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association’s, ‘Alzheimer’s and Dementia.’

Dr. Rudy Tanzi, who is co-director of the Henry and Allison McCance Center for Brain Health at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, says that over the years so much time has been spent on drug trials when in reality, so much can be done to maintain brain health with lifestyle changes.

But unless we have clinical trials showing us that sleep, diet, exercise and meditation matter, it is difficult to convince the public make those changes, Tanzi says.

The key is to reduce the risk. Scientists estimate that there are 47 million people in the US that are living with the potential for Alzheimer’s because the disease starts in the brain about 20 to 30 years prior to any symptoms emerging.

And there are no drugs to help people who may have the potential for Alzheimer’s.

Some signs for cognitive loss are subtle in that the devastating plaques and tangles in the brain destined to steal their memories and that cause Alzheimer’s are unseen.

But studies are providing evidence that lifestyle changes in diet, physical exercise and brain training activities might slow down the cognitive decline and even possibly protecting them from developing full blown dementia.

But is there one lifestyle plan that fits everyone or do we each need our own specific plan of action tailored to our specific risk factors?

Isaacson believes in the latter. At his Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic, he puts patients through a battery of mental and physical tests and everything from medical, family and genetic history as well as nutritional behaviors, exercise habits, stress levels, and sleep patterns are documented.

His study had 154 participants, 25 to 86 years in age and all with a family history of Alzheimer’s but who were not experiencing memory loss as yet.

In short, each was given a personalized plan and those participants who followed at least 60% to at least 12 out of 21 lifestyle behavior changes had better memory and thinking skills 18 months later.