Lifestyle Changes May Be the Way to Prevent Alzheimer’s

Cognitive impairment is one of the most frequent chronic conditions in older adults. In a 2014 study published by James et al. in Neurology, it was reported that Alzheimer’s disease is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S., following only cardiovascular disease and cancer.

A 2-year trial, called the Finnish Geriatric Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER), investigated a multidomain lifestyle intervention in older adults (ages 60-77) that included nutritional guidance, physical activity, cognitive training, and social activities. The 1260 participants were randomly assigned to either the experimental group, which received an intensive lifestyle intervention, or the control group, which received regular health advice over 13 visits.

Results of this study were shared at AAIC 2014 by Miia Kivipelto, Professor at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, and colleagues. The researchers reported a highly statistically significant beneficial effect for the intervention on cognitive performance, especially for the elderly (>70 years) participants and those with worse cognitive function at baseline. This suggests that it is never too late to make lifestyle changes which can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.  A seven-year follow-up was started in 2015.

In July of this year, the Alzheimer’s Association announced the launch of a $20 million-dollar U.S. two-year clinical trial to test the ability of a multi-dimensional lifestyle intervention to prevent cognitive decline and dementia. Recruitment will begin in 2018. The U.S. study to PrOtect through a lifestyle INTErvention to Reduce risk (US POINTER) will include physical exercise, nutritional counseling and modification, and cognitive and social stimulation, and is modeled on the FINGER study. It seeks to enroll 2500 participants ages 60-79 who have medical conditions that have been linked to an increased risk for dementia, such as cardiovascular problems, hypertension, or elevated blood sugar.

In a 2016 article in Aging, Bredesen describes the success of a personalized protocol for metabolic enhancement which was found to reverse cognitive decline in ten patients already identified with early stage Alzheimer’s disease or either mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or subjective cognitive impairment (SCI). These patients, though meeting the criteria for Alzheimer’s disease or MCI prior to receiving the protocol, all performed in the normal range on cognitive tests, and had fewer subjective memory complaints, after the protocol. None of these patients exhibited the cognitive decline that is typical in Alzheimer’s disease, and their improvement has been sustained. Dr. Bredesen recently published his book, The End of Alzheimer’s (August, 2017) in which he outlines 36 metabolic factors (micronutrients, hormone levels, sleep) that can trigger “downsizing” in the brain. The protocol shows how to rebalance these factors using lifestyle modifications like taking B12, eliminating gluten, or improving oral hygiene.

In a book published in September, The Alzheimer’s Solution, authors Dean and Ayesha Sherzai describe a program to prevent and reverse the symptoms of cognitive decline. The authors, codirectors of the Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda University, purport that 90% of Alzheimer’s cases can be prevented if people follow their scientifically proven NEURO plan, which involves changes in lifestyle behaviors.

The evidence that changes in lifestyle behaviors can postpone or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease is mounting. What better motivation do people need?