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Alzheimer's Awareness Month


January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. There are positive steps we can take to keep our brains sharp. Awareness can help us prevent cognitive decline in our later years.

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month—what better time to resolve to keep our brains sharp. Scientists are still not certain about the definitive cause of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. But they are accumulating a vast library of evidence on the importance of healthy lifestyles for maintaining good cognitive health as we age.

Taking the time to take care of our brain health now can help ward off the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Brain-building foods

  • Blueberries contain significant levels of powerful antioxidants to help protect the brain from oxidative stress and preserve the brain’s machinery.
  • Dark leafy greens, such as broccoli, kale, spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, and peas are rich in nutrient content. They’re also a great source of vitamin K, which enhances cognitive function and improves brain power.
  • Whole grains are rich in folate to help lower homocysteine levels associated with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and stroke.
  • Walnuts contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, along with vitamins E and B6, excellent sources of nutrients for our nervous system.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants which help reduce free-radical damage.
  • Garlic acts as a blood cleanser and has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a good source of sulphur (an aluminum antagonist) which helps increase the blood flow to the brain.
  • Cacao—raw and unprocessed—is rich in antioxidants. Add cacao nibs to nuts and seeds for between-meal snacks. Dark chocolate—the darker the better—is also a good source.
  • Wild salmon is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA which help provide optimal neuronal functioning of the brain. If wild-sourced fish is not an option, supplement with pharmaceutical grade fish oils.
  • Avocados contain monounsaturated fats which contribute to healthy blood flow to the brain.

Brain-building activity

  • Aerobic exercise or regular physical activity can help improve brain function and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have found that seniors who exercised for just 15 minutes three or more times a week decreased their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 35 to 40 percent. Activities such as walking, swimming, or gardening are good choices. 
  • Strength training exercises are also important to increase muscle mass, which helps maintain brain health. Combining strength training with aerobic exercise is the perfect match.
  • Dancing adds aerobic fitness to cognitive exercise, providing twice the protective bang for your activity buck. In fact, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that regular dancing reduced the incidence of dementia in a group of adults over age 75 by 75 percent.
  • Learning something new helps stimulate the brain and build new pathways, reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Activities that involve multiple tasks or require communication, interaction, and organization are the best choices. Studying a foreign language, learning to play a musical instrument, reading the newspaper, or starting a new hobby all help build up brain reserves.
  • Practising memorization helps strengthen memory connections. Try the names of your favourite hockey team players for a start. Move on to the names of the Czech Republic's national team next and you've got a real challenge! 
  • Changing it up can create new brain pathways. This can be as simple as taking a different route to work or home, eating or brushing your teeth with the non-dominant hand, or putting on your coat with the other arm first.
  • Spending time with family and friends, especially later in life, can preserve brain function and decrease the risk of developing dementia. Card or board games played with friends pack a double benefit, as they combine powerfully protective social interaction with mind stimulation.

Brain-building supplements

  • Fruit and vegetable extract-based powders, designed to be added to water or juice, can be great natural sources of antioxidants that may protect against brain decline.
  • Curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound found in turmeric, has been shown to suppress the build-up of Alzheimer-related cell damage in the brains of animals.
  • DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is the main essential omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain. It’s potently anti-inflammatory and can be found in fish oil supplements. A study in mice with Alzheimer’s showed that DHA also slowed the build-up of brain-cell damaging substances, and some human studies show possible benefits.
  • Vitamin B12 research has not clearly shown a specific benefit for preventing or treating Alzheimer’s, but a significant percentage of people over age 50 are unable to absorb B12 from food and are at risk of developing B12 deficiency. This can cause problems concentrating, mood swings, confusion, and even full-blown dementia, and can be prevented and reversed by supplementing with B12.


Do yourself and your loved ones a favour: challenge them to a game of bridge or pick up that dusty old saxophone and play them a new tune—you might all benefit.



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Leah PayneLeah Payne