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Fighting Alzheimer's

Why Preventing Alzheimer’s Requires a Holistic Approach

Diet, physical exercise, strong mental health, and spiritual fitness. Here’s how these four factors are the keys to staving off memory loss.

Family history plays a large role in one’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but diet and lifestyle can also affect whether you develop the neurodegenerative condition.

“Now is the time for everyone to adopt a brain-healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, president and medical director of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation in Tucson, Arizona. “As recent research reveals, the changes in one’s brain start decades before any symptoms appear. So it’s never too early or too late to head off the development of memory loss.”

Diet, physical exercise, mental exercise, and spiritual fitness make up what Khalsa called the four pillars of preventing Alzheimer’s. “By taking small steps today, people can know they are doing everything possible to avoid cognitive decline in the future,” he said.

Holistic disease prevention

Where diet is concerned, Khalsa noted that research suggests that following a plant-based Mediterranean diet appears to be the most effective approach to help ward off Alzheimer’s.

For mental exercise, an easy routine can help preserve memory. “Our research reveals that practicing a simple, 12-minute yoga meditation called Kirtan Kriya (KK) can augment brain function and reverse memory loss in people with all types of issues, especially in women,” which is critical because a woman’s risk for Alzheimer’s is greater than her risk for developing breast cancer, Khalsa said.

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On the other hand, “Spiritual fitness is a new concept that incorporates psychological well-being with spiritual evolution,” Khalsa said. “Perhaps the most important part of psychological well-being is finding purpose or mission in life. Spirituality or the search for the sacred, regardless of the religion or no religion, develops peace of mind — something sorely lacking in today’s chaotic world.”

The benefits of following these pillars in addition to taking current Alzheimer’s medications, which focus on reducing symptoms, apply to both those currently living with Alzheimer’s and those at a higher risk for developing it, including those with subjective cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment.

The four pillars in action

Khalsa recalled one study subject named Sarah, a perimenopausal woman whose memory was still intact. Sarah underwent 12 weeks of practicing KK for 12 minutes daily, and after the study, she reported lower stress, a better mood, improved sleep, clearer memory, and other benefits. “Sophisticated biochemical analysis also revealed dramatic improvements in cellular aging and reduced biomarkers for Alzheimer’s,” Khalsa said.

Another subject who had Alzheimer’s, 72-year-old Sam, adopted the Foundation’s four pillars in addition to traditional medication, and he experienced marked health results. “What we saw in him was a significant slowing of progression and a delay in the manifestation of the advanced aspects of the disease,” Khalsa explained. “It is clear that by adopting the four pillars and making changes in your lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of developing this most dreaded disease and enjoy your golden years with a good mind and memory.”

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