Early Alzheimer’s Prevention: 4 Things You Should Do Now

By Dr. Kelsey Ducklow | Prevention

Dr. Dale Bredesen of The Buck Institute and UCLA recently joined Maria Shriver for a Facebook Live conversation to discuss Alzheimer’s disease, early Alzheimer’s prevention and what you can start doing now.

While most people get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in their late 60s and early 70s, the disease and cognitive decline can actually begin developing 20 years prior. Dr. Bredesen recommended the following tips for putting your mind and body in the best position to prevent and slow cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s:

1.) Get Tested

Bredesen suggested speaking with your doctor and conducting a series of tests to understand your levels of Apolipoprotein E (apoE), inflammation, hormones, vitamin D, homocysteine and overall brain health.

“Anyone who is over 45 should have a brain check, basically,” Bredesen said. “There are sets of tests that you can get that will tell you why you are at risk, or if you are at risk. Ask for a set of biochemical and genetic tests.”

The goal is to change your body chemistry so that you are able to make and store synapses – literally make and store memories – instead of being on the side of reorganizing and forgetting, he said.

“What we find is that Alzheimer’s disease patients are all on the side of destroying these synapses,” Bredesen said.

2.) Know Your Fasting Insulin Level

Shriver and Bredesen both stressed that those who are pre-diabetic or have diabetes are at an increased risk of cognitive decline and developing Alzheimer’s.

“One of the best tests you can get is fasting insulin. Knowing what your fasting insulin is tells you whether you are on your way to pre-diabetes. It’s an early marker,” Bredesen said, adding that fasting a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast can be beneficial.

He also recommended improving insulin sensitivity by cutting sugars and simple carbohydrates.

3.) Understand Cognitive Baseline

If you’re concerned that you are already experiencing some level of cognitive decline, Bredesen stressed that you should test your cognitive baseline and start playing brain games to improve it.

There are several affordable brain training options that are available online, including BrainHQLumosityand Cogstate — all of which will test your cognitive baseline.

4.) Take Care of Yourself

Take your health into their own hands.

“Doctors and everybody are now saying we’ve got to go in and start talking about the neck up when we go in for our yearly exam,” Shriver said, explaining that we often focus on the outside of our heads instead of what’s going on inside.

Caregivers, in particular, must look after their health since they are at an increased risk for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.

“There should be support for the caregivers because this is a whole disease process onto itself,” Bredesen said. “They are under tremendous stress. And they do increase stress-related illnesses. What I say to them is number one, you should also get checked out. See where you stand because you’re having the stress, and stress is part of the risk for cognitive decline.”

Shriver and Bredesen agree that this is an exciting time for Alzheimer’s research and that there is hope.

“We’re seeing unprecedented improvements. We are seeing that people are more interested now in starting early and getting in prevention. And now we have prevention and early reversal. So I think this is a very exciting time. And of course the science is supporting this,” Bredesen said. “Were seeing dramatic changes. Literally, month to month, quarter to quarter, year to year. So this is a very exciting time. And there will be more and more that will be helpful.”

To learn more about Alzheimer’s prevention and why women are disproportionately affected, watch the full conversation: