London, May 27: Some simple lifestyle changes may help delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease, say experts. "A large number of studies have shown that a number of factors may affect your chances of developing dementia, so it is never too early, or too late, to make a few changes," the Independent quoted Professor Clive Ballard, the director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, as saying.
He said that people needed not to spend huge amounts of money on video games or other costly gadgets to increase the flexibility and activity of their brains, as crosswords and reading challenging articles could cause synapse growth that would allow nerves in the brain to communicate with each other more efficiently.
Referring to a 2003 study in New York, he said that people who played crossword puzzles four days a week had a much lower risk of dementia than those who did one puzzle a week. "The main evidence is in healthy older people, and it shows that 40 minutes a day can make a big difference," Ballard said.
Keeping fit is another mantra to keep one's brain in shape, he added. He said that a Swedish study had shown that regular exercise could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's by 50 per cent. "We recommend that people take regular exercise, eat healthily and get their blood pressure checked. People must be made more aware that what's good for your heart is also good for your mind," he said.
Ballard's colleague Dr. Susanne Sorensen pointed out that regular intake of painkillers like aspirin had been found to lower incidence of dementia in people with arthritis. She, however, insisted that there are risks involved in taking painkillers regularly.
"We would not recommend taking aspirin as an effective way of reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer's. They can cause dangerous side-effects, such as kidney and liver problems and stomach ulcers," she said. Ballard said that socialising with friends and family might offer a great way to protect the brain. He said: "Some evidence shows that social interaction promotes better brain repair."
The researchers also recommended saying no to drugs like ecstasy that may lead to long-term brain damage, problems with learning and memory, and even cause dementia later on. They highlighted the fact that the chances of inheriting the disease from a parent or relative could be moderately low, and that genetic tests to detect persons at risk would cause unnecessary worry.
Stressing the importance of a healthy diet, Dr. Sorensen said: "A diet full of green leafy vegetables, oily fish and the odd glass of wine is best for those who want to follow a diet that can help lower their chances of developing dementia." Ballard emphasised the protective effects of curcumin which is found in turmeric, and said: "Studies show that curcumin may protect nerve cells and thus reduce the risk of dementia."