A new book by Ken Kosik, MD, Outsmarting Alzheimer's, lays out practical strategies for helping people reduce their risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Kosik recommends four activities based on solid research evidence. He says that people who regularly do these activities have a lower risk of developing cognitive decline.
1. Get Physical
Dr. Kosik says physical activity is the most potent Alzheimer's protection agent, stating that study after study has shown that people who exercise at least three times a week for a minimum of 15 to 30 minutes a sessions were less likely to develop Alzheimers disease, even if the disease ran in their family.
2. Eat Antioxidant-Rich, Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Dr. Kosik cautions that there is no single dietary pattern, food, or supplement that leads to optimum brain health, he says that one thing those that are effective have in common is an abundance of plant-based foods and a minimum of processed food. He cites a new diet, developed by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, as an an example of a the kind of approach to eating that can significantly lower the risk for developing Alzheimers.
The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is a hybrid of two other diet regimens (the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets) previously found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, like hypertension, heart attack and stroke.
3. Make Time For Friends
Dr. Kosik points to a research study at Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago that showed that adults who frequently spent time with others—being part of a book club, or a card game, having dinner dates with their friends, visiting familky had a 70 percent lower rate of cognitive decline over 12 years than did seniors with fewer interactions.
4. Exercise Your Brain
Dr. Kosik says one long-term study showed that older adults who frequently did stimulating leisure activities were less likely to develop dementia over 21 years, compared with those who did so less often. Reading, playing board games, practicing musical instruments, and working on puzzles at least several times a week may encourage the growth of new brain cells and connections between them. Even people who were carriers of a gene linked to Alzheimer's postponed the development of the disease by almost a decade by immersing in intellectually enriching activities throughout their lives.
This is not the first book to focus on ways individuals can adjust their lifestyle to reduce the risk of cognitive decline (Alzheimer's), but this book is noteworthy not only for it's research-backed guidance; it's noteworthy because of its author.
Ken Kosik, MD is one of the world's leading Alzheimer's researchers. Dr. Kosik's work focuses on gaining an understanding of the fundamental causes, risk factors, and workings of Alzheimer's disease.
After completing a B.A. and M.A. in English literature from Case Western Reserve University in 1972 and an M.D. from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1976, he served as a resident in neurology at Tufts New England Medical Center and was Chief Resident there in 1980. Beginning in 1980 he held a series of academic appointments at the Harvard Medical School and achieved the rank of full professor there in 1996. He also held appointments at McLean Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In 2004, Kosik became the Harriman Professor of Neuroscience Research and Co-Director of the Neuroscience Research Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He founded and serves as Medical Director of the non-profit center, Cottage Center for Brain Fitness (CCBF).
Dr. Kosik is probably best known for the ground-breaking research he has conducted in and around Medellin, Columbia. JDFAF was a supporter of Dr. Kosik in his research in Columbia.
Dr. Kosik and his fellow researchers discovered an extended family, spread over this region of Colombia who have passed a particular Alzheimer gene from generation to generation, and Kosik says the family members who carry the Alzheimer's gene will definitely get the disease. The family represents the largest cluster of familial Alzheimer's disease in the world. In each generation, affected family members get the disease in their mid-40's.
Kosik explained it is possible to test people in the Colombian families for the gene, and predict who will get the disease and who will be spared. The ability to predict who and when family members will get the disease raises the possibility of developing clinical trials to find out whether or not certain drugs and other therapies are effective in delaying the disease in those family members who have the gene.
"We have the opportunity to treat this disease before it strikes," said Kosik. "We would be able to find out if drugs really work."
Clinical drug trials are now underway among this population.