Report: Diet and Behavior Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

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A new report suggests a change in diet and behavior could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

It could be a major medical breakthrough in the study of the non-reversible brain disorder that some 4 to 5 million Americans are dealing with today.

The two ingredients to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's are eating a Mediterranean diet and staying active. Both have have been linked to lowering the risk of the brain disorder in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Alzheimer's disease is a reason for dementia, a type of dementia, the most common one," Columbia University's Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas said.

Dr. Scarmeas led the Columbia University Medical Center study of nearly 2,000 diverse elderly residents of New York City. The study measured whether exercise and a Mediterranean diet affected the risk of Alzheimer's.

"We visited them at their homes and inquired them about their physical activity and about their dietary habits and then we followed them prospectively over the course of approximately five and a half years, " Dr. Scarmeas said.

And during the five and half year period, those subjects who were considered very physically active reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer's by 33 percent to 48 percent.

Those shown to strongly adhere to a Mediterranean diet had a 32 percent to 40 percent reduced risk of contracting the disease.

Subjects who did both activity and diet had a 61 percent to 67 percent reduced risk.

Researchers now hope doctors will consider steering patients toward adopting these lifestyle behaviors.

"More salad. Good cheese. Good fish. Sounds good to me!," New Yorker Seth Katz said.

Genetics still play a part in determining a person's risk for the illness. But another study appearing in this week's JAMA arrived at a similar conclusion concerning a Mediterranean diet and reducing the risk of Alzheimer's.

*Originally published August 12, 2009 

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