Just as you need to exercise your muscles to help prevent diabetes, cancer and heart disease, you also need to exercise your brain to help prevent Alzheimer's.
But it isn't just one activity that will do the trick. It's a "cocktail" of four activities: exercising, eating healthier food, solving puzzles and being socially engaged.
And this recipe could really work.
In the first study of its kind, researchers in Sweden and Finland have shown that by doing these four things regularly for just two years, memory function is boosted, reports NBC News.
The study: Led by Dr. Miia Kivipelto of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland, the team randomly assigned 630 volunteers ages 60 to 77 to perform several tasks regularly for two full years that have been thought to help prevent Alzheimer's disease: exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, playing games and solving puzzles and being socially engaged with others.
A second group of 630 volunteers of the same ages was told to follow general health advice. All the volunteers were given memory tests at the beginning of the two-year study and again at the end.
The results: The group that exercised, changed their diet, socialized with others and did memory-training games and puzzles performed significantly better on the memory tests two years later, according to Kivipelto.
"It's the first time we have been able to give people a kind of recipe for what is useful," Maria Carrillo, vice president of Medical & Scientific Relations at the Alzheimer's Association, told NBC News.
While the study doesn't prove that the "recipe" will prevent Alzheimer's disease--that will take years more to demonstrate--it does show that we can do things now that will help preserve and protect our memory as we age and reduce our risk of dementia.
Experts predict that some 13.8 million Americans will have Alzheimer's, a fatal memory-robbing illness, by 2050--triple the number of people who suffer from it today. Doctors call it a potential tsunami of disease. Currently, there is no cure and treatments are poor.
The study results were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen.
--From the Editors at Netscape