What can I do to avoid Alzheimer's disease? It's a question Western Australian researcher Dr Stephanie Rainey-Smith answers in a new podcast - and the answers might surprise you.
Senior Research Fellow Dr Rainey-Smith, from Edith Cowan University's School of Medical and Health Sciences, has spent much of her career researching how lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet and exercise can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
"There are simple things we can all do every day to help keep our brains healthy and hopefully avoid, or at least delay, the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer's disease," said Dr Rainey-Smith who is featured on the latest episode of ECU's Body of Knowledge podcast.
"Some of our recent research has shown that following a Mediterranean diet can potentially delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease by years," she said. A Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish and olive oil.
In 2018 Dr Rainey-Smith published world-first research that showed following a Mediterranean diet can significantly delay the onset of Alzheimer's by modifying markers of brain health.
Dr Rainey-Smith also explains how simply getting a better night's sleep, exercising more and staying socially engaged can also help to stave off the deadly disease.
"A cure for Alzheimer's disease is the ultimate goal for researchers. But in the meantime, helping people make the lifestyle changes to delay the onset of symptoms, even by a couple of years, will make a real difference to their lives," she said.
4 Steps to a Healthy Brain
1. Keep active
- Choose an activity you enjoy.
- Engage in moderate intensity exercise (aim for 30 minutes 5 days per week)
- Enjoy yourself
2. Be busy
- Learn a language or instrument
- Try puzzles or games
- Take a course
- Visit new places
- Meet with friends or join a club
3. Eat well
- Follow a Mediterranean diet
- Eat leafy greens, fresh fruit and fish
- Eat legumes, nuts and seeds
- Eat dairy and red meat in moderation
4. Rest well
- Get 6-8 hours of good quality sleep a night
- Avoid screen time before bed
- Avoid heavy foods and caffeine close to bedtime
- Maintain a cool room temperature
More than 340,000 Australians are currently living with Alzheimer's disease.
Dr Rainey-Smith recently won a WA Tall Poppy Science Award and in 2018 she received a BrightFocus Foundation Fellowship to develop an intervention study examining how improved sleep maintains healthy brain ageing.
Body of Knowledge is Edith Cowan University's research podcast. Each month it examines a hot topic or burning question through the lens of science.
You can listen to the full episode of ECU's Body of Knowledge podcast featuring Dr Rainey-Smith here.
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