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Changing Your Lifestyle, Enhancing Your Memory

While there is no specific diet to prevent Alzheimer's, studies have shown that a healthy diet may help lower the risk. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's, and may even help prolong life in people with Alzheimer's. The Mediterranean diet has very little red meat. The diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with moderate amounts of dairy, fish, and poultry. Olive oil is an important source of healthy fats. Moderate amounts of alcohol, particularly wine, may also lower the risk of Alzheimer's. However, doctors don't recommend that people start drinking alcohol to prevent disease.   

Researchers speculate that there may be a small protective quality of caffeine from the risk of dementia. But more research needs to be done in this area. In the meantime, Lausier recommends the "common sense" steps for enhancing your memory, such as not smoking and avoiding too much caffeine or alcohol. "Some of these changes may make more difference in the outcome than a lot of expensive drugs or supplements." 

Challenging your brain to learn new things is another important way to prevent memory loss, she says. It might involve learning a foreign language, an instrument, or a computer program, for example. "It doesn't matter if you're successful," she says. "Just the act of trying turns on parts of your brain that are getting cobwebs." 

Exercise apparently also can help enhance memory in a variety of ways. For example, it generates blood flow and formation of nerve cells in a portion of the brain called the dentate gyrus. And, it reduces other risk factors, such as cardiovascular disease, indirectly enhancing brain health. 

One recent study underscored that it's never too late to reap the memory benefits of exercise. A trial of 152 adults with mild cognitive impairment, aged 70 to 80, compared the cognitive benefits of B vitamins with aerobic exercise. After one year, the walkers fared better with memory tests.

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