Yes, There Is A Relationship Between Diet, Exercise, And Alzheimer’s

We work out and eat well for lots of reasons. Primarily, we want to look better and feel better (and we usually aim to make that happen as quickly as we can). But research shows that the right diet and exercise may also help to stave off certain diseases in the long term, which gives us yet another reason to break a sweat and fill up on clean foods.

Gut Health & Alzheimer’s

Having a healthy gut plays a role in helping us digest the food we eat and absorb vitamins and minerals efficiently, and recent research shows that the gut microbiome (the microorganisms in a particular environment) is also key in supporting other aspects of our health, as well.

According to Megan Casper, a registered dietitian nutritionist, our gut health may even be linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s. “It’s been found that the microbiome can influence behavior and alter brain physiology and chemistry [in mice],” says Casper. A recent study published in Scientific Reports suggested microbiota (a.k.a. gut flora) may potentially contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases. However, much more research is necessary.

Related: Shop probiotics for a healthy gut.

Food & Alzheimer’s

Although we have a lot to learn about the role the gut plays in disease prevention, there is plenty of evidence that suggests that the dietary choices we make do matter. Specifically, if you want to reap the benefits of healthy intestinal flora, adopt a gut-healthy diet.

A healthy diet filled with whole grains, fermented foods, fruits, and vegetables is the best approach to changing the composition of your bacterial profile, according to Casper. Additionally, there is evidence that taking a probiotic supplement daily promotes gut health and immunity, according to the journal Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology.

Additionally, research done by the Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics shows that a Mediterranean-style diet (fish, moderate amounts of wine, vegetable oils, non-starchy vegetables, low glycemic index fruits, rosemary, and low-sugar foods) has been linked to slower cognitive decline in cases of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

Related: The Term ‘Leaky Gut’ Is All Over The Internet—But What Exactly Is It?

So how Mediterranean would you have to go to benefit? According to the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, even moderate adherence to this style of eating may help reduce risk of the disease.

Physical Activity & Alzheimer’s

Eating healthy foods isn’t the only action step you can take to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairment. Exercise is also key, according to the Journal of Clinical Neurology, which says physical activity has been linked to both lowering the risk and slowing the decline of Alzheimer’s. While there is limited research around what sort of exercise regimen one might need to adopt to reap the benefits, the study states that aerobic exercise may be a good option, as it is linked to cerebral blood flow and cerebral plasticity.

The study showed that just 40 minutes of physical activity four times per week for a period of 12 weeks increased cerebral blood flow in the hippocampus, improving neurogenesis (the growth and development of nervous tissue).

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