Latest on Lifestyle Interventions to Help Reduce Risk, Slow Alzheimer’s Disease © Nancy Emerson Lombardo, Ph.D.

At the 22nd Annual Matthew and Marcia Simons Research Symposium on Alzheimer’s Disease on Thursday, November 8, 2012, sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, Kristine Yaffe, MD of University of California, San Francisco, presented “Non-Pharmacological Strategies for the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. “  There is currently more interest in non-drug approaches because recent attempts to find a pharmaceutical solution to prevent or dramatically slow AD have failed.


Dr. Yaffee reviewed research that shows staying physically and intellectually active, eating a brain healthy diet, and embracing a healthy lifestyle may help prevent and slow Alzheimer’s disease.  Dr. Yaffe’s survey of recent studies echoed the evidence often shared by Boston area’s own brain health expert, Nancy Emerson Lombardo, Ph.D., e.g. on her new website, a chapter on lifestyle and Alzheimer’s disease in Sage’s 2012 Encyclopedia of Lifestyle Medicine and Health.


During the past decade Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo has developed nutrition and lifestyle interventions for both treatment and lowering risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and to improve quality of life for all ages, particularly older adults.  As many of our readers know, Dr. Emerson Lombardo has worked for over 30 years in the fields of Alzheimer’s disease and services for older adults.  She is a founder of both the national Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Disease International.  She is also a member of the American Society on Aging, and the International Academy of Nutrition and Aging.


Since we now know that AD is a chronic disease with many environmental and genetic factors, and that the abnormalities/pathology most likely begin 20-30 or more years before clinical symptoms appear, it makes sense to practice evidence-based brain healthy lifestyles as soon in one’s life as possible.  Even if better drugs are discovered, chances are that side effects would argue against using them for decades before symptoms appear, unless one’s genetic profile suggested very high risk. And even though much drug research is targeting beta-amyloid, one of the two problem proteins that are hallmarks of AD, other researchers think other targets might yield better results as the exact causes and etiology of AD are not fully known.  This continuing uncertainly is yet another reason to adopt brain healthy lifestyles that, especially when multiple lifestyles are practiced, target all known pathways to AD.


A large body of research studies have linked nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle approaches to the prevention and treatment of both cardio-vascular disease (and its risks such as hypertension, high LDL cholesterol, inflammation), stroke and diabetes and more recently shown how each of these chronic diseases in turn raise risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.  Logically then, Dr Nancy Emerson Lombardo and others recommend lifestyles that are both heart healthy and diabetes and stroke preventative.


What can you do to be “brain healthy?”  Dr. Emerson Lombardo lists 11 domains of brain health™ for which we have some or substantial evidence.  According to Dr. Yaffee and others, the best gold standard randomized clinical trial evidence to date is for #2 physical exercise and #3 mental stimulation.  Close behind is evidence for adequate sleep (because that is when memories are transferred into a more permanent state) and treatment of depression.  During a pre-Simon lecture presentation, Dr. Alireza Atri, MD, Ph.D. also shared evidence about importance of #5, social engagement.  Both Drs. Yaffee and Atri agree with Dr. Emerson Lombardo that although we have yet to have sufficient “gold standard” clinical trial evidence, there is substantial pre-clinical and epidemiological evidence to suggest that a brain healthy diet, and perhaps combinations of nutrients, rather than single stand alone nutrients, will be proven to be essential to reducing risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.  Dr. Emerson Lombardo’s Memory Preservation Nutrition® is uniquely based on all the nutritional evidence reported to date.


The Eleven Evidence-based Domains of Brain Health (To learn more about each, follow link to relevant pages of our website,

(1)  Nutrition and Hydration: Memory Preservation Nutrition®

(2)  Physical Exercise

(3)  Mental & Cognitive Stimulation including Cognitive Education/The Serper Method™, Memory Techniques & Medication Management; cognitive training & cognitive/kinetic methods.

(4)  Management of Stress and Depression

(5)  Social Engagement & Support

(6)  Sleep – needed for memory to be stored

(7)  Balanced Chi (Energy)

(8)  Music (listening to and playing music) and Other Creative Arts & crafts, story-telling.

(9)  Spiritual Practices – Pray, Meditate, Forgive, Let Go, Be Kind & Loving, Practice Gratitude, Be Positive

(10) Humor, Fun, Laughter & Joy

(11) Sense of Meaning and Purpose in Life


Here are some more details on one of these 11 domains, Nutrition:

Nutrition is one of the 11 domains for a brain healthy lifestyle.  What we eat is important.  Brain healthy nutrition is key to good memory.


Dr. Emerson Lombardo’s most important recent effort is the development of Memory Preservation Nutrition® (MPN™), a nutritional program for the dual purposes of helping people reduce their own risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and to slow progression and improve the lives of persons who have already living with Alzheimer’s’. She is currently implementing her Memory Preservation Nutrition® program in several Assisted Living residences. She also works with individuals and families to help them assess all 11 lifestyles, and to implement the MPN™ step by step in their own lives.


The Memory Preservation Nutrition® program is easy to fit your particular situation and food preferences.  We help you know:

• WHAT to eat
• WHY it is important to you
• HOW to develop strategies and plans and actually adopt brain healthy eating habits


The Memory Preservation Nutrition® program benefits adults and children, alerting people which foods are “brain foods” and which are “brain busters.”  Research indicates that proper nutrition is essential to defend against brain deterioration caused by aging and disease.  Vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, spices and herbs, as well as fish and sources of Omega-3’s, are among the fundamentals of the Memory Preservation Nutrition® program.  This nutritional program is high in anti-oxidants, and in foods that are anti-inflammatory and safe for diabetics, and heart healthy.  It is no coincidence that these same foods help reduce risk of cancer, arthritis pain, digestive issues and other chronic diseases.  The health of our brain is tied in to the health of every other organ in our body.


While it is recommended to get nutrition from whole foods, nutritional supplements should be considered.  This includes supplements designed to:

1) reduce inflammation in brain and body, including joint pain and “morning stiffness.”

2) help support healthy digestion and relieve stomach issues,

3) support memory, attention, and decision-making,

4) enhance bone strength,

5) help relieve or reduce frequency of headaches,

6) support emotional health.


Our favorite supplements rely on whole food-based juices or extracts (spices, herbs, vegetables, fruits, whole grains), fish or other non-fish marine oils rich in DHA and EPA Omega-3’s.  Dr. Emerson Lombardo suggests that while neither multi-vitamins nor most stand alone vitamins have proven to be helpful, there are three that are essential to brain health and often need supplementation: B (all B’s in a complex vitamin), D and E (the only one worth taking is vitamin E with all 8 tocopherols and tocotrienols).  To learn more about what Dr. Emerson Lombardo recommends, see her website .

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