But studies that suggest a certain fruit or vegetable could be the key to staving off Alzheimer’s disease – and the headlines that follow those studies – don’t often tell the whole story and may even exaggerate the benefits of these foods.
So what should you actually take away from the research about how your eating and fitness habits affect your risk of Alzheimer’s?
The short answer is: “Have fun, eat healthy meals that are good for you, and you may end up helping your brain as well as your heart,” according to Dr. Maria Carrillo, chief scientific officer of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Carrillo told Business Insider in 2016 that the same good eating and fitness habits associated with a decreased risk of heart problems also seem to have a connection to mental health. There is no “silver bullet” – you can stock up on blueberries all you want, but they likely won’t have much impact if they’re part of an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle.
“The strongest conclusions are that physical activity monitoring and cardiovascular health may help prevent Alzheimer’s,” Carrillo said, though added, “It’s a ‘may,’ because we don’t know.”
There are very few treatments for Alzheimer’s, and none are able to reverse the disease’s effects – they just treat the symptoms. Because of that, research into the role lifestyle can play is important.
“Ultimately, a combination of lifestyle with a pharmaceutical will be the way we treat this disease,” Carrillo said.