While we await the medicines that will prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease, the McCance Center seeks to continue to accelerate research on lifestyle interventions across the lifespan. We proactively educate about using plans like SHIELD, developed by Rudy Tanzi, PhD, to improve brain health and reduce risk for brain disease.
Tanzi advised, in his September 2019 Congressional testimony, that “despite family history and personal genetics, in the vast majority of cases, lifestyle and behavioral changes outlined in the ‘SHIELD’ mantra have the potential to preserve and promote brain health and prevent age-related diseases – not only Alzheimer’s, but also heart disease, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”
Tanzi’s SHIELD mantra to preserve and promote brain health:
S stands for 7-8 hours sleep, which serves to clear away Alzheimer’s pathology.
H is for handling stress, for example, with a meditation practice.
I is for interaction with friends. Loneliness doubles risk for Alzheimer’s.
E is for exercise, which induces new nerve cell growth to strengthen brain regions affected in Alzheimer’s disease.
L is for learning new things, which increases the number of synapses in your brain, the connections between nerve cells storing your memories. Synapse loss correlates most with the degree of dementia. The more synapses you make, the more you have to spare.
D is for diet. The best diet for the brain is the Mediterranean diet, which minimizes red meat and is rich in fiber from fruit and vegetables that strengthens bacteria in your gut, or your gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome has also been shown to reduce brain neuroinflammation, the biggest killer of nerve cells in the brain.