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African Americans and Latinos at Higher Risk for Alzheimer's Disease

African Americans are at high risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. These health conditions adversely affect the blood vessels and arteries that carry vital nutrients to the brain.

As it turns out, according to the Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report, we know that older African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias as older whites. Latinos are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias as older whites.

The brain is dependent on a healthy heart, which beats about one-fifth of our blood supply to the brain. Blood carries the “gas” —nutrients and oxygen— to the brain, enabling it to operate as our “think tank.” And as the saying goes, “what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.” So in order to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease it makes good sense to protect and support our cardiovascular health.

African-Americans may have a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and stroke because of factors that can’t be controlled, such as genetics and age. But a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and nutrient-dense whole foods can help reduce risk of disease.

How to feed a healthy heart
1. Include one high-quality, low-fat protein each day, such as: fresh fish, turkey or chicken, low-fat beef, eggs, low-fat dairy products, soy protein, tofu products, legumes (beans and rice together make a complete protein), etc.
2. Fats are important! But it's just important to know which fats to eat and which not to eat! Eat cold-pressed olive oil on your salad, cook with canola oil, and eat avocados, soy cheese, and goat cheese in moderation. You naturally obtain plenty of fat through foods like seeds and nuts, and low-fat dairy products, so maintain a watchful eye. And stay away from saturated fats such as butter. There’s lots of saturated fat in meat and dairy, so cut down on these types of foods.
3. Eat a whole foods, high-fiber diet including lots of colorful fruits and veggies, which contain heart-healthy flavonoids. These micronutrients—found only in plants—act as blood thinners and antioxidants that protect blood cells from disease. Flavonoids also help prevent blood clots, says John D. Folts, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison.
4. Exercise your heart every day! Make a date with your neighbor to take a daily walk, dance in your living room, walk the dog, ride your bike, garden, swim, etc.
5. Reduce your intake of carbohydrates! Carbohydrates, especially sugars and starchy food, convert to glucose rapidly, triggering increases in insulin levels. Not only will it make you fat but also insulin is highly atherogenic (causes atherosclerosis).
6. Add garlic, flaxseed oil and cold-water/deep sea fish to your diet to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
7. Supercharge your diet with a good multivitamin/mineral complex.
8. Stop smoking!
9. Practice a stress reduction technique such as yoga or meditation; get a massage.
10. And don’t forget to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water to keep your body hydrated and to flush out toxins.

Don’t let your family history determine your fate. You can overcome health obstacles and avoid heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

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