Alzheimer's disease: What you eat influences your risk factor

(CBS News) You may be able to lower your risk of Alzheimer's disease, if you incorporate some special foods into your diet, according to a new book."Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective Three Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory."

"There's nothing more frightening than losing your memory and your connections. Most people have thought, well, it's just part of aging and I'm going to spend the last five or 10 years of my life not knowing anybody," said Dr. Neal Barnard, author of "Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective Three Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory." "The beautiful news is we now know what seems to be triggering that so that we can avoid it."

He advises that there are many foods to avoid, including avoiding trans-fats and saturated fats. These fats are not only bad for your heart, but can increase your chance for Alzheimer's 300 to 500 percent for those who eat the most. He also suggests avoiding using certain metals in cookware.

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"If you have a cast iron pan, over time it will rust. That's oxidation, and that happens to the metals that get into your body. So you need a trace of iron for healthy blood cells, but iron builds up in the brain and oxidizes," explains Barnard, a nutrition researcher at George Washington University. "That releases free radicals, and destroys brain cells. So a stainless steel pan is better than a cast iron pan."

However, there are also many foods that actually help ward off the disease. Barnard suggests eating large amounts of dark berries and leafy greens, as those foods assist in keeping your brain healthy. It's also helpful to eat almonds and other foods with high amounts of vitamin E. People who got the most vitamin E had 60 percent less risk for Alzheimer's compared to other people.

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"Everybody should be focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans. When people look at vegetarians, they live longer, they have less heart disease and it looks like they have an edge in mental health, as well. There is less risk of dementia," said Barnard.

It's not just what you put in your body that can help, but also what you do with it. Barnard suggests that exercising and getting enough sleep will help keep your brain functioning by increasing the flow of oxygen.

"Researchers have shown even 30 to 40 minutes of exercise, a brisk walk three times a week, changes the brain physically," he said.

For Dr. Bernard's full interview, watch the video in the player above.

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