In Alzheimer’s disease, brain cells start to deteriorate. The body attempts to stop this process by producing a protein called amyloid. However, amyloid deposits build up in the brain, leading to further deterioration. These deposits of amyloid are referred to as "plaques" and cause the brain cells to shrivel up and form "tangles", which in turn lead to changes in the brain structure and cause the brain cells to die. The formation of plaques and tangles also prevents the production of some important brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters. Over time the loss of brain cells causes the brain to shrink.
While there is no known cause for Alzheimer's disease, some research studies have indicated that the following factors may play an important role in the development of the condition: Genetic factors, Environmental factors, Lifestyle factors.
There are no proven ways to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease. However, there is epidemiological evidence to suggest that leading a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Regular physical activity and exercise may have a general protective effect on brain health and may slow progression of Alzheimer's disease. Although there are no specific dietary specifications for Alzheimer's, a Mediterranean-style diet (ie: plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, olives and olive oil, along with some cheeses, yoghurt, fish, poultry and eggs) may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and has the added benefit of lowering cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes risk.