It's hard to protect yourself against pesticide exposure, even if you're diligent. These harmful toxins are everywhere...on your produce, in cosmetic products, and even in your drinking water. In fact, just last month, EPA officials discovered that a type of pesticide called DDT had polluted all the wells in a small Michigan community (even though DDT has been banned in agriculture use in the U.S. for 30 years!).

The unfortunate truth is, over a lifetime, most of us are bombarded by pesticides. And a new study has just discovered that repeated exposure to pesticides may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 53 percent.

The good news is, there are simple steps you can take to drastically reduce your pesticide exposure...and hopefully lower your associated AD risk. I'll tell you all about them in a moment.

Alzheimer's risk skyrockets for farmers in Utah

In recent study, Duke University scientist Kathleen M. Hayden, PhD and her team followed 3,000 elderly men and women living in rural Utah for 14 years. At the outset of the study, the scientists asked each of the participants detailed questions to determine exposure to many different types of pesticides. In addition, the scientists measured the participants' cognitive levels three times over the course of the study.

They found that about 600 participants had some pesticide exposure. In fact, most of them had been exposed to two kinds of pesticides commonly used to spray food crops, called organophosphates and organochlorines.

Of the 600 participants exposed to these pesticides, an astounding 500 developed "incident dementia" over the course of the study. In addition, 433 developed Alzheimer's disease.

Put another way, this means that almost 70 percent of the men and women with repeated pesticide exposure over their lifetime developed Alzheimer's disease!

According to the Duke researchers, these pesticides appear to wreak havoc on the central nervous system. Specifically, pesticides reduce a person's acetycholine (a type of neurotransmitter responsible for learning, memory, and concentration). And low acetycholine is also a common characteristic of Alzheimer's patients. In fact, three out of the four drugs on the market work by increasing acetycholine levels.

Who's most at-risk?

It's important to note that many of the participants were farmers, with routine physical contact with pesticides. Now, I'm not a farmer. But I do eat foods grown on a farm. Does eating foods treated with pesticides increase my risk of Alzheimer's disease? The study's authors didn't specify, but consider this...

Another recent study published in the medical journal Pediatrics links ADHD in children with pesticide exposure. In fact, kids with high pesticide exposure are more than twice as likely to have ADHD. And how are these kids getting exposed to pesticides?

You got it.

By eating fruits and veggies treated with pesticides.

My hunch is that these kids also have similar disruptions in acetycholine (that neurotransmitter I talked about earlier that's responsible for learning, memory, and concentration).

How can you reduce your pesticide exposure?

Avoiding all pesticide exposure could easily become a full-time job. And I know most of us can't go to such extreme lengths. Nevertheless, here are some good rules to follow to decrease your pesticide load:

1. Buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. The Environmental Working Group puts out a great "dirty dozen" list of the produce that you should always buy organic. There's also a list of "clean 15" that are always safe to eat.

2. Use a quality water filter. Many of these pesticides (as residents of the Michigan town will tell you) leach into your drinking water. If possible, install a filter on your showerhead as well.

3. If you live near farmland, make contact with the farmer to learn if he or she uses pesticides on crops.

4. Most lawn care services use organophosphate pesticides. If yours does, never walk on your lawn after it's been sprayed. Ideally, stay away from the house for a few hours after your lawn's been treated. Ideally, I'd recommend skipping the lawn service all together or find one that offers "natural" products for your lawn care.

5. Avoid using insecticides in and around your home. There are lots of non- toxic ways to control pests. For instance, start by building outside barriers against pests, such as mulch or caulk. If ants are invading your house, sprinkle baby powder on problem spots. The smell of talc deters them. I've also heard that cinnamon and vinegar deters them as well.

In closing, pesticide use is a bigger problem that anyone in the mainstream press is willing to admit. And it's just getting bigger. I guarantee the pesticide- Alzheimer's disease link is just the tip of the iceberg.

So don't be a victim and educate yourself. Visit www.ewg.org to learn more common-sense ways to safeguard your health and decrease exposure to these toxins.