November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. It is appropriate that it is also National Family Caregivers Month, considering the fact that many people afflicted with Alzheimer’s are physically fairly well and often rely on caregivers. It would be very unusual to find a person whose life has not been affected by someone with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD is one form of dementia. It is sometimes referred to as Senile dementia/Alzheimer’s type (SDAT). Currently, more than 4 million people in the USA have AD. Approximately 10% of all people over 70 have significant memory deficits. The number doubles each decade after 70. The risk increases with age and family history for the disease.
AD is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that affects memory and thought process. Memory impairment is the hallmark of this disease. Also, those suffering from AD present changes with the following: language, decision-making, judgment, attention, and other personality or aspects of mental function. AD progresses differently in each case.
Two types of AD have been identified, early onset and late onset. In early onset, symptoms appear before the age of 60 and progresses very rapidly. It accounts for 5-10% of all cases. Autosomal dominant inherited mutations have been found in early onset AD.
The cause of AD is not completely understood, however, most experts agree that both genetic and environmental factors are involved. It is important to rule out other medical causes before a final diagnosis of AD can be made. Only a post-mortem microscopic examination of brain tissue can confirm the diagnosis. Structural and chemical parts of the brain disconnect as the brain tissue shows twisted fragments of protein that clogs up the nerve. Clusters of dead and dying nerve cells block the transmission of information and communication from one nerve cell to the next. AD causes a disconnection of areas of the brain that normally work together.
ALZHEIMER'S RISK FACTORS:
- Family History Age
- High Blood Pressure – over a long period of time
- History of Head Trauma
- High Levels of Homocysteine (a chemical in the body related to heart disease and depression)
- Female Gender – as women live longer
The Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Science and Environmental Health Network offer the following guidelines to
Reduce the Risk of Developing AD:
- Practice Good Nutrition All of Your Life: Provide and teach youngsters good eating habits. High calorie foods and drinks should be discouraged to prevent obesity and diabetes.
- Eat Lots of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables, especially those that are deep-green, provide essential antioxidants, vitamins, and other important micronutrients. Many contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- Avoid Saturated and Trans Fat. Use Vegetable Oils Instead: A low-fat, plant-based diet with small amounts of dairy, lean meat and chicken is preferred. Avoid frequent use of oils high in omega-6 such as corn, safflower, sunflower, and peanut oils.
- Eat Foods High in Omega-3s: Eat fish at least once a week. For those who do not like fish, try fish oil. Limit use of fish that are high in mercury and PCB’s such as: swordfish, king mackerel, albacore and fresh tuna. Less contaminated fish are: haddock, Pollock and wild Alaskan salmon.
- Avoid Routine Consumption of Sugar: Table sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, honey high in fructose cause rapid blood sugar elevation which is linked to obesity, type II diabetes, and heart disease.
- Consume Low-Glycemic Carbohydrates: Whole grains and legumes (chick peas and lentils) can help prevent sudden increases in blood sugar. Other examples are: brown rice, barley, oats, rye, buckwheat, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, pasta, winter squashes and tubers (yams, sweet potatoes).
- Get Food From Local and Organic Sources: Local growers and Co-ops tend to offer fresher foods with higher levels of nutrient and less pesticide use. NEPA has some great seasonal local farmer markets.
- Modest Consumption of Alcohol: Evidence supports the use of one-half to two drinks per day for adults. Red wine and green tea are recommended. Some studies show that caffeine may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s and AD.
- Avoid Food Additives, Such as Aluminum: While the evidence of the danger of cooking in aluminum pots may not be valid, recent evidence suggests that dietary aluminum may increase the risk of AD. For example, some baking powders, pancake and waffle mixes contain high levels of aluminum.
- Reduce Exposure to Toxicants: Toxic chemicals in the home, workplace and community can increase the risk of AD. Lead, solvents used in building and remodeling, and lawn and garden chemicals may be harmful.
- Increase Physical Activity: 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each day is very beneficial for physical and emotional wellness. It improves blood flow, releases endorphins and prevents obesity.
- Increase Social Activity: Social activity on a regular basis has been found to reduce the risk of AD. Volunteer, join a club, play a sport or game with a group, take classes and keep in touch with friends and family.
- Reduce Stress: Technology has put us on sensory overload. We must learn a new technological skill every week to keep up. Demand for immediate communication increases daily. We cannot escape for a moment. Make time everyday to relax, breathe deeply, listen to relaxing music, exercise or sit quietly.
- Exercise Your Brain: Some studies show that maintaining a healthy mind requires some work. Do crossword puzzles, word games, board games, and read books. Current wisdom suggests that learning something new is the most important thing to keep your mind healthy…time to learn to play the piano!
Source: The HealthCentralNetwork, Inc
Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – Every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune. This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: email@example.com.
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.