New Hope for Alzheimer’s Disease
Can lifestyle, diet and exercise help protect one from Alzheimer's or at least delay its onset? Today’s doctors and scientists are combating Alzheimer’s through breakthrough research and compassionate, leading-edge care by geriatricians and other specialists.
It starts innocuously with forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, followed by confusion, an inability to learn, and impaired judgment. Progressing insidiously to anxiety, hallucinations, and a loss of coordination, Alzheimer’s disease robs people of their dignity and families of loved ones. Trailing cancer and coronary heart disease as the third leading cause of death, Alzheimer’s afflicts 1 in 10 Americans, or an estimated 4.5 million across the country.
The cutting edge of Alzheimer’s research
What makes one person age successfully and another develop Alzheimer's? We know that genetics can’t account for all victims of this disease. For example, if one identical twin gets Alzheimer's, there’s no guarantee the other twin will (although their risk is increased). Can lifestyle, diet and exercise help protect one from Alzheimer's or at least delay its onset? How much slowing of memory is normal in the elderly and how does this differ from Alzheimer's? Heralding new hope in the fight against Alzheimer’s, today’s doctors aim to answer these and other questions as they continue to make tremendous strides in groundbreaking research. Current research is being conducted at several levels—from scientific studies that examine the basic molecular changes in mice to human studies that look into all aspects of Alzheimer’s.
From Mice to Mankind
Recent research with mice has identified a trigger protein at the molecular level that marks the onset of Alzheimer's. This finding has important and useful implications for developing drugs that can target and possibly halt the disease. There is also some evidence to suggest that aerobic exercise in humans may have an effect on lowering the amounts of the trigger protein in the brain. Among the many goals is to uncover the connection between loss of cognitive function and age. Doctors are also looking into the mechanisms causing Alzheimer's disease and developing pioneering treatments.
Doctors are trying to determine what activities, foods, hobbies, exercise, and medications separate “successful agers” from those who get Alzheimer's. One idea gaining attention is the "use it or lose it" hypothesis: do people who remain physically and mentally active reduce their risk of getting Alzheimer's disease? Today’s scientists are combing efforts in molecular biology, neurobiology, biochemistry, and computer science. Clinical researchers specializing in the diagnoses and treatment of patients with dementia are conducting clinical trials, and studying the normal aging process.
Preserving patients’ abilities
While people with Alzheimer's disease have problems with memory, this doesn’t mean they have problems with all aspects of brain function or that they can’t learn new things. Researchers have discovered that Alzheimer's patients can not only learn new tasks, but can also improve their ability on certain tasks. When Alzheimer's patients learn a new motor-skills task, this improved ability can transfer to other, similar tasks. Studies are also underway that reveal just how early in the disease process motor control is lost and whether practice can slow down these changes.
Drawing and painting can help
There are also a range of other activities that appear to be preserved in a number of Alzheimer's patients, including drawing, painting and other artistic skills. Understanding what abilities are spared during the disease rather than focusing on what goes wrong may help us teach family members and care givers how to better help Alzheimer's patients as the disease progresses. It’s now common for painting and other arts to be offered at Adult daycare centers. Doctors are also looking into any other abilities that are spared during the disease process to understand which brain circuits are affected early versus late in the disease.
Ounces of prevention
What can those in their 40’s and 50’s do to lower their risk of getting Alzheimer’s? Some doctors recommend a multi-level strategy of good health, exercise and nutrition. What’s good for the heart is usually good for brain, so individuals should follow a sensible healthy diet. Avoid fatty foods and excessive carbohydrates. Eat fish, fiber, and plenty of green vegetables and fruits. Other preventive measures include managing hypertension—the earlier the better—reducing stress, regulating glucose and keeping weight down to normal levels. Clearly the battle lines against Alzheimer's have been drawn. We know what this terrible disease can do. With continued dedicated research, we'll hopefully discover a cure, or at the very least, a way to stem its progression and delay its onset.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Kecskes is a former ad agency Copy Chief who has created effective copy and concepts for a wide range of ad agencies, Fortune 500 companies and startups. As owner of ak creativeworks, Alex provides brand names, as well as strategic copy for brochures, mailers, multimedia, articles, newsletters, PR and web content. He has published articles in a variety of publications about health, business and technology--this includes copy for over 130 different products and services. He has won such national awards as the Andy, Belding and One Show. For more information and samples, please visit: http://www.akcreativeworks.com