May 18, 2011

Could a healthy lifestyle protect against Alzheimer’s?

Catch 22?

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

My guess is that a large fraction of Alzheimer's caregivers wonder if a healthy lifestyle could lower the chance that they will suffer from Alzheimer's disease. I didn't say prevent. I said lower. Reduce the odds.

One thing to thing about. Could a healthy lifestyle delay the onset of Alzheimer's? In cold hard terms, you push the onset of Alzheimer's back and you die before you suffer from Alzheimer's.

Of course this does raise the question, if you live a healthy lifestyle won't you live longer? If you live longer the odds of suffering from Alzheimer's go up. Up to about 42-50 percent if you live to be 85 or older.

Catch 22?

One statistic that always catches my attention is this one -- if the onset of Alzheimer's were to be pushed back by five years the number of Alzheimer's patients would be cut in half.

This always gets me thinking about the research of Dr. Rudolph Tanzi.

Let's say an Alzheimer's medication like the medication we take to lower the level of cholesterol -- statins -- were to come along in the next decade. Would this do the trick? Slow down the progression, or stop Alzheimer's long enough that you die first. I know that sounds harsh. It might not sound as harsh to an Alzheimer's caregiver.

“It means you don’t want to hit A-beta with a sledgehammer,” Dr. Tanzi said. “It says what we need is the equivalent of a statin for the brain so you can dial it down but not turn it off.”

So I sit hear and wonder. Will there be a test for people in their forties that will tell them they are predisposed to Alzheimer's disease? Will there be a drug, pill, or treatment that would delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease?

I am convinced this can happen. So does Dr. Tanzi -- The Plan to End Alzheimer's Disease by 2020 .

Here is some other research that caught my attention.

Can a healthy lifestyle protect against Alzheimer’s?

It is commonly known that exercise and antioxidant intake can improve physical health. But could these factors decrease the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease?

Nathalie Sumien, PhD, assistant professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, recently received a two-year grant from the Alzheimer's Association to examine if a healthy lifestyle including exercising and taking antioxidant supplements will protect against declines in cognitive function.

In preliminary research, Sumien discovered that combinations of antioxidants such as vitamin E and coenzyme Q10, or vitamins E and C, have shown the most promise in reversing cognitive decline.
Preliminary exercise research at the Health Science Center has shown that a moderate level of exercise training, such as easy jogging or swimming, can have a minor impact on cognitive function. However, recent studies have suggested a negative interaction of these two factors, where antioxidant intake abolished the beneficial effects of exercise.

Sumien's study will further explore the interactive effects of exercise and antioxidant supplementation on cognitive function in females. It will focus on whether exercise and consuming antioxidants have more of an impact when done early or later in life. Sumien is hopeful results of her study will allow her to determine whether antioxidant intake should be recommended for healthy aged and Alzheimer's patients engaging in moderate exercise.

Source: UNT Health Science Center,

Subscribe to the Alzheimer's Reading Room
Enter Your Email Address

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 2,680 articles with more than 512,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room