Tuesday, 03 April 2012

Alzheimer’s disease prevention requires ongoing healthy lifestyle

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old man_chess‚ÄúPeople recognise that physical exercise is good for their heart but they fail to understand that it‚Äôs also beneficial to their brain‚Äôs health although the evidence we have is strong.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒProf Martins. Image: Tom LinSTRONG evidence suggests that a combination of healthy changes to lifestyle can have a huge impact on reducing the risk of Alzheimer‚Äôs disease and dementia.

The conference titled ‚ÄúLifestyle Approaches for the Prevention of Alzheimer‚Äôs disease‚ÄĚ organised by the McCusker Alzheimer‚Äôs Foundation gathered international Alzheimer‚Äôs disease (AD) experts who one way or another all reached towards the same conclusion.

McGill University (Montreal) Dr Serge Gauthier says, ‚ÄúKeeping an active brain, being physically active and having a healthy diet‚ÄĒalthough are things that are generally advised to anybody‚ÄĒstrongly suggest to also have protective effects on the brain and delay the onset of AD for at least five years in the general population‚ÄĚ.

“Although we can’t tell whether eating one food more than another, or doing one type of physical/mental exercises more than others, is more beneficial to the brain our research shows that a combined approach grouping all those things together can reduce risk factors of AD, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

‚ÄúThese aren‚Äôt high-tech pieces of advice but just common sense that everyone should follow to not only prevent dementia but also heart attack and stroke.‚ÄĚ

Columbia University (New York) Associate Professor Nikos Scarmeas, revealed the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet (MeDi).

‚ÄúMy observations suggest that a MeDi, i.e. lots of fruits and vegetables, grains, seeds, herbs and spices, fish & seafood, few poultry and eggs and very few dairy products, meats and sweets, topped up with physical activity, can increase the chance of remaining AD and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) free,‚ÄĚ he says.

Dr Michael Valenzuela of the UNSW, adds that those with more active cognitive lifestyles have 50 per cent more protection against dementia and says that ‚Äúa combination of education, occupation complexity and social engagement can reduce the risk of MCI, which is the pre-stage of AD, from 40 per cent‚ÄĚ.

Professor Ralph Martins, head of the McCusker Alzheimer’s Foundation and Chair of the conference says the time to act is now.

‚ÄúPeople recognise that physical exercise is good for their heart but they fail to understand that it‚Äôs also beneficial to their brain‚Äôs health although the evidence we have is strong‚ÄĚ he says.

‚ÄúLet us use the knowledge we have to sensitise the public and change people‚Äôs behaviours before we reach huge numbers of AD-affected people that we won‚Äôt be able to cure.‚ÄĚ

All speakers called for a partnership between the research profession, the public and the food industry to help Western societies change their culture and avoid the forecast of having 36 million AD sufferers by 2050.

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