Monday, June 24, 2024

Prevention is the cure for Alzheimer’s disease

February 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Highlights

By Dr. Dylan Wint

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affects about 4 million people in the United States. If current trends continue, that 8 will rise to about eight million over the next 20 years.

This relentless brain disease devastates not only the individuals who have it, but also their loved ones. Despite advances in our understanding of the disease, the medicines we use to treat AD are no better today than they were 10 years ago. Media proclamations of “a cure for Alzheimer’s disease!” generally turn out to be much ado about nothing, and many promising treatments show no benefit when put to the test.

But as we seek the drama that will inevitably surround the announcement of a real cure for AD, many of us are ignoring even more exciting news. In many people, AD can be prevented — without purchasing an expensive dietary supplement or undergoing some bizarre medical procedure. In fact, preventing AD requires doing nothing more than what doctors (and our mothers) have been telling us to do for decades. Exercise regularly. Quit smoking. Control your weight. Eat healthy food. Expand your mind. Get regular physical checkups. If you have depression, get it treated.

Most of the available scientific evidence indicates that people who follow this advice are at lower risk for developing AD. One study recently estimated that addressing these risk factors would prevent millions of cases of AD. Furthermore, people who already have memory loss or AD and attend to good health habits have slower disease progression.

So what steps should you take? Well, they’re probably things you’ve already been telling yourself to do. Get 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day. See your primary care doctor regularly to check for health problems like hypertension and diabetes. Ask your doctor for help with quitting smoking and/or treating depression. Learn a new skill, or pick up a new hobby. Finally, if you are having memory problems, get them checked out. Don’t simply hope that someone invents an AD cure by the time you get it — cure AD yourself before it starts.

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