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Research yields new clues to Alzheimer's disease

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of adult dementia.

"We may not be able to do anything about aging, genetics, or family history, but research shows there are lifestyle decisions we can make to keep our brains healthier as we age, and it also may lower our risk of developing Alzheimer's," says William Thies, Alzheimer's Association.

Alzheimer's attacks areas of the brain in charge of memory, judgment, behavior, and intelligence. By 2050, the Alzheimer's Association estimates the number of Americans with Alzheimer's will rise to 16 million from 5 million in 2009.

Researchers are learning that what's good for the heart may be good for the brain. Untreated high blood pressure and clogged arteries may set the stage for Alzheimer's. Growing evidence suggests that inflammation may play a critical role. Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are being studied as a way to slow down Alzheimer's.

Moderately high levels of insulin in people with diabetes or insulin-resistance also may boost the risk of Alzheimer's by causing inflammation in the brain.

The risks of Alzheimer's rise sharply after age 65. Delaying its onset by even five years prolongs quality of life and possibly prevents the disease. The Alzheimer's Disease Research Foundation suggests the following lifestyle steps:

  • Managing blood pressure
  • Controlling cholesterol
  • Taking an anti-inflammatory drug daily under direction of a physician
  • Ensuring dietary antioxidant vitamins (especially E and C)
  • Exercising mind and body
  • Controlling weight and reducing abdomen fat

New treatment and prevention strategies are emerging. Until recently, an autopsy was the only way to confirm a diagnosis. A new imaging agent called Pittsburgh Compound B shows promise of early detection.
"Early detection allows an opportunity to plan and benefit from treatment and resources," Thies says.
For updates on research, visit the American Health Assistance Foundation's Web site. Or call 800/437-2423 to ask for a listing of its helpful booklets.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of adult dementia.

Successful Farming magazine is pleased to offer this exclusive Alzheimer's Awareness Garden to help champion Alzheimer's research. The garden was designed by the editors of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, sister publication of SF.

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