You’ve heard the figures: In the U.S. almost 6 million people are currently living with age-related dementias — around 70% of those cases are due to Alzheimer’s disease. More than 80% of those folks are 75 or older, but 200,000 are younger than 65. This year alone, 487,000 people over age 65 will develop AD. Today it’s estimated that around 1 in every 6 women and 1 in every 10 men living past age 55 will develop some form of dementia.
You’ve also heard — repeatedly — that medications to treat Alzheimer’s have essentially missed the mark time after time. From 1998 to 2017, there were about 146 failed attempts at developing AD drugs; in 2018 another six or so failed to meet the mark. This year Biogen stopped a trial and Roche announced that it was discontinuing two of its Alzheimer’s Phase III trials, CREAD 1 and 2, after a preplanned interim analysis.
What you may not have heard, and what we’re excited about, is the fact that you can take actions NOW that will radically delay or maybe even stop you from developing the condition. You can change your future, and in doing so make epigenetic changes that change your family’s future as well.
“Fighting for My Life: How to Thrive in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s” is a new book by Jamie Tyrone, a woman with a super-rare genetic predisposition for AD that affects only 2% of the population, and Dr. Marwan Sabbagh, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. It details Jamie’s remarkable journey from misdiagnosis to diagnosis, despair and determination as she joined forces with Dr. Sabbagh to fight for her brain health.
In it you’ll learn about the sure-fire ways you can protect your brain so that you may never develop dementia, delay its onset or slow its progress. Dr. Sabbagh says: “Health conditions known to be associated with an increased risk of getting AD include high blood pressure, diabetes, high (LDL) cholesterol, (vascular) disease. There is a growing amount of evidence that optimizing health conditions does have downstream benefit of reducing risk for developing AD.” Some facts:
>> Women with Type 2 diabetes have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s as nondiabetic women; if they also have a genetic predisposition (ApoE4) the risk is even higher.
>> Obesity that first appears in middle age and causes visceral fat around the belly triggers a 72% increase in dementia risk.
>> People who smoke and develop AD develop it eight years earlier than nonsmokers. In addition, smoking at midlife is associated with a more than 100% increase in risk of dementia.
You can avoid all that, says Dr. Sabbagh, if you:
>> Adopt a healthful diet. The best? The MIND diet and the What To Eat When diet are blends of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. They focus on foods rich in B complex vitamins (such as B-6, B-12 and folates), anti-inflammatories like vitamin C from fruits and veggies, and unsaturated fats from healthy oils in fatty fish, nuts and olives. You embrace spices like turmeric and cinnamon, and ditch sugary and refined foods, and foods with saturated fats.
>> Get regular physical exercise, turn off the TV, push back your desk chair, stand up, move and walk. We recommend 10,000 steps a day, plus a minimum of 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise (300 is better!), and 30 minutes of resistance exercises twice a week.
>> Tamp down your stress response (highly inflammatory) with daily meditation. There are many types — from the moving meditation of tai chi, to mindful or breath- awareness mediation.
For help finding quality physical and emotional care for someone with Alzheimer’s check out the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org or the National Institute on Aging at www.nia.nih.gov; and pick up a copy of “Fighting for My Life,” inspired by Jamie’s journey.