Using the mind-body connection to fight Alzheimer’s

It’s a looming national health crisis:  One in four of people will suffer with some form of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s Disease. The always fatal affliction has health care workers now sounding the alarm

For some who are diagnosed, hearing the world "Alzheimer" is like hearing a death sentence.

For a wife and mother caring for her husband, a woman recalls the day they got the diagnosis in the film “Those on the Front Lines of Alzheimer’s Dementia." “We had him tested.  And he said, ‘If I had a gun, I’d shoot myself," she said.

Medications and therapies are somewhat improving lives, but it's still the sixth leading cause of death. The question: Can Alzheimers be prevented? New research says maybe.

Dr. Alka Gupta, working with the Internal & Integrative Medicine Unit at Weill Cornell illuminated us. “Those changes begin many years and decades before people realize cognitive decline is going on.  We don’t know how much and what percentage of Alzheimer’s can be staved off.”

Dr. Gupta practices integrative medicine, hoping to keep the affliction at bay. But the odds are staggering: one quarter of us will develop Alzheimer’s. Dr. Gupta puts it bluntly: “It is going to be an epidemic.”

There are predictors seen in a blood test showing someone may develop the disease. Apo-e gene puts you at a higher risk... though it doesn't mean you will get it.

Advocates say a yearly brain test is a smart starting point.

Charles Fuschillo of the Alzheimer's Foundation elaborates. "Alzheimer's is not a function of aging. If you see someone experience change in mood or personality, forgetting things or the inability to perform simple tasks, call their primary physician to get them tested right away and we'll get them a memory screening."

A free, quick and simple test at the Alzheimer's Foundation of America can highlight areas of concern. I sat for the test which only took a few minutes of Q&A in order to get a "baseline" result.

My score was strong. But there are things all of us can do right now to ensure our brains stay healthy.

“Socialization is so critically important. Exercise your brain. Simple things like brushing your teeth with the other hand," Fuschillo explains.

The prescription we hear to keep our bodies healthy translates to our brains, too.

“A diet rich in fruit, vegetables and grains and minimizing everything else... avoiding alcohol and tobacco... staying physically active on most days of week... learning how to manage stress... sleeping well day in and day out,” Dr. Gupta says.

On average people live 8 to 10 years once diagnosed, with women living longer than men. Those diagnosed younger, and healthier, usually live longer. But the full lifespan can be as short as three years.  All the way to 20 years after diagnosis.

Additional Resources:

For more on how to get your own free memory screening, click here.

For additional questions and resources click here.

For tips on how to help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease with a healthy lifestyle click here.

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