Alzheimer’s Disease

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

The start of a new academic year always bolsters my appreciation of my memory, which faithfully helps me recall last year’s lessons. After all, some people aren’t as fortunate.

When my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s Disease (a degenerative brain disease) was still living, my family and I would visit her each summer. Watching the progression of her illness over time– she gradually forgot who we were and lost the ability to do tasks ( e.g. using a telephone) that had previously been second nature– was demoralizing. It reassures me to know that although genetics may predispose some people to have Alzheimer’s Disease, healthy lifestyle choices are a key factor in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

It may seem strange to discuss a disease that afflicts mainly people over age 65 in a column for teens, but since a definitive cure to Alzheimer’s Disease has not been found yet, it is in my opinion very logical to start reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease as early as possible. Fortunately, the habits that ward off Alzheimer’s are ones that should already be practiced because of their beneficial effects on overall health.

Being physically active is one of the ways to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease. Physical activity increases the flow of blood in the brain, encourages production of brain cells, and contributes to the reduction of inflammation in the brain (inflammation in the brain is observed in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease). To boost your physical activity, join a sports team or invest a pedometer and gradually increase the amount of steps you take each day until you reach 16500, the amount recommended for youth.

Regarding eating habits and preventing Alzheimer’s, Dr. Diamond, the Scientific Director of the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, recommends eating the Mediterranean way. The Mediterranean diet features foods rich in healthy fats, spices and herbs (instead of salt), fish and poultry (red meat is limited), and plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. The social aspect of dining is also emphasized in the Mediterranean diet. Try consuming foods from each food group at every meal, favoring foods from the Mediterranean diet.

What else can be done? Use common sense. The safety advice parents and emergency workers have been giving to today’s generation for years is beneficial in more than one way. Wearing a helmet and using a seatbelt can save your life and lower your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Finally, relax. Stress contributes to Alzheimer’s Disease as well as a number of other diseases. Learn to manage turbulent life events and practice the healthy habits mentioned above. Simply going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help you reduce stress too.

Being socially active and challenging your brain, which teens excell at, are two supplementary ways to diminish the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Hopefully we teens will have the opportunity to witness the invention of effective new treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease. Research on beta-amyloids (toxin found in deposits, a.k.a. plaques, in the brain of Alzheimer patients), the aging process, and a possible link with heart disease and diabetes may lead to improved treatments in the future.

For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease, visit the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s website at www.alzheimer.com (used as the source for this article) or call the Southeast branch (located at 960 Saint George Blvd. in Moncton) at 506-858-8380.

 

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on September 4th, 2010.

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