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preventing dementia

A Third Of Dementia Cases May Be Preventable With Lifestyle Changes, Expert Says

By | November 1st, 2019

The science is becoming clearer and clearer: Taking care of yourself may be the best way to prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

In a new study, Dr. Richard Isaacson, Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, said that a series of lifestyle changes and medical interventions can slow cognitive decline from Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases.

In an interview, Isaacson said that “people with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease should no longer feel helpless.”

“While there is no magic bullet,” Isaacson added, “we believe that one out of every three cases of Alzheimer’s may be preventable.”

For people already living with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Isaacson believes that better nutrition, lifestyle changes and targeted medical interventions can delay progression to full-blown dementia.

In a study published on October 30, Isaacson and his co-authors described a trial of 154 participants who were evaluated using three sets of metrics. Those involved anthropometrics including body composition measurements such as percentage of body fat, muscle mass and waist-to-hip circumference ratios.

Doctors also tracked participants’ blood biomarkers of dementia risk including cholesterol profile, inflammation, metabolic and nutritional markers and genetics. Finally, researchers measured cognitive performance such as memory, learning, executive function, processing speed, attention and language.

Based on the evaluations, trial participants received several dozen recommendations. Those ranged from increasing exercise levels and improving the quantity and quality of their sleep, to eating better and taking various medications, vitamins or supplements.

On the somewhat controversial question of supplements, Isaacson said he does not believe that there is any single pill that everyone should take. Instead, he relies on 19 specific blood tests to show what individuals may need that’s unique to them.

For example, for individuals with high homocysteine levels, Isaason recommends taking B complex vitamins. Other frequently recommended supplements, he said, include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and cocoa flavanols.

Isaacson urges people concerned about developing Alzheimer’s to engage their doctors in conversations about preventative measures.

“This stuff is not rocket science,” he said.

In fact, several other studies have looked at ways for seniors to optimize their health. Scientific evidence backs several key ways to improve your brain health—including finessing your diet, keeping your brain sharp by learning a new instrument and monitoring your cardiovascular risk factors.

The World Health Organization has also published a report on ways to prevent dementia, including undertaking 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise, eating a balanced diet and drinking in moderation (or not at all).

For people—and doctors—interested in learning more about the methods used at his Weill Cornell clinic, Isaacson said free online courses are offered at Alzheimer’s Universe. The website also offers a CME-accredited course for health care providers, as well as specialized courses for high school, college and medical school students as well as neurology residents.

Isaacson said he predicts that in the future, doctors will specialize in preventative neurology. “In an ideal world,” he said, “these kinds of interventions will become common practice.”

If you find our articles and interviews helpful, please consider becoming a supporting member of our community. Frustrated by the lack of an editorially independent source of information on brain health and Alzheimer’s disease, we decided to create Being Patient. We are a team of dedicated journalists covering the latest research on Alzheimer’s, bringing you access to the experts and elevating the patient perspective on what it’s like to live with dementia.

Please help support our mission.

3 thoughts on “A Third Of Dementia Cases May Be Preventable With Lifestyle Changes, Expert Says

  1. I don’t know if my health findings are unique. A bad tooth, allergy to Naproxen sodium =very high blood pressure bleeding brain that looks on my MRI like cerebral amyloid angiopathy. 5+ years I still want to improve my brain by re-learning. Re – growing my brain.

  2. Wow. Now that I have been diagnosed with FTD dementia, this article is not helpful. Was it the potato chips and soda I ate as a 14-year old? And should my 14-year old self be held accountable for such poor decisions? Was I exposed to lead paint as a child? Maybe its the foam padding in my furniture. Perhaps it was the concussions I got as a child? Did I damage my spinal cord when I fell down those steps as a 3rd grader leading to reduced blood flow to the brain for 35 years? Or is it the toxified foods in general or radio/micro waves, general radiation, reduced oxygen levels or some other toxin that is doing many of us in? Why do I feel that people need better direction and more assistance than we’ve been given From the western “experts”. It should be easier and more fun to stay healthy than the reverse.

  3. Very very interested in the latest brain health research.
    Am a 77 year old active female with a sharp brain which I want to protect and maintain.
    I’m taking omega 3’s and magnesium L-threonate 2000 mg.
    Would like to access the clinical data on magnesium l-threonate. What dosage was used and what was the profiles of the participants?

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