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Fighting Back Against Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Fighting Back Against Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Here’s some tips to help lower your risk of developing dementia.

You’ve heard the figures: In the U.S., nearly 6 million people are living with age-related dementias—around 70 percent of those cases are due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Eighty-plus percent of those folks are 75 or older, but 200,000 are younger than 65. In 2019 alone, 487,000 people over age 65 will develop AD. It’s estimated that around one in every six women and one in every 10 men living past age 55 will develop some form of dementia.

You’ve also likely 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 I and 2, after a pre-planned interim analysis.

What you may not have heard, and what we’re excited about, is the fact that, as of 2019, you can take actions 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 two percent of the population—and Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic colleague, Marwan Sabbagh, M.D., the director of Cleveland Clinic 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 the book you’ll learn about the sure-fire ways you can protect your brain so that you may prevent developing dementia or learn ways to 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.”

  • 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 percent increase in dementia risk.
  • People who smoke and develop AD are likely to develop it eight years earlier than non-smokers. In addition, smoking at midlife is associated with a more than 100 percent increase in risk of dementia.

According to Dr. Sabbagh you can lessen your risk of developing AD if you:

  1. Adopt a healthful diet. The best? The MIND and the What To Eat When diets are blends of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. They are rich in B complex vitamins such as B6, B12 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, ditch sugary and refined foods and foods with saturated fats.
  2. Get regular physical exercise, turn off the TV, push back your desk chair, stand up, move and walk. We recommend walking 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.
  3. 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 Dr. Sabbagh at my.clevelandclinic.org; 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.

Medically reviewed in March 2018.

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