Can Healthy Lifestyle Habits Help Prevent Alzheimer's?

Read Transcript

What we know an Alzheimer's is without a doubt, what is good for the heart, is good for the brain. The same risk factors for heart disease and stroke show up for Alzheimer's. Bad diet, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of exercise are just as great as risk factors for heart disease as they are for Alzheimer's disease. They're the one and the same.

Stroke itself is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. We now believe in a two hit hypothesis, meaning that, you're born with certain genes that determine your overall susceptibility, but in most cases those genes don't dictate what has to happen. They're just setting probabilities, then you bring in your lifestyle, your life exposures, and if you live an unhealthy life, you're not exercising, you have high cholesterol, you're obese, you have all the risk factors for heart disease.

These same risk factors will create the first hit that puts you at risk for Alzheimer's. What's that first hit? An event in the brain, a vascular event, mini stroke, the small hemorrhage, small blockage of an artery or vessel in the brain. It might not even go noticed, but as soon as the brain undergoes some small insert, some small injury, even unnoticed, now you've set the wheels on motion, now your genetics come into play, and now your genes matter for whether these events were triggered Alzheimer's down the line. Some people are protected, some people are at higher risk.

That's what the genes can tell us. And it's not just, the first hit doesn't have to just be stroke or neurovascular event, it can also be a bang to the head. We know that traumatic brain injury is a risk factor. I worry about football players, even more sword soldiers in the field, blast injuries, all these folks who are undergoing major injuries to the brain are setting the wheels in motion, that first hit has occurred.

Now you have to hope your genetics is going to help you, not hurt you, and stay off the disease. I would like to be able to give those people a therapy, a drug, a supplement, something that says, OK, you've had an insult, you need to do this now to mitigate your risk for Alzheimer's down the line. That's the goal of what we're doing.