I’ll Never Forget Whatshisname?
I spent quite a bit of time recently on an online series entitled, Awakening from Alzheimer’s presented by author and journalist Peggy Sarlin. Ms Sarlin took it upon herself to interview 12 or so experts in the field of neurodegenerative disorders, with a special focus on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) which accounts for about 70% of all dementia.
Why the focus on AD, you might ask, especially as most of the readers of this post may not be elderly. And isn’t AD an ‘old person’ disease? Well, it most certainly is often first diagnosed in the elderly. For example, a Chinese study published in June this year revealed that the average age of a person when diagnosed with AD was 72 years old (in a range of 62 and 82 years old). But here’s the thing: if the condition is most often first diagnosed in later life, does this mean that it starts it’s brain destroying journey in later life? I will return to this very important question a little later in the post.
AD needs our attention (no pun intended) because there is no effective treatment available for this devastating disease which currently affects about 46 million people, and costs almost one trillion US dollars annually for treatments that are ,for the most part, ineffective. Now if you think this is bad: the experts who look into their collective scientific crystal balls predict that the number of patients with AD is going to balloon to over 130 million by 2050.
On the research front, the USA has spent some 84 billion US dollars on Alzheimer’s studies in the last decade or so trying to identify medication to treat the condition. And the results to date? No effective drug identified. Does this mean that nothing can be done? No – on the contrary, says Dr Vincent Fortanasce , Alzheimer’s expert and professor of neurology at the University of Southern California . He maintains that up to 70% of AD can be prevented by modifying lifestyle behaviours. Dr Fortanasce uses the acronym SAD to describe the primary cause of AD: S=sedentary; A=aging; D=diet. The flipside of the SAD coin means that it provides some of the the answers we need to prevent AD. We can do a great deal to modify a sedentary and dietary lifestyle but we can’t stop the clock on aging…or can we?
I wrote earlier in the post that I would return to the common assumption that AD is a disease of the elderly because that’s when it is most often first diagnosed. If you have been a regular reader of my posts you may recall a post I suggested that AD should be viewed largely as a disease of young women because 65% of all AD occurs in women and because it takes a long time to fully manifest and this must mean it starts when women are young. Well it turns out it that I was wrong. AD is not a disease of young women but a childhood disease because that’s when it starts its devastating journey, says Dr Fortanasce. If 70% of Alzheimer’s can be prevented and if it starts in childhood, then this points very clearly to the fact that lifestyle is key. I think that we all agree that the most cost-effective way of treating any disease is never to get it in the first place!
Poor food choices and sedentary behaviour often start in childhood. The advent of 24 hour TV, unlimited access to the Internet and mobile phones and other devices has had a marked effect on physical activity levels. Add to this the penetration of the global industrial diet of sugar sweetened beverages and boxed and processed food – or rather ‘fake foods’ – laden with sugar, refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils and is it any wonder that not only are adult men and women in trouble but increasingly so to our children .
Good lifestyle habits are learned largely by the example provided by a caring and supportive family. Why would any parent not want a child to grow old in good health? Why would any parent not want to prevent( as far as is possible) the spectre of Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes heart disease and more, stalking their children through life?
In a continuation of this AD series, I will share some of the simple remedies suggested by Peggy Sarlin’s panel of experts. But for now let’s look at just one lifestyle intervention which I have called “ Get the White Out!’ This means getting rid of sugar, flour and other refined carbohydrate. Get these empty calorie fake foods out of your home and, most importantly, keep them out of your and your family’s bodies.
As we have seen in this series, Alzheimer’s is a devastating condition that while it currently cannot be cured or even treated with pharmaceutical medication can largely be prevented.
Until next time.
I’m Dr Peter Hill for UpforIt.