RALEIGH: Dr. Campbell - delaying the onset of Alzheimer's - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC


Dr. Campbell - New study suggests that we can delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease

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RALEIGH, N.C. - Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that can be quite devastating to both patient and families. Today in the U.S., more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with thinking, memory, and behavior. The disease is quite insidious and develops slowly over time. It accounts for 60-80 percent of cases of dementia and is the most common cause of dementia in the country.

Scientists believe that proteins called beta amyloid are deposited in the brain. These deposits form plaques which interfere with the brain’s ability to process information and affect memory and cognition. Alzheimer’s disease typically presents itself with a noticeable inability to remember and process new information. It is thought that the disease first affects the parts of the brain associated with new learning.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease at this time. However, there are treatments that allow us to slow progression. There is much research ongoing in this area.

Although current medications cannot cure Alzheimer’s or stop it from progressing, they may help lessen symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion, for a limited time.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved two types of meds to treat the cognitive symptoms (memory loss, confusion, and problems with thinking and reasoning) of Alzheimer's disease. Behavioral therapies are also helpful –minimizing change in routine and stress are helpful.

Results from one of the largest randomized prevention trial to date presented Sunday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen and Found The trial found that intervention involving exercise, diet and other behavioral changes significantly improved overall cognitive functioning in patients after two years, compared with patients in a control group.

The trial was conducted in Finland and called the “Finger trial.” It was presented last week and included 1,260 randomly assigned people ages 60 to 77. Some went to a control group and were given basic health advice. The other patients were assigned to the experimental group and underwent an intervention that incorporated diet and exercise, cognitive training, social activities, as well as treatment of physical risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol.

After two years, those in the intervention group had significantly improved performance on different memory measures compared with the control group--this suggests that treating medical problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol as well as “brain training” thru cognitive training and exercise helps delay and prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

While a lot of animal data and human epidemiological data showing that people who engage in healthy lifestyle practices seem to have decreased risk of Alzheimer's, it isn't clear whether they actually delay the onset of disease. In addition, researchers want to understand specifics: how much of these activities are needed, for how long and when intervention should begin to make an impact on brain health. We need more study to help sort out cause and effect.

However, this study is very encouraging. Staying healthy and exercising, as well as treating your blood pressure and cholesterol, is very good for you. We should do these things anyway in order to prevent other chronic diseases such as heart disease. Adding in cognitive training and exercise as well as ongoing social events seems to make a difference in preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and I believe that as families, we should make sure that our older relatives remain engaged in activities as they continue to age.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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