Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

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Normal vs Alzheimer BrainNew research (Dr. William Jagust & Susan Landau, UC Berkeley), based on brain-imaging, indicates that people who engage in mentally stimulating activities beginning in childhood and continue throughout their lives develop fewer deposits of the destructive beta amyloid protein in the brain, which is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Scientists believe that Alzheimer’s disease may begin 10-15 years before memory problems appear, so by the time we see problems with memory in seniors, there is little that can be done. There are currently no drugs which can prevent the disease, but activities such as reading, writing and game playing, if begun early in life, appear to prevent a build-up of beta amyloid in the brain. Maybe we shouldn’t be quite so worried about those video games our kids are playing.

In a Press Release issued on 1/18/12 by the Alzheimer’s Association, it was stated that “Today as many as 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s [that number jumps to 36 million worldwide] with nearly 15 million friends and family members often providing exhaustive, around the clock care for them. While the human toll is alarming, the economic costs are also staggering, rising from $183 billion this year to more than $1 trillion by 2050. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death and the only one among the top ten without a way to cure, prevent or even slow its progression.”

In an effort to change this course, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), has “unanimously passed with full bipartisan support in Congress and signed into law by President Obama, authorized the process currently underway to develop a national Alzheimer’s plan. The law also created the Advisory Council, which is made up of stakeholders from across the Alzheimer’s community as well as representatives from several federal agencies with Alzheimer’s initiatives and which is charged with providing recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to inform the development of the national plan.”

While NAPA and the Advisory Council are looking for solutions to the growing problem of Alzheimer’s disease, let’s break out those books and games to prevent that destructive protein buildup in our brains! Checkers anyone?

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