At a Wednesday lecture regarding Alzheimer’s disease, medical professionals discussed simple measures individuals can take to prevent or slow the effects of dementia.
Held at Gordon Dining and Event Center, the event was part of an annual series called ‘The Science Behind Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention & Brain Health.” Though Alzheimer’s has no cure at this time, the experts suggested research-backed preventative measures, such as smoking cessation or nutritional diets.
Dr. Sanjay Asthana, a University of Wisconsin geriatrics professor, said the major focus of Alzheimer’s-related research is finding new ways to diagnose the disease when symptoms are absent, as it can take 20 to 25 years before symptoms become obvious.
According to Asthana, 5.3 million people currently are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the U.S., a figure estimated to triple by 2050 in the absence of new preventative methods.
This will not only impact millions medically, but is also predicted to deal a crushing blow to Medicare due to the financial burden of disease treatment, Asthana said.
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Dr. Martha Clare Morris, a Rush University nutritional epidemiology professor who Asthana described as a “breakthrough scientist,” was the keynote speaker Wednesday evening.
Morris defined Alzheimer’s as the gradual worsening of recall and other cognitive functions.
Despite the prevalence of this disease, Morris said, several foods are known to delay or even prevent its development.
In particular, Morris cited studies which found that vitamin E intake is negative correlated with cognitive decline or risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
“We know that antioxidant nutrients are so important,” Morris said.
Almonds, seeds and spinach are just a few excellent sources of the vitamins now being proven to protect against cognitive debilitation, Morris said.
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Additionally, fish contains DHA, an Omega 3, which Morris said is found in concentrated amounts in the most metabolically active areas of the brain.
For this reason, Morris said, doctors recommend babies and pregnant women eat fish or take DHA supplements.
In one study, subjects who ate at least one fish meal per week had a 60 percent Alzheimer’s risk reduction at the end of the trial.
In addition to consuming more DHA and vitamin E, Dr. Heather Johnson, a UW professor in cardiovascular medicine, also said exercising and not smoking are crucial for healthy arteries and a healthy brain.
“To take it away from dementia for a second, if you had to have surgery in two weeks, your surgeon and your anesthesiologist would tell you that the best thing you can do to improve your outcomes for surgery are to quit smoking,” Johnson said in closing.
Johnson said this highlights the quickness with which those who quit smoking will experience positive health effects, including increased blood flow to organs from arteries.
The medical doctors in attendance concluded that natural remedies, such as maintaining healthy diet and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking, can serve as important preventative measures against dementia.