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Alzheimer’s - a disease of the Old begins in the Young

A study led by researchers at the Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix reveals that Alzheimer’s disease starts decades before showing any symptoms. Young patients who had a mutation of the APOE gene associated with Alzheimer’s underwent brain PET scans which showed some of the same metabolic changes as Alzheimer’s patients. The changes were described as “reduced brain activity in the same areas that are affected in the disease for older patients.” The study hypothesizes that because brain changes occur many years before the manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, prevention treatment could begin at an early age to avoid the characteristic damage of plaques and tangles.

The PET scans on the young brains revealed that the gene carriers had an abnormally low level of glucose metabolism in contrast to non-carriers. The low level of glucose metabolism occurred in the same areas of the brain as older Alzheimer’s patients.

This study highlights the benefits of early detection and prevention. If intervention can begin early in young brains, then that intervention will be effective! Currently treatment is symptomatic and not curative. How much easier to prevent than to cure!

What Can You Do Now? Take Heart and Spring Into Action?

Weight training has been proven to drive glucose into both the muscles and the brain. I suggest that young and old begin lifting weights and doing cardio exercise to be both brain smart and heart smart - as the two are interrelated. Also, weight training will increase focus and create new neural pathways in the brain.

Aspirin therapy reduces inflammation, another popular theory on the cause of both Alzheimer’s and cancer. Aspirin prevents strokes which are also linked to Alzheimer’s. In fact, stroke patients are likely to develop Alzheimer’s. However, aspirin therapy can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and might not be tolerated by everyone.

Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels through proper diet, exercise and meditation. This will help you be heart smart and avoid cardiac episodes and strokes. Elevated blood pressure has a high correlation with Alzheimer’s.

Think Outside the box to be creative and to form new neural pathways in the brain to compensate for shrinkage. In a study on autopsied nuns’ brains compensatory neural pathways of “unusual nuns” were found. These additional pathways caused the nuns to be asymptomatic while they were alive even though their brains had the characteristic tangles and plaques.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Southampton College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com

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