Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Speaker offers suggestions on preventing Alzheimer's
Diet and exercise can help prevent the disease, the speaker said.
By SEAN BARRON
NORTH LIMA Most people are probably aware of the positive effects exercise and a healthful diet have on the body and mind.
Those two choices have an added benefit, though: They will likely prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
That was a main theme put forth in a presentation Liz Jendrisak gave at Tuesday's Beaver Township Neighborhood Block Watch meeting. In her hour-long lecture, "Maintaining Your Brain," Jendrisak outlined steps people can take to reduce the likelihood of getting the irreversible disease for which there is no cure.
Jendrisak, education director for the Alzheimer's Association's Greater East Ohio chapter, noted that race and age are not predictors for the disease. Of the estimated 4.5 million to 5 million cases in the U.S., roughly 90 percent can be attributed to health, diet and lifestyle choices; the other 10 percent have genetic links, she noted.
Certain traits such as slower recall, memory slips, and trouble multitasking and remembering familiar names and words are often associated with normal aging, Jendrisak explained. However, some red flags include memory loss; problems with language; difficulty with abstract thinking; changes in personality, mood and behavior; and disorientation to time and place. Jendrisak cited the example of an Akron man who bought gasoline for his vehicle and, unable to remember his way home, ended up in Florida.
There are no guarantees that a person won't contract the disease, but prevention goes a long way toward cutting down on the odds, she continued. One of the best ways is to exercise the brain, Jendrisak said.
"The brain is the largest muscle in the body," she added.
It's important to walk for exercise because that activity can decrease the risk of dementia, Jendrisak said, adding that learning and other mental activities can stimulate nerve cell connections in the brain. A healthful diet consisting of foods such as salmon, broccoli, organic salads, nuts, seeds and those high in folic acids also are beneficial, she continued.
Another preventive measure she cited was cutting out smoking while watching cholesterol levels. High blood pressure and cholesterol as well as diabetes can increase the risk of getting Alzheimer's by 20 percent to 40 percent, she warned.
Other ways to maintain the brain's health include stress relief, staying sharp, periodically changing routines and habits, and taking up a challenging hobby, Jendrisak noted. These steps can go a long way toward preventing or delaying the disease's onset, she said.
Advice for families
When a person is diagnosed with the disease, it's often difficult for family members and other loved ones largely because Alzheimer's gets progressively worse. Those who have a loved one with the disease would do well to refrain from asking open-ended questions, approach the person calmly and from in front, speak slowly and explain tasks step by step. It's also important to avoid confrontations with the affected person, Jendrisak said.
"You'll never win an argument with a person who has Alzheimer's disease," she cautioned.
Officer Dan Valentine of the Beaver Township Police Department, who also heads the block watch group, said he occasionally tries to bring in speakers who discuss topics beneficial to the group that aren't necessarily related to crime prevention.