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While Quarantining, Prevent Alzheimer’s

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We’ve heard Doctor Fauci say it many times…that we have to deal with this pandemic on the virus’ terms, not on our own terms.  But if you are like me, you get a bit weary of that and you would just like to take control of the challenges you face not feel like a victim of these challenges.  I have some good news on that front.

For quite a few years we have heard more and more about Alzheimer’s disease and the risk factors, but sometimes it seems the only thing we can do to avoid this cognitive beast is to choose parents with better genes…and yes, I know that is not the way it works.  Well, the good news comes from researchers in our own Chicago who are reporting that there are concrete steps all of us can take to lower our risk of succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease…steps we can take even under quarantine.  The researchers analyzed the data from the 1,845 people in the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) and the 920 individuals in the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP).  They did this by defining five categories of healthy lifestyles that allowed them to score and follow these individuals for about six years:

  1. Smoking versus non-smoking
  2. Vigorous Exercise 150 minutes or more per week versus less
  3. Light to Moderate alcohol consumption versus more
  4. Mediterranean – DASH diet (upper 40% of all subjects)
  5. Late-life cognitive activities (upper 40% of all subjects).

This was all like on/off switches with a person either qualifying for the activity category or not – smoker versus not, upper forty percent engaged in cognitive activities or not and so on.  So the possible scores were anything from ‘0’ to ‘5’.

Six years into the study, they found that people reporting two to three activities were 37% less likely to manifest Alzheimer’s than those reporting only one or no activities.  Those with 4 or 5 of the healthy activities had a 60% lower risk than the 0 and 1 activity group.  So, if you ask me what I will do with whatever remains of our quarantine, I am going to be sticking to the healthy list.  Even during a pandemic, a clear focus on being as healthy and active as possible will offer substantial benefits, some we may not even have thought about.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.

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