Take a bite out of your Alzheimer's risk

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In the course of taking an online Family Practice Refresher Course I came across information that should be of interest to everyone. In 2002 there were 31 times more people 84 years of age or older than there was in 1940.

Although there are about 50 kinds of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 60 percent of all dementias. And according to the course by age 85 37 percent to 45 percent of people will have it. In a prior column I had written I alluded to a journal that stated the figure was 50 percent by age 85.

In the course there was described a study with people in midlife who were followed for 21 years and it was found that being obese, having high blood pressure, or having high cholesterol doubled the chance of getting Alzheimer’s. If a person had all three of those conditions it increased the chance by 600 percent. All three of those conditions are typically due to lifestyle choices.

Now to look at some other important life style factors mentioned in the course. There was a study in which 2006 participants ages 35 to 65 were followed for eight years. They compared people who smoked or were obese with folks who got 3.5 hours of exercise per week and followed a Mediterranean type diet. There was a 78 percent reduction in overall chronic disease, 93 percent reduction in diabetes, 81 percent fewer heart attacks or myocardial infarctions, 51 percent fewer strokes, and 36 percent fewer cancers.

Other good benefits of activity mentioned in the course:

Insomnia — In patients 50 to 75 years of age exercise was the only treatment for this problem. They exercised 30 minutes per day for 16 weeks. The time to fall asleep was reduced by 50 percent and sleep time was increased by 60 minutes.

Back pain — Exercise can result in less medication use, greater function, lower pain scores, less need for physical therapy, and fewer lost work days. One may need to see a physical therapist or physiatrist-rehabilitation doctor- to learn what are the best exercises.

Your thoughts — A person’s thoughts have a tremendous ability to change the chemistry of the brain and the body’s immune response.

The bottom line for all of this is get moving, eat right and think positive thoughts.

Dr. Don Casebolt of College Place is a retired physician who is passionate about preventive medicine. He spent four years as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy, the last 2 1/2 years as a flight surgeon. He also worked on the Navajo Reservation for 22 years.

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