Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 29, No.12

March 17, 2005


Alzheimer's can be averted

By Sylvain Comeau

Speaking to an audience of mostly grey heads, Majid Fotuhi, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, delivered a simple message at a public lecture for the Science College on March 10: There is no need to be fatalistic about Alzheimer's.

Fotuhi wants people to understand that they can take preventative steps, at any age, to cut their risk of developing the neurological disorder. While genetics play a part, he stressed that lifestyle is the number one risk factor, and fears about environmental causes have thus far been unproven.

He also cautioned against alarism. "Memory problems are common, and there is no reason to think that you are developing Alzheimer's just because you forget things. Stress, lack of sleep, fatigue, side effects of medication or alcohol are all likely causes."

The number one thing you can do to prevent Alzheimer's? Take care of your heart. "What is good for your heart is good for your brain; that's because what is bad for your heart can cause mini-strokes, which damage the brain."

High blood pressure is the deadliest enemy for your heart, "a silent killer, because many people don't know that they have it. A combination of high blood pressure and high cholesterol carries the highest risk for Alzheimer's."

Those with hypertension should cut their intake of salt, lose weight, quit smoking and increase daily exercise.

“You don't have to spend two hours in the gym; 30 to 45 minutes of walking will do fine." The key is continuous exercise; running around the office does not count.

A diet rich in antioxidants like vitamin E reduces inflammation in the brain. However, no one should take more than 400 IU (international units) of Vitamin E per day. Protecting your head from injury is also important.

Fotuhi, a Science College graduate, is a professor of neurology at Harvard and Johns Hopkins, and author of The Memory Cure: How to Protect Your Brain Against Memory Loss and Alzheimer's Disease.