Genes, Music, Food, and Alzheimer’s Disease

In the wake of the news on Sunday that 5 genes have been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, there was a great program on KQED’s Forum today about Alzheimer’s: the progress being made towards a cure, the meds available today, caring for people with Alzheimers, and prevention.  Turns out that progress is slow, and a cure may never be found. The biological processes that lead to Alzheimer’s actually begin in the brain around 20 years before symptoms start showing. The FDA-approved medications are expensive and only slightly effective at best (the non-approved ones, not at all).  Being a caretaker for a loved one with AD causes high levels of stress that, in turn, can rapidly deteriorate health and lead to depression.

Which leads us to prevention.  Alzheimer’s is not, strictly speaking, a genetic disease; diagnosis is sporadic, largely unrelated to parents and relatives, but certain genes do appear to increase the risk and likelihood of the disease’s onset, as do behavior and environment earlier in life. It’s highly correlated with cholesterol levels and heart disease.  And, as usual, most of this comes down to nutrition and diet.

First, mental retention and cognizance versus deterioration are highly linked to Omega 3 Fatty Acids.  This means you should probably up your intake of guacamole and salmon.  Saturated fats and the buildup of visceral fat is highly correlated with decreased memory capacity  —  keep the sour cream OUT of the guacamole. Likewise, high sugar intake and insulin levels, simple carbohydrates etc. degrade amyloid in the brain. Regular exercise and increasing blood flow stave off dementia.

Other tidbits from the radio session:

– No, cooking with aluminum is not linked to Alzheimer’s.  Instead, reread that part about foodstuffs.

– Music, Art, and other sensory therapy seems to bring back memories and increase cognitive abilities.

– Researchers have not yet determined what the abnormalities are in those 5 genes linked to Alzheihmer’s.

Listen here:
http://www.kqed.org/assets/flash/kqedplayer.swf

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