In the United States, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every minute; around the world, it’s every four seconds. “It is the biggest epidemic we have in this country,” says Harvard University’s Rudolph Tanzi, “I’m shocked that people aren’t panicked about what this disease is going to do to the country or to their families.”
This Wednesday (January 25) at 10 pm ET, PBS is premiering “Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts,” an urgent wake-up call about the national threat posed by the disease. The documentary includes interviews with doctors, caregivers, and longtime researchers of the disease, such as Dana Alliance member Tanzi.
With the number of people finding they have Alzheimer’s rapidly escalating as the baby boom generation reaches 65 and older, researchers estimate that by 2050, the rate of diagnosis won’t be every minute but every 33 seconds. Scientists and drug-makers have yet to find a cure; they cite a dire need of federal funding for further research. No lifestyle activity is guaranteed to prevent the disease, Tanzi says, but there are measures we can take, based on various epidemiology studies and trials, that can reduce risk.
Among those things, he recommends:
- Stay active. Exercise, which can help remove the pathology and stop inflammation (considered by many a key part of Alzheimer’s disease).
- Get enough sleep. Scientists have found that during the deepest part of sleep (slow-wave sleep) is the only time the brain doesn’t make the amyloid proteins responsible for creating the plaques associated with the disease. Tanzi recommends a minimum of seven to eight hours a night to ensure the brain has time to “clean itself.”
- Adopt a healthy diet. The Mediterranean diet has shown to be most effective in reducing risk; it includes more fiber, olive oil, fruits, nuts, more fish, vegetables, and less red meat.
- “Keep moving” physically, socially, and intellectually. Every time you learn something new, your brain creates new connections between synapses and strengthens the ones already there. In Alzheimer’s, what correlates most with the degree of dementia is loss of synapses.
To watch the full, four-minute video of Tanzi’s tips on keeping our brains as healthy as possible, click here.
– Seimi Rurup