Alzheimer's Disease Center
University of California, Davis
The Family Connection
A Prescription for Successful Aging
The Center for Environmental Health Sciences and the Center for Aging and Health at UC Davis sponsored a symposium, Age-Related Disease: Prevention and the Environment in the beginning of November. The event focused on research into the environmental causes of age-related disease and included presentations on prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease, aging and disease of the central nervous system, and nutrition and aging.
One interesting speaker at the symposium was Dr. Edward Schneider who is currently the Dean of the Andrus Gerontology Center and the former Deputy Director of the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Schneider provided the audience with his prescription for successful aging and stated at the outset that exercise, consumption of fruits and vegetables, vitamins and hormones all influence healthy aging.
According to Dr. Schneider, "Exercise is the best prescription for successful aging." Research has shown that exercise increases longevity, improves cardiopulmonary fitness, reduces bone loss, reduces the impact of arthritis and overall makes a person feel better. He also emphasized that it is never too late to begin exercising and the activities should be things you enjoy.
Nutrition also plays an important role in aging and the prevention of disease. Some aspects of nutrition that should be considered are an awareness of aging effects, antioxidants and calcium and vitamin D. As we get older, one-third of individuals donít absorb vitamin B12. There is also a decrease in calcium absorption and in the amount of vitamin D stored in the skin. These vitamin deficiencies can have a large impact on health.
Antioxidants have recently come under a lot of scrutiny for their potential health benefit. Throughout life, environmental exposures result in the production of free radicals. Free radicals are potentially toxic by-products of cellular reactions that damage cells in our body. Smoking, pollution, and ozone in the atmosphere as well as respiration and iron are some of the ways that free radicals are produced in the body. Antioxidants react with these free radicals and prevent cell damage. There are many sources for antioxidants, including fruits and vegetables and green tea. These foods contain vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, glutathione, and beta carotene which are known to operate as antioxidants.
It has been hypothesized that free radicals may play a role in the development of Alzheimerís disease. Beta-amyloid which is found in Alzheimerís disease, produces free radicals. These free radicals produce substances which cause neurotoxicity and destroy brain cells. Scientists believe that antioxidants may arrest the process that damages brain cells and ultimately results in the protein plaques and tangles that characterize Alzheimerís disease. However, there is much that we still donít understand about antioxidants and their role in the development and progression of Alzheimerís disease. Studies that are evaluating the ability of antioxidant vitamins to prevent heart disease, such as the Womenís Health Initiative, may provide information about their role in Alzheimerís disease as well.
Dr. Schneider stimulated a great deal of discussion among the participants at the end of his presentation as did many of the other speakers at the symposium. A 120 minute videotape compilation of the proceedings will be available after January 1, 1998. The cost of the tape is $10.00. To order a copy, send your name and address along with a check made out to "UC Regents" to: Ms. Beth Wettergreen, Department of Environmental Toxicology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616.
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