Tulsa World - August 09, 2004
PHILADELPHIA -- Maintaining a healthy weight, staying socially and physically active and eating lots of vegetables may substantially reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, according to several studies presented here Monday.
"For younger people, now is the time to think about reducing your risk," said Marilyn Albert, director of the cognitive neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
For several years it has been suspected that various measures of lifestyle might reduce Alzheimer’s risk. But in the last year, several new studies have prompted researchers to actually begin recommending ways to reduce the risk of the disease whose causes were thought to be largely unknown and genetic.
And body weight has emerged as one of the biggest culprits.
People who were obese at mid-life had twice the risk of later developing dementia, according to a study presented at the ninth International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders of the Alzheimer’s Association.
And if they also had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, their risk increased six-fold.
"Obesity is really a big problem in Western society," said study author Miia Kivipelto, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
But it also is a modifiable risk factor, she added.
The study followed 1,500 people in Finland for 21 years beginning in midlife. By the end of the study, their ages ranged from 65-79.
Two other studies presented at the conference by U.S. researchers made similar findings about obesity and Alzheimer’s risk.
In another study, researchers from Harvard Medical School found that middle-aged women who ate more vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables, were able to delay the cognitive decline that comes with aging by up to two years, compared to women who ate few vegetables in midlife.
The study, part of the ongoing Nurses Health Study, looked at 13,388 women between the ages of 70 and 81.
Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are rich in anti-oxidants. Because of that, spinach or romaine lettuce are more likely to be beneficial than iceberg lettuce.
Studies suggest these nutrients may be neuroprotective, said study author Jae Hee Kang, a Harvard researcher. Kang said she believed the findings most likely applied to men as well.
In another study, older people who engaged in a variety of social, mental and physical activities, such as gardening, taking educational courses, going to the theater and volunteering for community work, were less likely to develop dementia than those who were inactive.
The study involved 800 Finnish people aged 75 and older who were followed for more than six years.
Study author Laura Fratiglioni said a broad range of activities, involving physical, mental and social components, are most beneficial.