Study: Lifestyle changes may prevent Alzheimer's

July 19, 2011 6:11:30 PM PDT
A new study from a University of California researcher finds that our lifestyle may actually influence whether we get Alzheimer's later in life.

A former mechanical engineer, 61-year-old Mark Vanden is physically well, but mentally he's six years into a ferocious battle with early onset Alzheimer's.

"It's just getting harder every day," says his wife Janet. "He's forgetting more and more."

"When people ask me for something, or need something, most of the time I can't help them because I have my own issues," he says.

According to a new study by University of California researcher Deborah Barnes, how we live today may heavily influence whether we get Alzheimer's later in life.

"The findings from Dr. Barnes' study essentially indicates that from these major risk factors that perhaps we can actually participate in our ability to reduce our risk of Alzheimer's disease," says Edie Yau with the Alzheimer's Association.

The risk factors are low education, smoking, physical inactivity, depression, mid-life hypertension and obesity/diabetes.

"When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's we went through a very big depression stage," says Mark's 27-year-old daughter Molly, who has already made some important changes. "Exercise, eating healthy, staying active socially and physically."

The Vandens don't know whether genetics, lifestyle or some combination led to Mark's diagnosis. However, they are hopeful other families will learn from their experience.

"And to make the country very much aware that there is this horrible disease, and it effects young people, not just old," says Janet.

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