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919 Avoiding Alzheimer's Disease

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click here if you cannot view audio player: PP-919Alzheimers.mp3

Tune in to our radio show on your local public radio station, or sign up for the podcast and listen at your leisure. Here's what it's about:

 One of the most terrifying conditions that haunts 21st century adults is the specter of Alzheimer's disease. Dementia was once considered an unremarkable consequence of aging, but it has become clear that this degenerative brain disorder is not inevitable.

Scientists disagree on the basic causes of Alzheimer's disease, but there is some evidence to show us how we might reduce our risk of the forgetfulness and confusion it brings. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy discusses the roles played by infections, brain injuries and certain medications. How can we make sure that Alzheimer's disease is the correct diagnosis?

We also review whether it makes sense to use puzzles to try to keep the brain active, following the axiom of "use it or lose it." We find out about the value of exercise for prevention. An anti-Alzheimer's diet does not have to be unpleasant: cocoa flavonoids from chocolate and compounds from red wine, curry and coconut may all be beneficial. Learn how to sign up for a clinical trial if you are interested, and find out about Dr. Doraiswamy's hopes for lowering the burden of Alzheimer's disease in the future. 

Guest: Murali Doraiswamy, MD, is Professor of Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. He has served as an advisor to several companies doing research on treatments for Alzheimer's disease. His book, co-written with Lisa Gwyther and Tina Adler, is The Alzheimer's Action Plan: What You Need to Know--and What You Can Do--about Memory Problems, from Prevention to Early Intervention and Care. The website he mentioned to volunteer for clinical trials is the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study Group,

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.


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Did you enjoy this radio show? Average rating: 4.1/5 (106 votes)
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I wonder whether your guest mentioned all three of the most important protective substances in the brain: cholesterol, menaquinone-4, and DHA.

The first two are seldom mentioned, but the following article supports the idea that menaquinone-4 has a major role in protection of myelin through its production of sphyngolipids (sulfatides):

While this could be seen as a call for greater K1 intake (for conversion to menaquinone-4) it also argues for a greater menaquinone intake, since only about 10% of the K1 from plants is actually absorbed. Menaquinone-4 should be obtained from all available sources.

The next article implicates myelin sheath damage in Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia:

It also more than hints at the possibility that the dihydrophylloquinone in hydrogenated vegetable oils, along with a lower intake of fish oil, played the largest roles in the soaring rates of dementia during the Twentieth Century.

I have become a caretaker for a woman with Alzheimer's Disease; for a few years I have been spending one or more days a week with her doing things like singing in a choir, grocery shopping, walking in parks, motorcycling, going to restaurants, movies, concerts, opera etc.

It is my belief that nothing can be done to change the course of the disease and that medications such as Aricept or dietary adjustments are totally useless and a waste of money.

I know that Alzheimer's patients are keenly aware and distressed by their confusion and appreciate palliative care and supportive activities provided by trusted friends or relatives. The best therapy I can imagine for Alzheimer's patients is to minimize the time they spend alone; our society tends to disengage them, isolate them and plant them in front of a television set.

Thank you, Philip, for your very informative and heartfelt response. It gives all of us readers an opportunity to think and reflect.

I'm sorry to report I accidentally clicked "one star" when I was trying to click on the show's link! I did not intend to give the show this low rating; hope you can please undo my accidental vote.

One of the things I heard on the show was that iron, copper, and zinc are now suspected triggers for the onset of Alzheimer's. I would like some further information on this...should we avoid supplements that include them? I've just been thinking I should have more zinc. Below is one reason.
Zinc: "...serves many important roles in both men and women, including immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Zinc supplementation may offer women additional benefits. ...
...a 2010 study published by the 'European Journal of Clinical Nutrition,' zinc supplementation may improve mood in women, and may even be an effective treatment for depression in women."

I am a vegetarian. I do eat dairy, but not meat or fish, so I thought I should take supplements. I do have several of the risk factors for Alzheimer's, so I'm now not sure what I should be doing. My doctor, admittedly, does not know much about alternative medicine or supplements.

Copper: "...efficient utilization of iron, proper enzymatic reactions, as well as improved health of connective tissues, hair, and eyes. Copper is also integral for preventing premature aging and increasing energy production. Apart from these, regulated heart rhythm, balanced thyroid glands, reduced symptoms of arthritis, quick wound healing, increased red blood cell formation, and reduced cholesterol are other health benefits of copper."
I also have osteoarthritis, and hypercholestrolemia.

Iron: Although I'm beyond menopause, I'm sure I need some iron because: "Iron has three main functions in the body, which include:
Assistance in transporting and storing oxygen
Assistance in energy production and cell respiration
Boosting the immune system, by helping to produce white blood cells to fight bacteria."

I would appreciate knowing the basis for the claims about iron, copper and zinc re. Alzheimer's.

I thought the program was most informative in that it covered all aspects of this frightening disease. The discussion went fast and I could hardly keep up with taking my own notes. Perhaps I missed this, but how or where is the MD's (speaker from Duke U.) book available? Through the PP or commercially at a book store or some other way? Thank you. Susan

People's Pharmacy response: It is available online, or the bookstore can order it for you. It has been out a couple of years, but it is still in print.

I want to get more info about the guest's assertion that statins sometimes cause cognitive impairment.

My quick search on PubMed yielded this review article:

Is Statin-Associated Cognitive Impairment Clinically Relevant?
A Narrative Review and Clinical Recommendations

The full free text is available online. The authors conclude:

------------- begin quote
Despite several reports of statin-associated cognitive impairment, this adverse effect remains a rare occurrence among the totality of the literature. If statin-associated cognitive impairment is suspected, a trial discontinuation can reveal a temporal relationship. Switching from lipophilic to hydrophilic statins may resolve cognitive impairment. The vascular benefits and putative cognitive benefits outweigh the risk of cognitive impairment associated with statin use; therefore, the current evidence does not support changing practice with respect to statin use, given this adverse effect.
------------ end quote
A relative takes Crestor. At the website, among the potential side effects is:
Memory loss and confusion have also been reported with statins, including CRESTOR
Note that Crestor is hydrophilic.

For information about hydrophilic v lipophilic, visit

I was listening to the NPR program last Sunday while driving on I-540. Very informative Q & A on Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Doraiswamy gave succinct answers to your questions covering diet, exercise, medication. herbal supplements (turmeric), coconut, chocolate and other supplements.

You can order the Alzheimer's Action Plan from Type in the book name and several entries will show up. You can buy hardcover, paperback, and also the kindle edition ($9)

this is an excellent program.
Please expand on the topic of Lewy Body Dementia
thank you.
pat s.

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