Thursday, June 21, 2007

The fit way of Alzheimer's prevention

woman with crutch
Few things are for sure. One of these is that you and me have got older today since yesterday, and that this process is adding more risk for certain diseases. Beyond fifty years of age, Alzheimer's disease is becoming more and more of a concern for many people, me included. We see our memory get weaker, inevitably, and we begin to ask questions about early warning signs and the like. But these are not my story today.

My story is about what we can do best against memory decline of the Alzheimer's type. I have found a body-and-mind study that takes us on the negative side of the issue. But every coin has two faces which allows us to take a positive lesson out of it.

At Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, a long-time study has been undertaken: More than eight hundred elderly persons have been assessed every year for frailty, cognition and Alzheimer's symptoms. During three years of follow-up, eleven percent of the persons developed Alzheimer's disease - in close relation to frailty. Each additional one tenth of a point in the seven point frailty scale increases the risk of Alzheimer's by more than nine percent.

Now let me do some math. A tenth of a frailty point equals 1.43 percent. I compare this to the 9 percent in Alzheimer's risk increase. I calculate Alzheimer's by frailty and get a leverage factor of 6.3 which tells me that a bit more frailty equals six times more Alzheimer's risk.

The speed of fitness decline is even more important with a risk increase of twelve percent for every one-tenth of frailty change per year. The authors of the study conclude that frailty and Alzheimer's disease may share similar causes. This is the negative side. But I prefer to see things the positive way.

Take home message: Less frailty is equal to more fitness and is most likely equal to a lower Alzheimer's risk. And fitness is something we can improve by an active lifestyle.

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