Alzheimer's: Stopping Alzheimer's Before it Starts (cont.)

"I don't really want people to think about 'regular' memory loss, because it's a little bit of a myth that we lose our memories as we age."

MEMBER QUESTION:
What about minor clots discovered in head scan?

AMEN:
Was there a history of a head injury?

MEMBER:
Yes.

AMEN:
This is a good opportunity to talk about brain injuries and the risk of Alzheimer's disease. People who have the apo E4 gene who also have a brain injury have a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. So if you have a brain injury, find out your apo E4 genotype, and if you have the E4 gene be very diligent about using the prevention techniques we discussed. I think anyone who has a brain injury needs to be diligent about keeping their brain healthy because they are at more risk for developing problems.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Is it true that Alzheimer's is inherited from the maternal parent rather than the paternal?

AMEN:
No. It can come down either side.

MEMBER QUESTION:
About a decade ago there was a lot of talk about the relationship of aluminum (eg. food prepared in aluminum cookware) and Alzheimer's. Is there any truth here?

AMEN:
Aluminum is not healthful for the brain, and I think we should be cautious about it.

On that same thought, there's a recent study that suggests that people who get flu vaccines are at increased risk for Alzheimer's. One of the preservatives in many vaccines is mercury, and one has to ask ones self what's the need to put a neurotoxic preservative in, because mercury is clearly toxic to the brain.

MEMBER QUESTION:
What is the latest about Aricept effects and side effects?

AMEN:
Aricept has been out for a number of years now. It works by increasing the availability of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in the brain. There are a couple of other medicines that work like Aricept. They tend to be helpful early in the disease and not terribly helpful late in the disease. Many of my patients over the years have found them to be helpful, especially early on.

Aricept is usually well tolerated; sometimes it's associated with muscle cramps or GI symptoms. I have one patient I'm thinking about whom, when put on Aricept, said "it was like going from 8 megabytes of RAM in my head to 128." So clearly it is helpful for some people.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I am 72, in good health, and my wife says I am getting forgetful. My only fear is Alzheimer's. What should I be doing to reduce my risk of contracting this disease?

AMEN:
First thing: take your wife's concerns seriously. Get screened, and if the screening shows there's a problem, get a good evaluation. Women usually see problems significantly before men do. And then I would obviously read the book and eat in a healthy way. Consider taking regular supplements, depending on your situation, exercise four or five times a week, and engage in life-long learning.

"People don't think about the brain, yet it runs absolutely everything we do. But we spend more money on our skin and on our behinds than we do our brain."

MODERATOR:
How about crossword puzzles?

AMEN:
Crossword puzzles are good if you like them.

MODERATOR:
We are almost out of time. Do you have any final words on Alzheimer's for us?

AMEN:
We now have some very exciting imaging tools that help us actually look at brain function. I think they're dramatically underutilized, and in the right context they can help people understand what their risk of Alzheimer's might be, and help people intervene as soon as possible.

Probably the most exciting part of writing this book was to really understand and lay out that people can take control over their own brain health. People don't think about the brain, yet it runs absolutely everything we do. But we spend more money on our skin and on our behinds than we do our brain. That's really silly. So taking brain health seriously will allow you the quality of life that keeps the golden years golden and not put your families under tremendous stress.

MODERATOR:
Thanks to Daniel Amen, MD, and William Rodman Shankle, MD, for sharing their expertise with us. For more information please read Preventing Alzheimer's .

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