As the number of Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses in this country rises, so too does the anxiety of health-brained individuals. The fear of being diagnosed with a memory impairment is very real-especially for those with a history of Alzheimer’s in their family tree. One doctor in New York is aiming to mitigate some of that anxiety through education and encouraging proactive lifestyle changes.
Dr. Richard Isaacson, neurologist and author of a new Alzheimer’s study, is providing what he calls “a therapeutic approach that was shown to not only maintain, but improve cognition in people with the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s”.
Given the fact there’s no current cure for the insidious disease, some Alzheimer’s researchers like Dr. Isaacson are helping those with a potential future diagnosis. Through a series of thorough screenings including cognitive, genetic and blood tests, Dr. Isaacson and others at the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic (where he serves as director) create tailored lifestyle change recommendations. These changes can be anything from specific dietary habits, improving sleep hygiene, a vitamin and supplement regiment to personalized exercise plans.
To demonstrate the efficacy of these proactive good habits, Dr. Isaacson conducted a study measuring those who followed his recommended plans rigidly compared to those who followed his plan less than 60% of the time. After eighteen months of following the recommended lifestyle plan, the majority of both groups-the “rule followers” versus their lackadaisical counterparts-showed significant improvements on cognitive tests. The study included individuals of ages between 25-86 years old.
The metrics researchers monitored in both groups included: cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, body fat and muscle mass. Previous research tells us that many, if not all of the above-named factors, have been linked to an increased risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
The study, while promising, should be taken with a word of caution. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center pointed out that making positive lifestyle changes does not mean those participants are curing or reversing their diagnoses. Rather, it “can postpone the onset or slow the progression of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease”.
Participants of the study are feeling the positive changes. Stephen Chambers, who is in his 40s, is getting better sleep, has healthier blood pressure and cholesterol and is no longer prediabetic. Diana Gabriel, 74, who has previously noticed some cognitive issues with her memory, saw an uptick in cognitive function (which was also reflected on her cognitive tests).
Dolan Memory Care Homes recognizes how depression and anxiety may closely follow a dementia diagnosis. Approaching the disease with a strength-based mindset is how Dolan Memory Care Homes strives in providing the best quality of life.