Dodging the rising risk of dementia
Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 10, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.
Q: I know three people in their mid-50s with brain problems — one with Parkinson's, one with early onset Alzheimer's and one with some other kind of brain disease. It's unsettling. What do you think's going on?
— Devon B., Covington, Ky.
A: Since 1997 there's been a 66 percent increase in the number of men and a 92 percent increase in the number of women dying from neurological diseases and conditions such as ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's disease and dementia at younger and younger ages!
What accounts for the increase? All indications are that epigenetic changes — that is, changes in gene expression triggered by environmental influences — are making people more susceptible to brain diseases. Just as there's been an increase in autoimmune diseases, a fall in sperm counts and a rise in cancer incidence (even as cancer deaths fall), the increase in younger people developing neurological diseases may come from the explosion in electronic devices; a rise in background, non-ionising radiation from PC's, microwaves, TV's and mobile phones; increased petrochemical pollution; chemical additives and pesticides in food; and more.
You can fight back against lifestyle-triggered health hazards. What we need is a war against brain diseases. Our battle cry:
■ Achieve and maintain a healthy weight by eliminating saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sugar syrups, and any grain that isn't 100 percent whole.
■ Get regular physical activity: Walk 10,000 steps a day, do 15 minutes of strength training two to three days a week, plus 20 minutes of cardio three times a week. Meditate daily for at least 10 minutes. Managing stress may be the No. 1 brain helper!
■ Enjoy as much black coffee as you like. It cuts memory dysfunction and Parkinson's risk. Take anti-inflammatory DHA omega-3 from algal oil (900 IU a day) or eat three servings of salmon a week. Other daily supplements: for eyes — 10 mg lutein; for brain — 6 mg B-6, 400 mcg folic acid, 25 mcg B-12 (after age 50, 400 to 800 mcg).
Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at email@example.com.