Brain Power and Alzheimer's

Cognitive Labs

Now we are back...thanks for helping us close the gap on the first million, we're right there and could break through as early as Friday (tomorrow) so keep your fingers crossed, and be sure to tell a friend...This piece ran in USA Today and does an excellent job of describing the lifestyle changes that people can make to help avert the impact of memory loss...it covers what an exec. at software company Intuit in Mountain View (also the home of Cognitive Labs) does to fight memory loss - the first step is to get and keep the body moving, followed by an ongoing monitoring and workout for the brain.

Brain power vs. Alzheimer's

By Kathleen Fackelmann, USA TODAY

Sherry Whiteley is nowhere near retirement age, yet she has adopted an active lifestyle that might delay or prevent Alzheimer's disease. Whiteley is only 45, but she has good reason to worry: Her mother and several close relatives developed Alzheimer's in their 70s. That puts Whiteley at risk for a disease that will affect as many as 16 million people in the USA by the middle of the century.

Experts such as Marilyn Albert of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore say it's never too early to start making changes to protect the brain. She says the disease probably smolders for years, maybe even decades, before the first symptoms of memory loss appear. New research suggests that ballroom dancing and other physical and mental activities might ward off the disease, or at least delay the onset of symptoms, in healthy people. (Related story: Minds in motion stay sharp)

Whiteley says the dancing lessons her mother took during the early stage of the disease seemed to help, at least at first.

"She could remember the easy dance steps from one lesson to the next," she says. "I could tell it was really sinking in."

Alzheimer's first shows up as mild forgetfulness. But as time goes on, the disease destroys the ability to remember even familiar tasks, such as how to eat or how to get dressed in the morning. Alzheimer's can take eight to 20 years to kill. During that time, the disease sweeps through the brain and ultimately destroys regions of the brain that control basic functions.

Whiteley's mother eventually had to quit dancing because she could no longer remember how to do the steps.

"Toward the end, she couldn't walk or talk," Whiteley says. She knows that once the disease really takes hold, there is no way to slow it down. So she's banking on her active lifestyle to power up her own brain.

Her job as a senior vice president at software company Intuit in Mountain View, Calif., gives her a mental workout during the day. After work, she's juggling a busy household, including four kids, and on weekends she takes time out to jog about seven miles with friends.

That weekly run gives her hope that she's gaining a mental edge, an edge that might one day make all the difference.

"I am just hoping that when I am 75, I am bungee-jumping and not dealing with this disease."

Coming Next...the impact of TV on Alzheimer's>

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