Alzheimer's Study: Prevention Worth Pound of Cure

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Health experts are suggesting healthy living may be the key to preventing Alzheimer's disease.

Currently there are 35 million people suffering from the mind-robbing ailment worldwide.

According to a new study presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in France, there are seven risk factors which account for half of those cases:

  • smoking
  • physical inactivity
  • obesity
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • low education

"Prevention is a particularly attractive option given the state of therapy. That's why there's so much interest in it," said William Thies, the association's chief scientific officer.

Study author Deborah Barnes, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco noted that lack of education played the largest role in the disease.

"Education, even at a young age, starts to build your neural networks," she said, explaining that being deprived of it means less brain development.

Experts say that if everyone reduces their risk factors by 25 percent, more than half a million new cases of Alzheimer's could be prevented.

"We can do something about this," said Dr. Ronald Petersen, a Mayo Clinic dementia specialist who had no role in the study.

He added that a common misconception is that you're "dealt a deck of cards at birth, people need not just sit back and watch this unfold."

Alzheimer's disease cases are expected to triple to 106 million by 2050.

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