Alzheimer's Alarm  (as reported in the Herald Sun - 4th November, 2012)


Australia is in danger of an Alzheimer's epidemic because of unhealthy living, experts warn. Top scientists warn if peopel do not dramatically improve their lifestyles, Alzheimer's will soon become a massive economic drain. 


A new study by one of the nation's leading scientists has found that people who never exercise are much more likely to have a build up of Alzheimer's-causing plaque in their brains.  And experts are discovering stronger links between Alzheimer's and diet.


Ralph Martins, foundation professor for Ageing and Alzheimer's Disease at Perth's Edith Cowan University, was part of the team that discovered the plaque, known as beta amyloid, that forms in the brain of Alzheimer's patients.  Over the past six years he studied 600 healthy Victorians, finding much higher levels of amyloid in those who never exercised compared with those who exercised regularly.  "We also know that the amyloid build up happens 15-20 years before the onset of Alzheimer's, but by the time you have symptoms it's too late and it can't be reversed," Prof martins said.  "You can have a huge impact on delaying and preventing this disease".


Alzheimer's Australia Victorian chief medical adviser Associate Professor Michael Woodward said diet was critical, and linked to the fight against diabetes.  "Any gains we make in fighting Alzheimer's will all be undone by diabetes and then there will be an explosion of Alzheimer's, "Prof Woodward said.  High fat and high sugar diets put the pancreas under constant pressure to produce insulin and it eventually stops meeting the demand, causing diabetes.  Scientists have more evidence that insulin is crucial in helping brain cells, so low levels affect functions such as memory and cognition.  People with type 2 diabetes have three-times the risk of developing Alzheimer's. 


University of San Francisco research professor Paul Taylor, who is based in Melbourne, said "The epidemic around the corner is Alzheimer's.  Obesity and diabetes are just the tip of the iceberg".  Prof Woodward warned against complacent hopes of a cure for Alzheimer's, saying there's "a long way to go".  In Australia, 1600 new Alzheimer's cases are diagnosed a week and there are 280,000 sufferers.  By 2050, experts say there will be 7400 new diagnoses a week and by 2020 it is predicted to be the largest draw on health and aged care spending.



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