Alzheimer’s disease is fatal. Researchers believe there is not a single cause of this health condition. The disease likely develops from multiple factors, such as genetics, lifestyle, and environment.
Two neurologists, namely Dr. Isaacson, Director of the Center for Brain Health and Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic (APC) & Dr. Niotis, a preventative neurologist at APC at Weill Cornell Medicine & New York-Presbyterian come together to answer the FAQ’s regarding Alzheimer Prevention & management.
Are women more prone to Alzheimer’s? At what age should they start on its prevention? How to identify Alzheimer’s?
According to Dr. Isaacson, Director of the Center for Brain Health and Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic (APC) at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine “Two out of every three brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease are women’s brains. While in the past (even 5 years ago when we first received support from the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement) we thought that was because women lived longer than men, we now know that women’s brains age differently than men’s – possibly due to hormonal changes around menopause, specific life factors, and genetics. For example, research has shown that the APOE4 gene, the well-studied genetic risk factor for late-onset AD, can have a more harmful effect on women. Despite this, we are not powerless when it comes to fighting the potential negative effects of our biological sex and genes.”
Alzheimer’s starts in the brain decades before the first symptoms of memory loss begin. This leaves ample time for people to make brain-healthy choices in an effort to reduce their risk. “At the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic (funded by the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement), we see patients beginning as early as their mid-20’s, with most patients being in their 30’s-60’s,” adds Dr. Niotis.
Aside from memory loss, common symptoms of AD include:
- Difficulty with speaking or understanding language
- Trouble with problem solving, and
- Changes in thinking skills, behavior, and sleep.
According to Dr. Niotis “While we don’t have a “magic pill” to prevent AD, research has shown that 40% of cases may be preventable based on behaviors, such as lifestyle and dietary factors, that affect risk. By educating women about these factors, I hope to empower them to take control of their brain health today.
Alzheimer prevention specific exercises, time to work out, duration, types, etc.
Before beginning a new physical activity routine, it’s essential for an exercise plan to be reviewed and approved by a primary care physician.
In the APC (Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic), we usually recommend a mix of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for 30-45 minutes twice a week, steady-state cardio training (about 60-65% of a person’s maximum heart rate) for 45 minutes twice a week, and strength training for at least 30 minutes twice a week.
As one example for HIIT, we may suggest 4 sets of 7-minute intervals (28 minutes total per session) consisting of 4 minutes at 75-85% max heart rate, followed by a 3-minute recovery at 55-65% max heart rate. Over time, this can increase to 5 to 7 sets (35-49 minutes total per session).
Remember to listen to your body, go slow, and build up over time. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to exercise – for example, if we are aiming to reduce body fat, then steady-state cardio is key along with muscle strengthening to build mass and boost metabolism.
Sometimes to boost the effectiveness of steady-state cardio, we suggest this in the morning before eating breakfast to boost fat loss. Also, for strength training, it’s essential to have protein and carbs within an hour and a half before, or ~30 minutes after exercise, since muscles need these nutrients to grow and thrive.
When should a female consider mental health seriously? It’s time to take action.
Some studies suggest that the prevalence of mental illness can be nearly 70% higher in women than in men, likely due to social, biological, and hormonal factors. Also, women may be more likely to feel stigmatized for seeking help for mental health.
As stated by Dr. Niotis, a preventative neurologist at APC at Weill Cornell Medicine & New York-Presbyterian “Certain types of mental health issues are unique to women related to pregnancy, the postpartum period, and menstruation. Feeling sad or stressed is a normal reaction to difficult times, but if sadness or worry lasts longer than a few weeks and begins to affect how you think and handle daily activities, like sleeping and eating, you should seek help from a professional.”
Dr. Richard Isaacson is one of the nine 2020 WAM Research Grants Recipients, and one of the first proponents of the notion that Alzheimer’s might be a preventable disease. He serves as Director of the Center for Brain Health and Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic (APC) at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine. With a robust clinical practice, focus on multi-domain lifestyle interventions, and broad background in computer science, and web development, Dr. Isaacson is committed to using technology to optimize patient care, AD risk assessment, and early intervention.
Kellyann Niotis, M.D., is a co-investigator on the 2020 WAM Research Grant focusing on the increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s in women of diverse multi-cultural and genetic backgrounds. Her work aims to identify, test, and construct precision communication plans for women of color that account for their unique racial, ethnic, and cultural differences. Dr. Niotis is a Preventative Neurologist at the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine & New York-Presbyterian. She also founded and directs the Parkinson’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Co.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.