Personalized lifestyle interventions both stopped cognitive decline in people at risk for Alzheimer’s, but actually memory and thinking skills within 18 months, reports based on a recent study led by Dr. Richard Isaacson, founder of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center.
With an estimated 47 million Americans presently afflicted with preclinical Alzheimer’s, no drugs exist for any treatment. The disease sets in 20 to 30 years prior to any emergence of symptoms. Potential symptoms when they do emerge include subtle signs of cognitive loss but many may not be aware of the disease building in the brain.
A growing evidence points to the lifestyle changes involving diet, exercise and brain training that may actually slow the mental decline and perhaps and hopefully, maybe even helping some even avoid the development of full dementia.
The study, purported to be the first real-world clinic setting evidencing individualized clinical management may improve cognitive function as well as reduce Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular reported Dr. Isaacson. The study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia” The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.”
The study investigative team, led by Isaacson, enrolled 154 patients between 25 and 86, all with a history of Alzheimer’s in their families. Most were not experiencing memory loss yet but concerning signs of cognitive symptoms.
A small group of 35 were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The Alzheimer’s Association defines MCI as a “cognitive changes that are serious enough to be noticed by the person affected and by family members and friends, but do not affect the individual’s ability to carry out everyday activities.”
In the study each participant signed up for a personalized prescription plan. They were given, on average, 21 lifestyle behaviors to implement out of 50 evidence-based interventions.
The study revealed that people with diagnosed mild cognitive impairment who were consistent in following the study instructions for at least 60% of the time or on average made more than 12 out of 21 behavioral changes experienced better memory and thinking skills over 18 months later. Interestingly, 60% of those with MCI that declined personalized behaviors evidenced no signs of improvement.
The “Prevention Group” were the second group that included genetic risk but no current clinical signs of dementia achieved an impressive cognitive boost.
Promise but Interpret with Caution
Dr. Isaacson reports that the results must be tempered with caution—the study doesn’t prevent Alzheimer’s but only to study if personalized, lifestyle changes impacted cognitive function. Isaacson notes “We need more research, we need more clinics and more physicians to do it.” Positively he continued “But I think this model is a roadmap for physicians and patients to work together to improve brain health.”
Why Await for Drug Trials?
Dr. Rudy Tanzi, co-director of the Henry and Allison McCance Center for Brain Health at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston noted “We need to do more of exactly this type of clinical trial.” We spent so much time waiting for drug trials, but really there’s a lot we can do to maintain brain health with our lifestyle” who wasn’t involved with the study as reported by KCTV 5. Dr. Tanzi points out that the way this lifestyle study was designed it bodes well for guiding other studies in the future.
Call to Action: You or a loved one concerned about Alzheimer’s and what you can do early on—read the study. Consider connecting with Dr. Isaacson.