Dr. Kosik recommends that individuals start efforts to prevent the disease in their 50s.
"By the time someone walks in my door with symptoms of the disease, its too late" to stop it, says Dr. Kosik, who plans to open four CFIT centers in New York and California. The idea behind the new research is that lifestyle interventions may delay or prevent the disease before symptoms appear -- or slow the progression of Alzheimers once they do manifest.
The shift in thinking has been bolstered by public health efforts to prevent cognitive decline and delay or prevent Alzheimers disease, which affects some 5.3 million Americans. A 2007 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alzheimers Association, a nonprofit group that funds research and supports advocacy and education, called for implementing findings on exercise and diet into actions people can do to maintain cognitive health. A CDC review of the scientific literature is expected to be released this year. The groups have been working together to gather data from individual states on the extent of cognitive impairment and meeting with state health officials to develop public campaigns to promote brain health.
Scientists dont know exactly what causes Alzheimers, a progressive brain disorder that accounts for the majority of dementia cases, although genetics and age likely play a role. There are only four drugs approved for the disease, but these just treat individual symptoms and dont stop the relentless course of the illness. New medicines are in testing but are likely to take years before they reach medical clinics.
Even if someone is destined to get the disease, delaying its onset for even a few years could dramatically improve quality of life. It could also reduce the estimated 500,000 new cases diagnosed every year, according to the Alzheimers Association.
Many of the 50 people currently