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Carillon Assisted Living Spotlights Heart Disease-Alzheimer’s Link During American Heart Month

With February designated as American Heart Month, Carillon consultant Mary Ann Drummond is working to increase awareness of the link between heart disease and Alzheimer’s. She wants residents and their families to know that past lifestyle adjustments that impacted the prevalence of heart disease can do the same for Alzheimer’s.

The founder of Angel Tree Publishing, which provides uplifting educational materials and resources for Alzheimer’s caregivers, says education and prevention reduced heart disease and offers the same promise with Alzheimer’s.

“Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?” asks Drummond, former vice president of operations and now a Carillon consultant. “Can we actually live a healthy lifestyle that—for those who are not genetically predisposed—can ward off the effects of Alzheimer’s disease altogether? It is certainly worth thinking about.”

A veteran of more than 30 years in the healthcare field, in the early 1980s Drummond participated in a project with a group of nurses, which helped raise awareness of prevention of heart disease. She recalls being convinced then that if people heeded researchers and eliminated risk factors within their control, the projected rise in deaths from heart disease over the next 30 years wouldn’t take place.

Thanks to the American Heart Association (AHA) and many individuals who worked to spread the good news of what can be done, people made lifestyle changes to reduce their risk factors, she says. Since that time, deaths from cardiac disease have decreased by 68 percent.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in America; the AHA says more than 600,000 people died in 2014, the most recent year that statistical data is available. But Drummond says it is encouraging to know total deaths have declined.

“Multiple factors have contributed to this success including medical advancements, improved access to emergency care, and new procedures that did not exist before,” she says. “Still, the increased awareness of lifestyle choices on cardiac health has been credited in part to the overall decline.”

Likewise, Drummond says lifestyle adjustments can help reduce the rate of Alzheimer’s, which affects more than 5.2 million people over the age of 65. It is projected to more than double over the next 30 years, to 13.8 million.

She says there are several links between heart disease and Alzheimer’s:

  • As is true with heart disease, research has shown that there are risk factors and lifestyle choices that can modify or reduce the risks of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Recent statistics forecast hope that the country may be seeing an early return on increased awareness. Previously, one in eight persons over 65 had Alzheimer’s, but today that rate has declined to one in nine.
  • Continued education and personal commitment to decreasing risk factors at the earliest age possible means the country can see same impact on the predicted increase in cases of Alzheimer’s that occurred with heart disease. The goal is that through education and compliance the numbers of new cases will decrease instead of increase, Drummond says.

One area that can help address such risks is diet. For example, nations like India, Bangladesh, Mongolia and Indonesia have low overall death rates for Alzheimer’s and dementia. These nations are known for their use of curry and other spices.

Drummond says other foods are believed to fight Alzheimer’s, such as cooking foods in 100 percent olive oil and eating an apple a day. Diets low in fat and high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts—such as the Mediterranean diet—are heart and brain healthy.

Research has also taught that we need to keep our heart healthy in order to keep our brain healthy, she says. This means people have to control other components of their health, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, stress, and risk factors associated with maintaining good circulation in order to maintain a healthy brain.

“Consider the fact that the brain is an organ of the body, and the healthier any organ is the less likely the organ is to become diseased,” Drummond says. “When you do, it becomes easier to identify lifestyle changes necessary to decrease one’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

Sounds like good advice.

Posted in Sage Stories on February 23, 2017

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