CBS News, Dr. Oz Describe Challenges Related to Alzheimer's

Dorian Martin Health Guide

    Alzheimer’s disease was the subject of several television shows last week prior to the continual coverage of the natural disaster in Haiti. Last Tuesday, CBS News featured a report on Alzheimer’s in its “Where America Stands” segment. In addition, Dr. Mehmet Oz featured a segment on Alzheimer’s during his show Thursday.

                    As part of a series about major issues facing the United States, CBS News anchor Katie Couric noted the challenges of the disease, but also added that 54% of survey respondents felt like a cure would be developed during their lifetime.  The report also warned that while deaths from other diseases, such as heart disease, are down, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease are increasing. This is problematic due to the potential tidal wave of new dementia cases that may be caused by the aging of the Baby Boom generation.

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    In the actual report, CBS chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook described how researchers have discovered that amyloid plaque builds up in the brain several years before memory lapses show up and described some of the promising research going on in labs across the country. Although the disease can be detected through a functional MRI, no drug exists at this point to stop Alzheimer’s.

    Dr. LaPook did point to a Greek island, where the residents’ lifestyle seems to serve as a preventative measure. The population of the island is aging without Alzheimer’s; a Mediterranean diet and regular exercise appear to be helping the residents avoid the disease.

                    On his show the next day, Dr. Oz visited with Dr. Gary Small, who heads the UCLA Center on Aging. They interviewed different audience members who presently were diagnosed with dementia, who were caring for a person with dementia, or who had an interest in dementia. The two doctors began the show by displaying a brain that had Alzheimer’s and one that wasn’t affected.

                    During an early part of the show, Dr. Oz had audience members participate in a memory test. He read off eight words and said he would be asking audience members to remember the words later in the show. Even though I’m bad at remembering names, I decided to play along at home. After several interviews with audience members, Dr. Oz returned to the list, asking the in-studio audience how many they remembered. Answers varied, but I was pleased to realize that I correctly recalled six of the words, which meant that my memory is in good shape. The show’s website has a link to a memory quiz, if you want to take it.

                    Dr. Small and Dr. Oz also offered a three-part prescription to people fight off dementia:

    1.       Commit to exercise, especially cardio.

    2.       Work out the mind.

    3.       Eat a brain-healthy diet, which also is a heart-healthy diet.

    The information that CBS News and Dr. Oz provided to viewers is very valuable as we continue to battle Alzheimer’s. I wish they had also described the other types of dementia, since the words “Alzheimer’s disease” tend seem to have become the catch-all phrase that increasingly used to describe memory loss. However, the prescription that the doctors offer – exercise, diet, and mental exercise – gives us a proactive way to join in the fight.

Published On: January 19, 2010