Risks Of Developing Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Diseases Can Be Reduced
Environmental factors are key drivers in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, according to the authors of a new report, "Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging", released today.
Importantly, the report demonstrates that the risks for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's can be dramatically reduced.
It offers the most comprehensive review of the currently available research on the lifetime influences of environmental factors on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, two of the most common degenerative diseases of the brain. These influences include common dietary patterns, toxic chemical exposures, inadequate exercise, socio-economic stress and other factors. These influences can begin in the womb and continue throughout life, setting the stage for the later development of neurodegenerative as well as other chronic diseases.
In addition, the report describes the substantial emerging evidence that, collectively, these environmental factors alter biochemical pathways at the cellular and subcellular levels. These alterations fuel Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, as well as other chronic illnesses referred to in the report as the "Western disease cluster" -- diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Each of these diseases in turn increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. This collection of diseases is being driven by dramatic alterations over the past 50 to 100 years in the U.S. food supply, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, and exposure to toxic chemicals.
The full report, "Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging", is published jointly by Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Science and Environmental Health Network and is available online at www.agehealthy.org .
The report authors provide recommendations so that individuals, families, communities, and societies can take action at all levels and move towards healthy living and healthy aging. This is especially important because the population over the age of 65, which is highly vulnerable to chronic disease, is expected to nearly double in the U.S. by 2030 -- from about 38 million to over 71 million. With that increase will come a dramatic escalation of chronic diseases unless steps are taken now to reduce the risks. Among these recommendations are:
-- Increase sustainable, diversified and local alternatives to industrial farming -- to improve the nutritional value of food, cut down on harmful content, ensure access to healthy food, and lessen serious damage to the environment;
-- Regulatory reforms of chemical policy that help prevent hazardous toxic exposures from air, water, food, and other consumer products; business policy changes that give preference to purchasing and using products made of safer chemicals;
-- Health care policy changes that increase the focus on disease prevention and ensure equitable and accessible health care for all; and,
-- An energy policy that reduces toxic emissions, promotes conservation and efficiency, curtails dependence on fossil fuels, and encourages more physical activity.
In addition to these societal recommendations, the report contains recommendations for actions for healthy living and healthy aging that individuals can take to reduce the risks for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other diseases of the Western disease cluster. These include specific recommendations relating to:
-- Eating healthy and nutritious food, and avoiding common hazards in the typical modern diet;
-- Staying active physically and mentally;
-- Avoiding harmful toxicants and pollutants; and,
-- Being socially engaged with family, friends and community.