WLW-Alzheimerinterventions_827E-alzheimers-s4-doctor-patient_thumbGil Rishton, Ph.D. is in a race against time.

His enemy is Alzheimer’s disease.

Why the race? An estimated 10 million American baby boomers, who are now between the ages of 47 and 65, will develop the disease in their lifetime. That translates to 1 out of every 8 baby boomers.

“The age of highest risk for Alzheimer’s starts at 65,” said Stephen McConnell of the Alzheimer’s Association. The early boomers have just crossed that threshold. Without a cure, this disease can have a devastating effect on their lives, their families and our nation’s healthcare system.

Just last week, the National Institute of Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association set forth new guidelines for Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Researchers now agree that the disease is present 10 years or more before the disabling mental problems appear. They also agree that, to be effective, drug therapies will have to work early in that process.

Currently there are no drugs approved to treat one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s—mild cog- nitive impairment. But Rishton hopes to change that. As a medicinal chemist and the founder and director of the Channel Islands Alzheimer’s Institute, Rishton works in new drug development, specifically seeking to produce new drug candidates for Alzheimer’s disease.

Formerly at Amgen, Rishton led the discovery of chemistry programs in Alzheimer’s disease. In his new role, he conducts research, authors scientific papers and submits patent applications for Alzheimer’s disease drug development.

Rishton has also developed a specialty in natural supplements and medical foods for the prevention of age-related cognitive decline. His simple advice: “Eat your kale, red salmon and yellow curry.”

For anyone worried because a family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, genetics accounts for only about 25 percent of Alzheimer’s cases.

Besides diet, there are many interventions that can decrease your chances of developing the disease. To begin with:

Stop smoking. Smoking after age 65 can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s by more than 70 percent.

Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity at middle age can triple your risk.

De-stress. Chronic stress can increase your risk for Alzheimer’s by 75 percent.

Another preventive measure to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, no lifestyle choice has been proven to reduce the probability of Alzheimer’s disease as much as exercise. A combination of aerobic exercise, stretching and muscle building will help maximize your results.

According to a 2008 Wall Street Journal article, an active, stimulated brain can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Learning something new each day, practicing memorization, solving riddles and word puzzles, and changing your routines are ways to constantly challenge your brain and provide protection against developing the disease.

Rishton isn’t alone in his efforts. We learn more every day about new ways to deter or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Taking a proactive role is the first step.

If you’d like to meet Rishton and hear more about his research, the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging will be hosting a TOTV program titled “Alzheimer’s Latest Research and Treatment Options” at 1 p.m. Wed., May 4 at city hall.

In addition to Rishton, speakers for the 90-minute program include Dr. Steven Russak, geriatrician at Kaiser Permanente in Thousand Oaks, and Maureen Symonds, director of programs for Senior Concerns Adult Day Program.

A free meet-the-speakers light lunch reception will precede the program from noon to 12:45 p.m. Reservations are required for the reception and can be made by calling (805) 449-2743.

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