After study, NIH experts say that while a healthy diet, regular exercise and vitamin supplements can't hurt, there is insufficient evidence to show that these measures help prevent Alzheimer's.
Evidence Inconclusive on Exercise, Diet, Supplements to Prevent Alzheimer’s
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor:
There is important news tonight about Alzheimer's, the seventh leading cause of death in this country, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Finding a way to prevent the disease would be medicine's so-called holy grail, which is why today's news from the National Institutes of Health was so disappointing to so many people. Our report on it tonight from our chief science correspondent Robert Bazell.
Ms. JENNIFER BEAL: Daddy going to take you to school?
ROBERT BAZELL reporting:
Jennifer Beal is 38 years old. She saw two grandparents die of Alzheimer's. Then her father's memory began to fail as the disease struck him.
Ms. BEAL: My dad was diagnosed when he was 68, and I have a nine-month-old and a four-year-old. And I just hope, you know, I'm around to remember them.
BAZELL: To try to ward off dementia, Beal exercises a lot, eats a heart-healthy diet and takes several supplements. But will it do any good? The experts convened by the NIH say it can't hurt and it may help...
Unidentified Woman: Shoulders forward and back.
BAZELL: ...but the panel emphasized the scientific evidence is not strong enough to make any recommendations. Alzheimer's experts are disappointed.
Dr. MARY CARIRILLO (Alzheimer's Association): However, we feel very positive about the future if we can certainly motivate the political arena, certainly motivate the public about the outcry that we really need in order to tackle this disease.
BAZELL: The panel said that while the evidence is not conclusive, there are suggestions that exercise and a diet rich in vegetables and fish can help. The behaviors that are well-known to improve heart health seem to strengthen brain health. The experts say there is almost no evidence that supplements like gingko biloba or vitamins B, C or E help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. Neither do crossword puzzles or other mental exercises.
Knowing what, if anything, can truly reduce that risk is critical, 5.3 million Americans currently have the disease. Already a heartbreaking ordeal for families like Jennifer Beal and the numbers are expected to rise rapidly as more people live longer.
Ms. BEAL: Bye-bye.
BAZELL: Robert Bazell, NBC News, New York.
Meet Hailey Richman, from New York City. This 9-year-old girl is on a dual mission: When she's not helping other kids with sick family members, she's distributing puzzles designed to benefit people with dementia. What was her inspiration for it all? Her grandmother, of course. We are proud to share her story.
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