Good news for coffee lovers at Rga seminar

SHARE

Coffee lovers were buzzing after attending a Community Education seminar on Alzheimer’s disease in the Rangiora Town Hall last week.
The free seminar on how to prevent the crippling brain disease was organised by Alzheimer’s Canterbury and presented by Yoram Barak, the Israeli author of ‘‘Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: Personal Responsibility’’.
He is also Professor of Psychiatry at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel.
Professor Barak told the large crowd attending the Rangiora seminar that there was no known cause of Alzheimer’s disease and no known cure.
But coffee had an important role to play in keeping Alzheimer’s at bay. Three to five cups of coffee daily was ideal.
This was because coffee contained polyphenols. These were anti-oxidant, micronutrient compounds vital for protecting the hippocampus and the cortex areas of the brain which were important for maintaining memory.
But while coffee lovers may be cheerfully ramping up their daily dose of the drink after learning this, butter and red meat lovers may not be so happy.
‘‘Eating butter was like swallowing cyanide, itis that bad for you,’’ he said.
Red meat should not be eaten either. Instead Professor Barak advocates following the Mediterranean diet which involves using olive oil instead of butter and replacing red meat with fish or poultry and eating plenty of whole grains, fresh fruit, leafy green vegetables and drinking red wine, but only a small glass daily with a meal.
Professor Barak said it was vital people started to get serious about prevention as important risk factors are identified for the irreversible debilitating disease.
While genetics are believed to provide some risk, lifestyle and poor nutrition are considered to be the most influential factors in contracting the disease.
Professor Barak, who is in Christchurch on sabbatical working at the University of Otago Christchurch School of Medicine, said the risk of contracting the disease could be significantly lowered by taking note of the risk factors and modifying lifestyles to a healthier way of living and eating.
It was important not to drink too much alcohol because alcohol abuse killed brain cells.
People should not smoke either, because smoking hastened the thinning of the brain’s cortex, which is associated with cognitive decline, he said.
Poor sleep was also a high-risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
‘‘We need a really good night’s sleep, seven to eight hours every night, ’’ he said. This was because research had shown the process of creating long-term memory involved good sleep.
Obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, long-term depression and stress all increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease too.
‘‘If stress goes on and on for months it is very detrimental to our brain health. We must learn how to deal with stress.’’
Professor Barak recommends meditation to combat stress. He meditates 30 minutes daily but said even 10 minutes a day was incredibly beneficial to the brain.
‘‘If you meditate every day you grow new grey matter,’’ he said.
Keeping active socially and physically was also important for brain health.
‘‘We need a variety of exercise. It is not enough to do aerobic exercise. We need weightbearing exercise also.’’
Isolation should also be avoided.
‘‘Our brains are a social organ. They perform best when we are part of social interaction.’’
This point was highlighted during a volunteer programme in Baltimore, in the United States, where retired people took part in a volunteer programme helping out in schools, doing 15 hours of work a week.
After working in the programme for 12 months most of the participants showed significant improvement in their health, happiness, mobility, and cognitive skills.
The people the volunteers helped also benefitted from their work.
Professor Barak is hoping the New Zealand Government will look at introducing a similar scheme here.
‘‘It was a win-win situation,’’ he said.
Alzheimer’s disease was on the rise world-wide. ‘‘We don’t know why. But one in three of our grandchildren will suffer from it.’’
There are believed to be around 47 million people worldwide suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
It is estimated that 28,000 New Zealanders have the disease.
Billions of dollars have been spent unsuccessfully trying to find a cure in the years since 1906 when the disease was first identified by a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Dr Alois Alzheimer.