Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Smart Way to Keep Your Brain in Shape; (1) Borrowed Time: 47-Year-Old Fiona Phillips Believes She May Only Have 10 Years Left before She Succumbs to Alzheimer's Disease (2) Talking Sense: Mobile Phones Aren't Toys

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Smart Way to Keep Your Brain in Shape; (1) Borrowed Time: 47-Year-Old Fiona Phillips Believes She May Only Have 10 Years Left before She Succumbs to Alzheimer's Disease (2) Talking Sense: Mobile Phones Aren't Toys

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK PORTER

GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips is reported to be leaving the sofa because she wants to spend more time with her children after learning that she could be at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Fiona, 47, has a strong family history of the condition her mother died from Alzheimer's two years ago and her father has just been diagnosed with it meaning she is at higher risk. Recent research from the US suggests that Fiona is roughly twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's as the average person, and that it is likely to strike some 10-15 years earlier.

The researchers followed 115 families where both parents had the condition.

They found that the odds of a son or daughter following their parents and developing the illness were around one in five and that the first tell-tale signs were likely to become obvious in their late sixties (as opposed to the late seventies or early eighties for the rest of the population).

These results are bound to worry anyone with a family history of the disease but they need to be put into perspective the findings still mean that most people who have a parent or grandparent with the condition will not develop it themselves.

While none of us can change the genetic hand we have been dealt there is a lot we can do to influence environmental factors that might reinforce any genetic predisposition to increase the risk even further.

One of the biggest causes of damage to the ageing brain is not a specific disease like Alzheimer's but a more gradual process caused by furring up of the cerebral arteries. And, unlike Alzheimer's disease, the rate of progression of these changes can be influenced. Put simply, what is good for the heart is good for the brain, so here are my tips for keeping your grey matter in shape.

Boost your folic acid intake The recommended daily amount is currently 200mcg a day, increasing to 400 mcg a day for pregnant women and those trying to conceive. Good natural sources such as spinach and liver can deliver as much as 100 mcg per serving but overcooking destroys up to 95 per cent of the vitamin. So should we all take supplements? While some believe folic acid supplements protect against heart disease and dementia, others think a low intake simply indicates an unhealthy diet and that correcting this on its own is unlikely to have much impact.

More research is needed to find out who is right but in the meantime a daily supplement in addition to a healthy diet won't do you any harm and could do a lot of good.

Eat oily fish If you don't like fish such as mackerel, salmon or fresh tuna consider daily fish oil supplements.

Women might want to consider HRT This treatment should not be taken solely for its possible protective effects against Alzheimer's but if you are also troubled by hot flushes, taking HRT may delay its onset. …

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