Like his mother Virginia O'Brien before him, Greg O'Brien battles Alzheimer's with all his might.
O & # 39; Brian's mother did her best to prevent the disease while caring for the cancer patient. , a husband connected with a wheelchair. And she somehow managed to keep things going until her husband, father of O & # 39; Brian, died of prostate cancer.
It was from watching his mother live with Alzheimer's that enabled O & # 39; Brian to recognize the signs in himself and prompted him to see a neurologist at 59 years of age. Brain scans that reveal Alzheimer's. Shortly after his own diagnosis, both his parents died.
"My mother taught me how to live with Alzheimer's disease," Brian from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, said today. "She fights and fights and fights. She wouldn't give up. She kept telling me, "I can't get sick, I can't get sick."
Now around 70, he's still not giving up.
"It's not for me, it's for the next generation," Brian said of his daily battle with the suffocating disease. "For my children, my granddaughter. We must stop this demon. "
The Alzheimer's Association currently estimates that there are 5.8 million Americans living with the disease and that their number will increase to 1
While Brian waits for a medical breakthrough that may to stop the devastating disease, he has made lifestyle changes that recent studies suggest may at least delay Alzheimer's reduction. Follow a Mediterranean diet and make sure he gets enough sleep. He trains regularly and writes daily, to "restart my brain."
Can Alzheimer's Be Delayed?
To Help Daily Life Run Better, Brian, a journalist and writer for 45 years , rests on the habits he has broken off in his profession. With short-term memory torn from the disease, "I'm writing down everything," O'Brien said. He began to do it because "I was worried I'd forget."
O & # 39; Brian is trying to stay mentally engaged and hopes that his years as a writer will help him in his battle against Alzheimer's progression. The idea is simple, using your brain to build and maintain connections, such as investing money in a bank that you can rely on later.
"Doctors tell me that I work on what they call the cognitive reserve, just like my mother did," Brian says.
While Alzheimer works for Brian's family, he does Just like Virginia O & # 39; Brian was caring for her husband, O & # 39; Brian, Connor, is his father's tutor. After graduating from college, the young man goes home to help
"I've always loved spending time with him," said Conor O & # 39; Brian. "Just everyday you find a way to do it step by step."  2] Connor says he doesn't really see the progression in his father, but there are times when he's really home. The day his father didn't know him was "the worst time of my life."  O'Brien calls Conor the "helm" because he runs it every day.
Brian wants people to realize that Alzheimer's diagnosis does not mean immediate dementia.
"We need to get that out of the closet, so that people should understand that there are still working people who are scared [expletive] and afraid to talk about it because they will lose their job, "he said. "We must try to empower people to talk about strategies, medicines, and nutritional supplements."
However, O'Brien had to accept the limitations that the disease put on his life. Two years ago he gave up driving.
"I have this application, Where's Waldo, that tells people where I am at any time," he says.
There are certainly hints that exercise can not only slow down the cognitive decline, but also alter the amount of sticky amyloid protein that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease, said Maria Carillo , Chief Scientific Officer at the Alzheimer's Association. These studies were performed in Alzheimer's patients linked to a dominant hereditary gene.
"We still don't know if you can extend it to people with late-onset disease," Carillo says.
And there are animal data from Alzheimer's models suggesting that the course of the disease is changing and that living in an enriched environment can slow the progress of the disease, Carillo says.
Brian takes many of his recommendations from Massachusetts General Neurologist Rudy Tanzi, an Alzheimer's researcher who is looking to cure the disease. Meanwhile, Tanzi has suggestions to slow his progression – his program called SHIELD.
Each letter of the abbreviation means a modification of a lifestyle that may affect Alzheimer's development.
& # 39; S & # 39; means dream.  "During deep sleep, you cleanse your brain of debris. Seven to eight hours of sleep a night are essential, "says Tanzi.
" H "stands for Stress to Give.
" I "is for interacting with friends.
" E "is for exercise. " L "is for learning new things.
Learning new things can help you make new synapses, Tanzi said. "The bottom line is in Alzheimer's, the degree of dementia correlates most with the loss of synapses."
"D" is for diet.
Recent studies point to the brain The benefits of a diet rich in leafy green vegetables, beans, olive oil, nuts and poultry It is recommended to avoid red meat, sweets and fried foods.
While Bryan and his family are keenly aware of what he has lost
"Alzheimer's actually brought our family a little closer," Connor said. "I'd say it's some blessing disguised."
"I can't step in my father's shoes. "I just look at him and he's my hero," Connor said.