Health & Fitness

Contending with Alzheimer’s disease; college debt and mental-health problems


King Features Syndicate

Q: I just read that they’ve reversed Alzheimer’s disease symptoms with some kind of standard pain reliever. Can it cure my mom? -- Sandy D., Lebanon, New Hampshire

A: The breakthrough you’re referring to happened in mice, not people. University of Manchester, U.K., researchers found that a monthlong IV dose of mefenamic acid, a common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, given to mice with Alzheimer’s disease symptoms completely reversed their memory loss and brain inflammation. It seems the medication reduces an inflammatory process that contributes to the formation of amyloid tangles and AD. But we’re still a long way from having something that can reverse AD in people.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of ongoing research about preventing and managing symptoms of dementia and AD.

--A study published in JAMA Neurology found that serum DHA levels were 23 percent lower in participants with cerebral amyloidosis (amyloid tangles) than in people without those indicators. In addition, study participants with the highest blood levels of DHA had greater brain volume in several subregions affected by AD, increased processing speed and did better on tests of nonverbal memory. You want 900 mg of DHA omega-3 daily. So enjoy at least two to three servings of salmon and sea trout a week, and enjoy anchovies, herring, mackerel, tuna and halibut, too.

--Recently, researchers found that workplace complexity and social interaction help people retain greater cognitive powers, even if they develop brain changes associated with AD.

--Regular exercise protects the brain. A recent study looked at brain differences between identical twins, one of whom exercised regularly and one who did not: The active twin had much more gray matter (where info is processed) than the sedentary sibling.

--Brain speed training works: The ACTIVE study used a “double decision” game to assess if such intervention could protect cognition. Turns out people who did 18 hours of the game over three years had a dramatically lower risk of developing dementia during the next decade than folks who didn’t go through that training.

Q: My daughter is going to graduate college with over $100,000 in debt. It’s making her anxious and is changing how she sees her future. We help as much as we can, but our resources are limited. What can we do to help her cope? -- JoAnne D., Charlotte, North Carolina

A: Everyone’s talking about the pressures of college debt. That’s because it looks like a catch-22: You need to get a degree to get a good job so you can pay off your mountain of debt that you incurred to get your degree to get a good job. Recently, New York’s School of Visual Arts sponsored a “Crushing Debt” art exhibition that examined the “vast and unsustainable level of education-related student debt.” The irony? The estimated total cost of a year’s attendance at SVA is $56,373!

Not surprisingly, a recent study out of the U.K. found that a student’s debt load could predict depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse and eating disorders. But the U.K. study also points out that mental-health problems of students could be attributed to their stress response to debt, not the debt itself.

In other words, learning how to properly handle her stress response might be one of the more valuable lessons you could help your daughter learn while she’s in college.

1. Suggest that she consult a school counselor. Today, over 40 percent of undergrad students see them. And the counselors are trained to help students with issues of self-worth, drug and alcohol abuse and peer acceptance, as well as debt.

2. Also help her adopt stress-reduction techniques she enjoys: Intramural sports, exercise routines, meditation, yoga and volunteering in the community all ease stress.

3. Talk to her about making sure she gets seven to eight hours of sleep nightly. Sleep deprivation can make stressful situations doubly damaging.

If she knows you’re by her side as she contends with the challenges of the classroom -- and the debt -- she will fare much better, and so will you!

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at