Lifestyle May Not Prevent Alzheimer's trumpets a headline in Time magazine. The article goes on to describe a carefully conducted review of decades of evidence examining the hypothesis that exercise, social relationships, diet or vitamins can ward off Alzheimer's disease. The study concludes that there is not sufficient evidence to be able to recommend that the public take any of these actions to prevent or delay the disease.
Nevertheless, Time reports, the Alzheimer's Association, for its part, will continue advising its members and interested patients to eat a healthy diet and engage in socially and physically rewarding activities. There are hints in the data that offer hope that by changing lifestyle factors and other things, we can in fact perhaps reduce the risk of dementia in the future, says Dr. Maria Carrillo, senior director of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer's Association. We feel that we are on the right track.
On one hand, who would ever discourage a respected national organization from promoting the benefits of a good balanced diet, close friends and a brisk walk around the block?
On the other hand, the Alzheimer's Association's casual dismissal of pesky new evidence that calls into question its promise that by behaving better, one can ward off this frightening disease feeds the public's growing belief that evidence is just another piece of information that can be used or ignored depending on whether it furthers a self-serving commercial or political agenda.
We are already suspicious of the use of evidence as a determining factor in the health care we receive. Many of us don't understand evidence-based care and are concerned that evidence-based guidelines are being used by insurance companies and the government to limit the drugs and services that might ease our suffering.
The Alzheimer's Association's open and cynical disregard of inconvenient evidence confirms these fears. Such actions on the part of a leading patient advocacy group delivers one more sucker punch to the public's confidence in the research enterprise confidence that is needed for the heavy lift ahead the national investment in conducting comparative effectiveness research and translating it into more effective health care.