Charles Osgood was a brilliant radio and TV host who died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was best known for being the host of CBS News Sunday Morning TV show for 22 years, from April 1994 until September 2016, and of daily radio reports, “The Osgood File,” for 46 years, from 1971 until 2017. He was probably suffering from memory lapses when he announced his retirement as anchor of Sunday Morning, about eight years before his death.
I met him many years ago when he was a fitness broadcaster for CBS radio. In addition to his many years of radio and television broadcasting, he was:
- a respected author of six books,
- author of a biweekly syndicated newspaper column,
- the author of a three-act play called A Single Voice (1956),
- a writer of published poems and musical themes,
- a performing pianist and singer,
- conductor of the U.S. Army Band and Chorus (1954-57),
- narrator of films including the 2008 animated film, “Horton Hears a Who.”
At one time he was recognized as North America’s youngest radio station manager.
Protecting Yourself from Dementia
About 22 percent of North Americans ages 85-89 and 33 percent of those over 90 suffer some degree of dementia (JAMA Neurol, 2022;79(12):1242-1249). There are no drugs that have been proven to prevent or cure dementia, but the FDA has approved:
- Donepezil (Aricept) to treat all stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Rivastigmine (Exelon) for mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s
- Galantamine (Razadyne) for mild-to-moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Even though we have no sure ways to prevent dementia, you can help to protect yourself with your lifestyle choices (BMJ Neurology, April 13, 2022;377:e068390), including an anti-inflammatory diet, physical activity, socialization, cognitive activity, not smoking, and avoiding or limiting alcohol.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet to Help Prevent Dementia
Strong data associate a pro-inflammatory diet with increased risk for dementia. Pro-inflammatory foods raise blood markers of inflammation and anti-inflammatory foods lower these same blood markers (Neurology, Nov 10, 2021;10.1212).
You are exposed to germs when you are born, and soon after birth, bacteria increase everywhere on your skin surface, in your respiratory tract and in your entire digestive tract. Most of these germs are good for you and help in many different ways. They help you to digest and absorb nutrients from the food that you eat, and to eliminate waste products. They colonize the linings of your respiratory tract and intestines to help keep harmful germs from growing there.
Germs are not supposed to invade your cells. However, when they do, your immune system recognizes that the germs’ sugar-proteins are different from the sugar-proteins on your own cells. Your immune system produces proteins called antibodies that attach to and try to kill the invading bacteria or viruses. The visible signs of inflammation — redness, swelling, soreness, fever — tell you that your immune system is working to combat an infection or injury.
As soon as a wound is healed or an infection is gone, your immune system is supposed to dampen down and stop making large amounts of these cells and antibodies. If your immune system does not stop making excessive amounts of cells and proteins to kill germs, these same cells and proteins can attack you to damage:
- your brain to cause dementia
- your arteries to cause plaques to form and break off, leading to heart attacks and strokes
- your DNA in cells to block apoptosis (programmed cell death) that can lead to cancer
- your liver to cause diabetes
- your own immune system itself, leading to auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis
What Makes a Food Pro-Inflammatory or Anti-Inflammatory?
The pro-inflammatory foods turn on your immune system to cause these cells and proteins to attack and damage your own normal cells, while the anti-inflammatory foods dampen down this response to protect your cells from damage from an overactive immune system.
Dementia and heart attacks share the same common pro-inflammatory risk factors (Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Dec 2021;17(12):1914-1922), and the American Heart Association reports that dementia is strongly associated with a pro-inflammatory diet (Stroke, Mar 15, 2021:52(6A);52:e295–e308). Chronic inflammation increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, and many other diseases. The more pro-inflammatory foods you eat, the greater your risk for these conditions. The more anti-inflammatory foods you eat, the greater your protection from chronic inflammation and the diseases it causes. Many previous scientific papers have associated risk for dementia with what you eat.
What you eat determines the proportions of good and bad bacteria in your colon. The good bacteria are happy to eat the same food that you eat, while the bad bacteria are not happy with your food supply and try to enter your colon cells, which turns on your immune system and keeps it on to cause excessive inflammation. You can improve the colony of good bacteria in your colon by:
- Eating lots of the anti-inflammatory foods: vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits, and seafood (non-fried)
- Restricting the pro-inflammatory foods such as red meat, processed meats, fried foods, foods with added sugar and all drinks with sugar in them including fruit juices and alcohol.
Dementia risk increases with age, and heart attacks and dementia have almost all of the same risk factors, so everyone should follow the anti-inflammatory lifestyle rules that help to prevent heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and many other diseases:
- Try to exercise every day
- Follow an anti-inflammatory, high-plant diet
- Avoid being overweight
- Avoid or severely limit alcohol
- Avoid smoking and second hand smoke
- Keep your vitamin D levels above 30 ng/mL
- Actively use your mind every day to solve problems and learn new things
- Have lots of contacts with other people
Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com