Carol White, 69, knows all too well the toll Alzheimer's disease takes on a family.
"My father had dementia/Alzheimer's. My mother had it. My oldest sister had early onset and then my brother has early onset," said White. "I wouldn't wish it on anyone."
The toughest battle to watch, she says, was her mother's.
"I could go visit her in the morning and go back and visit her two hours later and she wouldn't have known I was there two hours earlier," said White. "It tugs at your heart."
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Knowing she could be next, she joined a study at the UT Southwestern Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute to determine whether regular aerobic exercise and taking specific medications to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help preserve brain function.
According to the hospital, they plan to enroll more than 600 older adults at high risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease and measure whether certain interventions can be linked to slower brain decline.
Participants, like White, will take part in regular aerobic exercise and take specific medications to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
“There is plenty of evidence to suggest that what is bad for your cardiovascular system is bad for your brain, but the body is one machine and you cannot separate the heart from the brain,” said Dr. Rong Zhang, Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The theory that good diet and exercise results in better brain function has been studied before but never proven with the scientific evidence, said Zhang.
This new study builds upon prior research linking healthy lifestyles to better brain function, he added.
It all makes sense to White, who stays active and keeps her cholesterol levels and blood pressure in check.
She hopes her brain is better off because of it.
"I would just like to find a cure for it, so people don't have to go through what I've seen my parents go through," said White.
You can read more about the study here.