Scientist Jay Ingram's latest book The End of Memory: A Natural History of Alzheimer's and Aging is a personal and professional observation of the impact of the disease.

Awareness about Alzheimer's disease has come a long way in recent years from being called the plague of the 21st century to now being linked to a a majority of dementia cases.

Ingram, former host of CBC's Quirks and Quarks and Discovery Channel Canada's Daily Planet said what is now known as Alzheimer's was once seen as just a natural part of aging.

"Fifty years ago, people weren't thinking of so-called senility or senile dementia as a disease to be treated," Ingram told B.C. Almanac's Gloria Macarenko. "The majority view tended to be, this is a natural part of aging, some people get it, some people don't."

Ingram, whose mother died of dementia, says scientists have now identified possible factors that could cause someone to be predisposed to the disease, such as accumulation of unusual proteins or problems with blood circulation or glucose metabolism in the brain. But there is still no cure in sight.

On the possibility of Alzheimer's becoming more common

The End of Memory

The End of Memory: A History of Alzheimer's and Aging is Jay Ingram's latest book. (Jay Ingram)

Ingram says the fact that people are living longer now than they did 50 years ago is helping bring the disease to the forefront.

"Things like heart disease and cancer that might have killed people who might have gone on to get Alzheimer's and then show up as an Alzheimer statistic were dying earlier of those other diseases," he explained.

"We now have more people, especially now that the baby boom generation is just entering into this susceptible part of life, so we're seeing more cases."

On early detection

Nobody's memory is as sharp when they're 75 or 80 as it was when they were 20 or 25, so the key is knowing how to distinguish that from what might be the early memory loss associated with Alzheimer's, said Ingram.

"It's only when memory lapses or unusual behaviours become so out of sync with what you expect that I think it's then time to seek some medical advice,"

On exercise as prevention

"If you only do one thing to lower your risk for Alzheimer's, that's physical exercise — specifically, walk half an hour to 40 minutes a day," said Ingram, quoting research done by the Ontario Brain Institute. "This takes people by surprise because they don't really see the direct connection between physical activity and the brain, but in fact, it enhances blood flow, it probably lowers blood pressure, both of which are contributing factors."

Jay Ingram will be speaking about his new book at Kelowna's Mary Irwin Theatre on Thursday at 7 p.m. PT.

To hear the full interview with Jay Ingram, click on the audio labelled: Jay Ingram pens new book on the history of Alzheimer's disease. 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said Ingram would be speaking at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus. In fact, his talk will be at Kelowna's Mary Irwin Theatre at 7 p.m. PT.
    Feb 26, 2015 7:10 AM PT