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New programs keep aging minds sharp during Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month

Couple focuses on preventing Alzheimer's
Couple focuses on preventing Alzheimer's 04:32

MIAMI - While therapeutics are developing and diagnosis is getting easier, there is still no cure for Alzheimer's disease, but during this Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month, there is the hopeful possibility of prevention.

New programs like one at Miami Jewish Health are designed to keep aging minds sharp.

"I want to stay as healthy as long as I can," Charles James told CBS News Miami at the MIND Institute at Miami Jewish Health. "I ride the bike. I walk. I go to the fitness center and I also play lots of golf. So I try to get out in the fresh air and I also try to interact with people."

Charles James and his wife Jacqueline James are loving life in their 80s, but they don't just want to stay physically active. They want to work out their brains, too.

"The main reason is I have a sister that I think is exhibiting some early forms of Alzheimer's," Charles James explained. "People say it's hereditary. And so I wanted to make sure that I find out."

"I spend a lot of my time looking for things," Jacqueline James said. "I'll go into a room and say, 'Why did I come in here?' I don't know whether it's the normal part of the aging process or if there's some onset of Alzheimer's disease. So, those were things that concerned me."

So the couple decided to take a proactive approach with their cognitive health.

They are part of the Alzheimer's Prevention Program at Miami Jewish Health's MIND Institute.

"Right here, right now, we are doing this early intervention. We're making a tremendous difference in the lives of the patients we see," said Dr. Marc Agronin, a leading Alzheimer's disease expert and geriatric psychiatrist.

The evidence-based program helps participants assess their Alzheimer's risk factors, benchmark their current neurocognitive health, and provides customized lifestyle coaching for improved brain fitness.

"Prevention is a new buzzword," Dr. Agronin told CBS News Miami. "When we think about Alzheimer's disease and other neurocognitive disorders, we never thought about that before. But we know from research that about 40% of risk factors that people have can be modified. And what that means is that even though you can't change your genes, if they're a factor, there's certain medical conditions that it's hard to change. But there's so much more we can do to identify what are these risk factors and then coach people how to reduce them."

For the Jameses, Dr. Agronin recommended more walking and a diet with less red meat and more fish.

"We know that having an active lifestyle, that means physically active with exercise, mentally active with meaningful activities that give you a good attitude towards aging, that give you a sense of purpose that can make a difference," Dr. Agronin said. "Social isolation is a big risk factor, not only for depression but also for neurocognitive disorders as well."

Jacqueline and Charles James make it a point to get out and about. They're very involved in a local theater program and they say aging together with love is what's keeping their minds young.

"So we have to depend on each other," Charles James said. "The more we know about it, the more I think we can help each other and have a better life."

Click here for more information on the Alzheimer's Prevention program.

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