NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Former television icon David Cassidy tells People magazine he's battling dementia.
The former star of the 70s series "The Partridge Family" said his mother and grandfather both had the memory-robbing disease.
As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reportered, some people assumed Cassidy has Alzheimer's disease, but that's not necessarily the case. There are many types of dementia, of which Alzheimer's is just one.
Either way, at 66 years old, Cassidy is young for any type of dementia.
He shot to fame as a TV star and music heartthrob, but during recent performances, he had trouble remembering the lyrics he'd sung for 50 years. Now, he's attributing that to early onset dementia, something many people fear.
"My mother has Alzheimer's, so the brain is clearly my biggest fear and biggest concern in my health and well-being," patient Ginge Cabrera said.
The director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at New York Presbyterian Hospital said that while there is no cure for Alzheimer's and most types of dementia, and no sure-fire prevention, there are ways to lower your risks.
"Exercising on a regular basis. Believe it or not, if you exercise, you can loosen up the bad protein that gets stuck up in the brain called amyloid. But what if you're not sleeping? When you sleep, sleep disposes of that bad amyloid, so you need to combine everything together," Dr. Richard Isaacson, of Weill Cornell Medicine, said.
Alzheimer's disease actually starts in the brain at least two decades before memory symptoms show up. So starting healthy brain habits early is key.
Diet is especially important, Gomez reported.
Eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables. A half cup of blueberries several times a week has been shown to delay dementia. Fatty fish like salmon are high in omega three fatty acids. And, believe it or not, a cup of coffee can be good for you.
On the bad side, avoid saturated fats like red meats and butter, as well as sugar, processed foods and refined carbs like white bread.
None of these preventative tips are guaranteed, but even a little help is important.
"If anyone today can do everything right and delay their onset by two to five years, well then what if that blockbuster drug comes along, then maybe they have prevented their own Alzheimer's," Isaacson said.
What about dong the crossword or Sudoku? That will make you better at puzzles, but won't help much with dementia.
For Cassidy, he also had well-publicized battles with alcohol, and there is a well known syndrome of alcohol dementia, so it's unclear what's really happening in his case.
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