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Maintaining your brain

 Modeled on Healthy Heart Program, psychiatrist's plan is about risk reduction

By Jim Gibson

CanWest News Service

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The baby boomers' battle against infirmities of old age has a potential weapon in a Vancouver geriatric psychiatrist's patented Healthy Brain Program.

What Stephen Kiraly offers is a program to protect and improve brain health rather than a quick neurological fountain of youth.

"Basically it's preventive, or maintenance," Kiraly says about the program he developed over the past five years. Until this month, it was available only to health-care professionals through seminars or medical journals. In conjunction with Victoria psychiatrist James Sacamano, Kiraly continued the launch of his national program with a day-long symposium for the public over the weekend in Victoria.

"Brain degeneration associated with aging is not inevitable," said Kiraly. It can be lessened, he added, by such documented factors as good nutrition, head injury prevention, stress management, adequate sleep, plus physical and mental exercise.

"Old is old, sick is sick - they're not the same thing," said Kiraly.

Brain disease - stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and depression - is projected to become the number one cause of death by 2040, ahead of cancer and heart disease, said Kiraly.

In part, its rise to the top can be explained by increasing longevity coupled with the boomer demographic bulge. Simply, more people will live longer.

"There is no such thing as senile dementia," says Kiraly. "When the brain fails, it's because of disease, not merely aging. Healthy aging avoids disease."

As a geriatric psychiatrist Kiraly says the diseases he deal with are "deadly," but there is little he can do other than "tweaking four neurotransmitters." While effective to a degree, it's nothing compared to the arsenal available to the cardiologist, who can even do heart transplants.

Kiraly took the successful Healthy Heart Program as his model. What the heart program has shown, he said, is that its participants have a lower risk of heart disease, have less severe forms of it, and speedier recoveries.

On the Web: 

Victoria Times Colonist

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2005

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