About half of all people 85 and older are affected with Alzheimer's disease, says the National Institute on Aging. But what was once considered a normal part of aging, may be preventable and possibly treatable.

Here are some recent findings:

  • Depression appears to be a factor. A seven-year study of nuns, priests, and brothers, shows that those who reported the most symptoms of depression had the highest risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Neuropsychologists at Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago say it pays to get treatment for depression and treatment for chronic stress that can lead to depression.

  • Vitamins and anti-inflammatories may aid in prevention. Drugs being studied as potential shields from Alzheimer's include vitamin E, anti-inflammatories, and vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid.
  • Protecting your heart is good for your brain. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of exercise, and other contributors to heart disease are also present in Alzheimer's patients. High blood levels of homocysteine (an amino acid that is a by-product of red meat) contribute to heart disease and Alzheimer's, say neurologists at Wake Forest University.

Homocysteine levels are controlled by eating foods with vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, which break down the amino acid.

  • An occasional glass of wine lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer's. Researchers in Copenhagen found that those who drank wine weekly or even monthly were significantly less likely to develop dementia than those who drank beer. But those who drank beer once a month were twice as likely to develop dementia as those who hardly ever drank beer.

Many people believe that memory problems are inevitable. Remind your parents that this is not the case.