The search and hope for a lasting treatment and cure continues.
As we mark World Alzheimer’s Month, we pause to realize there have been advances in the field of research into Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.
At the same time, we build awareness of the other needs of those with dementia.
There is still a stigma to having dementia that gaining an understanding of the disease and how it affects so many people around the globe through awareness and information we share during this month will hopefully reduce.
Nearly half of people with dementia feel they are excluded from everyday life.
Every 3 seconds someone in the world will be diagnosed with dementia, every 66 seconds in the US.
Yes, the numbers are staggering and continue to grow.
Dementia has been called the largest global social, medical and economic crisis in the 21st century.
It affects memory, thinking, behavior and emotion.
Over time, those with dementia will progress to the point when they will no longer be able to care for themselves, and unable to perform activities of daily living such as eating, bathing or toileting.
Caregivers support is key to their well-being.
Research that yields treatment will be vital as the number of those with dementia increases globally.
Latest Research Findings
The scientific community has been working diligently to uncover information about not only the cause of Alzheimer’s dementia but also to find treatments that may finally cure this progressive disease.
The “race is on”!
Research is focusing on several fronts including treatment with drug therapy, prevention and early diagnosis.
Supporting clinical trials will help move the research forward and there are many ways for those diagnosed and their caregivers to join a clinical trial to help find answers.
Researchers have discovered a gene signature in healthy brains that echoes the pattern in which Alzheimer’s disease spreads through the brain much later in life.
The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, could help uncover the molecular origins of this devastating disease, and may be used to develop preventative treatments for at-risk individuals to be taken well before symptoms appear. It seems that a particular part of the brain may be susceptible to the effects of proteins known as plaques and tangles associated with dementia.
Benefits of a Challenging Job
Reported at the recent conference in Toronto, your job may be challenging enough to help prevent dementia and overcome the effects of a bad diet.
A mentally stimulating job and an active social life seem to offer some protection by not just slowing cognitive decline but also reversing damage. Working with people was more stimulating than working with computers.
Advances from a Gene Mutation
Genetic researchers have found a gene mutation that may lead to advances in AD treatment.
A gene known as presenilin (PS1) has been isolated which appears to clear the brain of toxic damaged protein cells which can decrease brain function.
By preventing the protein toxins from building up in the brain, they predict a reduction in progression of the disease.
Accuracy of Screening Tests Questioned
Is a screening test to detect AD in its earliest stages accurate enough yet?
We know that once a person shows symptoms of mental decline, the disease has caused brain damage. Hope may come in earlier detection so that any treatments found can be started early to prevent damage.
Many community health fairs are administering memory screening tests to help people who are concerned with memory loss and the onset of dementia hoping to catch it in its earliest stage and possibly slow its effects. However, doctors warn that these memory tests are ineffective in actually determining if dementia is present and can often scare people needlessly.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America recommends memory questionnaires only being completed with a trained health professional. Be very cautious with self administered online memory tests and the validity of the results. Some also warn that there is insufficient evidence of the validity of these memory tests and the negative stress from the results outweighs any benefit of very early detection.
There is not currently a cure or even effective management of progression of the disease at this time. Of seven people who fail the screening test, only one will be diagnosed with dementia. If you have a specific concern about a loved one developing AD, see your doctor.
Testing for Biomarkers
A more effective and accurate picture for physicians to determine a diagnosis early in the disease may be on the horizon through the use of testing for biomarkers.
The presence of certain biomarkers, such as beta-amyloid and tau, may make it easier to diagnose dementia earlier and prevent damage.
There are currently no validated biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease, but researchers are investigating several promising candidates.
Brain imaging may also be used to spot changes in the brain in the future.
Lifestyle Changes and Alzheimer’s
A panel of experts from the National Institutes of Health state that there is currently insufficient data that lifestyle changes such as exercise, intake of Omega 3 fats, and keeping your mind engaged will reduce the incidence of AD.
They caution that the lack of hard science available right now does not mean that the ongoing research will not provide proof that these lifestyle changes are beneficial.
The jury is still out with hard evidence but lifestyle changes could improve your chances at delaying or preventing dementia but smoking, drinking alcohol and being sedentary seems to work against brain health. One study suggested those with a diet high in fat and red meat, refined carbohydrate such as white bread and sugar progressed in cognitive decline faster.
Clinical Trials Need Participants
Participants in clinical trials are needed to progress the research but often people are unaware of how to connect with these trials or unaware that the need is great. There has been a call to increase public awareness of the importance of supporting the ongoing clinical trials.
At the same time, government funding for AD research needs to increase to match the magnitude of the disease. We have seen a rise in government funding but more research is needed.
We Need to Find a Cure
Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million people in the US, as well as 15 million people who care for them.
It is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by a change in cognition over a period of time.
The disease destroys brain cells leading to memory loss and decreased physical functioning, behavior problems and interferes with daily life.
It is the sixth leading cause of death in this country.
1 in 3 seniors will die from Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
Caregivers spend an average of $5,000 per year caring for a person with dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease affects someone you know.
As researchers continue to search for an effective treatment and hopefully a cure, we all look forward to ending this life altering disease.
We hope that soon World Alzheimer’s Month marks our victory over the disease.