Can you slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease?


In simple terms cognitive decline progresses because a sticky plaque builds up and blocks lines of communication in the brain. According to many studies the answer is yes, some aspects can be slowed but currently there is nothing available that reverses the disease. Those same studies show that a lifetime of effort is better than trying to turn back the damage once it has started. Some basic lifestyle changes are shown to be beneficial including regular exercise, healthy eating (including a low calorie diet, few processed foods), fresh fruits and vegetables, low stress and challenging mental activities.

These activities should be something that is interesting to the person not just a chore. There are some interesting studies claiming that people who are lonely and do not have a purpose in life are more likely to develop memory loss diseases. These can be difficult issues to overcome but volunteer work, community service and feeling you are making a difference can actually help your mental health as well as another’s life. Beyond these basics there are medications in various stages of research and development (R&D) as well as some currently on the market.

The MAYO clinic states that “Alzheimer's still has no cure, but two different types of drugs can help manage symptoms of the disease.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of drugs specifically to treat symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, they are Cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine. The articles goes on to say that “One way Alzheimer's harms the brain is by decreasing levels of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that's important for alertness, memory, thought and judgment. Cholinesterase (ko-lin-ES-tur-ays) inhibitors are a type of drug that boosts the amount of acetylcholine available to nerve cells by preventing its breakdown in the brain.”

According to an article titled “Predicting a rise in Alzheimer’s cases” Rush University Medical Center estimates the number of people with Alzheimer's disease may triple by 2050. They have been doing extensive, long term studies that include people in various stages of cognitive decline. Some of their clinical trials include the study of Genetics as it related to Alzheimer’s, An efficacy and safety trial of MK-8931 in subjects with prodromal Alzheimer’s disease, Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s Disease, BACE1 inhibitor treatment study in individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, Effect of Passive Immunization on Mild Alzheimer’s, and the Study of Lu AE58054 in patients with Alzheimer’s disease treated with donepezil.

A good deal of funding and research is being devoted to studying cognitive decline in all of its stages. There are interesting studies but in order to be a truly scientific study, the results must be duplicated in further studies. The brain is amazing to say the least and also far beyond our comprehension. As studies are done more is learned. The brain is now thought to have a plastic quality where it can create  a work around where there is damage, in some cases. As research goes this is some of the most exciting as we learn more about the brain and its functions.


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