This is the second in my two-part update on what we know about Alzheimer’s disease. There are more than 3,000 registered clinical trials focusing on Alzheimer’s disease with the FDA currently. Yet, there remain only four approved medications (plus one that is a combination of two of these) to slow the progression of the cognitive decline that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. the four are Aricept (donepezil), Exelon (rivastigmine), Namenda (memantine) and Razadyne (galantamine); Namzaric combines donepezil and menantine. Notice that I referred to these as treatments to slow the progression of the cognitive decline. There is no cure at present.
There are some promising findings bring reported around some naturally-occurring agents that provide what medical professionals call a “neuroprotective capability.” I have talked about some of these in past posts that you can research on our site. One of the studies from abroad suggests that Lithium can have a neuroprotective or preventive role in addressing Alzheimer’s. Another suggests that an herb that grows in California call yerba santa shows some promise as a neuroprotective agent that could be effective against Alzheimer’s disease. A biomarker call the APOE4 gene also is being studied for its role in the development of the amyloid plaque that is the corrosive end result of Alzheimer’s on the human brain. Can scientists learn anything about people who carry this gene that will help to protect others without the natural “immunity?” About one in nine people carry two dominant copies of this gene.
Overall, the Alzheimer’s Association still acknowledges that there is no cure and no real known way to prevent the disease. The association, however, promotes specific elements of a “healthy lifestyle” that can help to reduce a person’s risk for cognitive decline:
- Cardiovascular exercise (huff and puff regularly)
- Mental stimulation (use your brain to learn and problem solve)
- Don’t smoke (this one is self-explanatory)
- Eat heart-healthy (there are books on this kind of diet)
- Protect your head (head trauma is dangerous)
- Sleep well (sound sleep and enough hours)
- Social engagement (mental and physical activity should be interactive)
The Alzheimer’s Associations goes one step further by encouraging us all that it is never too late start some new health habits.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.