Alzheimer’s Disease - A Progress Report
Be Heart Smart
Current research reinforces the cardiovascular connection. Alzheimer’s shares the same risk factors of high blood pressure and high levels of C-reactive protein (associated with inflammation). A Dutch study claimed that silent strokes more than doubled the risks of dementia. Interestingly, a survey revealed that people suffering from high blood pressure and took a calcium channel blocker to lower it, were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s over a four year period. No other blood pressure drug had this effect. They don’t know why calcium channel blockers had this beneficial effect on Alzheimer’s disease onset.
High levels of LDL cholesterol, one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, is suggested to be a factor in Alzheimer’s both as a trigger for disease as well as a cause of faster decline. This led to an investigation of cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins. The preliminary conclusion was that statins reduced the likelihood of contracting Alzheimer’s by 50%. However, controlled studies according to Harvard Medical Health were disappointing. Investigation is still ongoing.
A New Drug Arrives from Europe
Memantine is a new drug that slows deterioration in Alzheimer’s during the later stages. It protects neurons from the toxic effects of excess glutamate while not hampering normal transmitter functions. Memantine is prescribed for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s. It does not prevent the disease or reverse deterioration. However, it makes patients a little more independent, more interactive and less angry or emotional. So far anecdotal evidence has been positive.
Vaccination—the Latest Promising Research
The latest and most promising research in Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment is immunization to stimulate the body’s own immune system to manufacture antibodies to remove beta-amyloid plaques from the brain. Patients with early Alzheimer’s were part of an experimental group receiving a synthetic vaccine of beta-amyloid. However, the experiment was halted because of brain inflammation, fever, strokes and confusion. When the treatment was stopped, the patients recovered. Nevertheless, some of the patients who received the vaccine had made the antibodies, showed no memory decline and some even improved. These results were very encouraging prompting scientists to create safer vaccines and the possibility of injecting antibodies instead of using beta-amyloid injections to trigger the body to make its own antibodies.
Physical Exercise helps prevent physical and mental deterioration. Exercise uplifts the spirit, a natural way to overcome depression and provides functional fitness. Both benefits improve life quality for patients and their caregivers. Many caregivers suffer from depression and therefore show negative changes in their own immune systems leaving caregivers vulnerable to illness and hampered in their caring for Alzheimer’s patients.
Keep Stimulating the Mind
Exercising the brain during leisure time helps to prevent or delay mental deterioration. Playing cards, chess, board games or musical instruments are shown to be effective. Dancing stimulates the brain too! Develop cognitive reserve—create more neural pathways to compensate.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Southampton College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com
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