Alzheimer's Treatment and Prevention

Advances in Alzheimer’s Treatment and Prevention: A Ray of Hope

One of my biggest fears is Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which affects 55 million individuals worldwide, robbing them of their memories, cognitive abilities and in the later stages causing physical decline. My mother died of Alzheimer’s disease, and Nancy Reagan was right when she called it the “long good-bye”.

For decades, the search for effective treatments and prevention strategies has been relentless. In this blog, we’ll explore the latest developments in Alzheimer’s treatment and ways to slow its progression, as well as strategies for preventing it in the first place.

Individuals living with Alzheimer’s are expected to double by 2050. Currently most remain undiagnosed! Let’s face it there is a huge stigma surrounding any mental health diagnosis and why bother with MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) if there is no cure?

It is essential to understand Alzheimer’s disease itself. Alzheimer’s is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal protein deposits in the brain, such as beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles. These disrupt neural communication and lead to cognitive decline.

Traditional drug treatments for Alzheimer’s, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, have limited effectiveness in managing symptoms. However, recent research has led to the development of promising new drugs like lecanemab -irmb, or Leqembi. This drug is designed to target beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles more directly, slowing down the progression of the disease and improving cognitive function. Donanemab, by Eli Lilly is another similar drug. However, the risk-benefit ratio is still to be determined.

Tailoring treatment to an individual’s unique genetic and biomarker profile is an emerging approach. There are 3 identified sub-types of Alzheimer’s which would all require different strategies. Personalized medicine will allow for more effective and targeted treatments based on a person’s specific Alzheimer’s subtype and genetic predisposition.

Lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and cognitive stimulation, have shown potential in delaying cognitive decline. These interventions can complement drug therapies and improve overall quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s. There are new AI approaches which could rapidly lead to individualized prevention and care. I find this intriguing and plan to continue to investigate.

I wanted to learn more about Alzheimer’s Treatment Center of America so I reached out to them twice via their website for comment after connecting with the CEO on LinkedIn. I received a pitch deck to invest but have not received a response to my questions regarding protocols and timing of the roll-out, so I cannot give first-hand information or an endorsement. You might have better luck. However, just the possibility of delayed disease progression or a cure, provides hope for the future.

More Treatments on the Horizon

Exciting treatments are here or soon coming. Drugs like gamma-secretase modulators slow amyloid plaques. Other drugs can clear toxins from the brain that are causing the inflammation through our lymphatic system exiting harmlessly through the nasal cavity. Clogs in our cerebral spinal fluid can be restored by implanting a simple shunt through the nose. Donated enriched blood plasma treatments have slowed down progression in a recent  study of Alzheimer’s patients. Even vaccines are in last stage trials to demonstrate it is safe and effective. So, there is a lot of hope … but any protocol would need to happen early in a diagnosis before nerve cells die.

In the Meantime: Let’s Talk About Prevention

The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care listed a dozen causes of Alzheimer’s  in order of significance (* Chapter 22, Tony Robbins: Life Force)

  1. Hearing Loss: (8.2% of cases)
  2. Low education levels: 7.2%
  3. Smoking: 5.2%
  4. Depression: 3.9%
  5. Social Isolation: 3.5%
  6. Traumatic Brain Injury: 3.4%
  7. Air Pollution: 2.3%
  8. Hypertension: 1.9%
  9. Physical Inactivity: 1.6%
  10. Diabetes: 1.1%
  11. Excessive alcohol consumption: 0.8%
  12. Obesity: 0.07%

I can look at that list and see 4 of those categories that applied to my mom. I can identify 3 for myself. What do you see as it applies to your current state of health? How about a hearing check-up?  Some of the list can be mitigated or managed. What would be on your list?

Life-Style Changes and Prevention

  • Food Choices: Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids can support brain health. Avoiding excessive saturated fats and sugar is also crucial. Because neuro-inflammation is an indicator of cognitive decline, it makes sense to avoid food and toxins that cause inflammation. Cut out fast food and overly processed food. Easy-Peasy!  Add foods that keep inflammation low; AND  Lion’s Mane mushrooms are proven to stimulate nerve regrowth.
  • Mental Stimulation: Think of exercising your brain the same way you exercise your body.  Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, like puzzles, reading, and learning new skills, can help maintain cognitive function and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s. As I travel back and forth from Australia to the United States, my brain has to adapt to driving on the left or right side of the road … that is my new skill.
  • Get off the Couch: Regular exercise promotes brain health by increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation. Aerobic exercises, strength training, and yoga can all be beneficial. Physical activity not only benefits those already diagnosed but can also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. There is an app installed on my iPhone that relentlessly lets me know if I have “closed my circle” each day. Seeking positive reinforcement from artificial intelligence, I figured out how far I have to go on my walks to “close the %#*@* circle”!
  • Be With People and Be with Nature: Staying socially active and maintaining strong relationships can provide emotional support and cognitive stimulation, which can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Combining or “stacking” activities you enjoy (like hiking or scuba diving) with people you enjoy, can give double benefits while breathing good, fresh air.
  • Prioritize Sleep: Inadequate rest can contribute to cognitive decline. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Are there reasons for a poor night’s sleep like GERD, depression or sleep apnea that require medical attention? Sleeping in a cool room, using an eye mask, and having a boring book by my bed generally does the trick for me. I have recently added an amber light in the lamp on the bedside table which sets the mood for sleep.
  • Mitigate and Manage Symptoms: Conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. Managing these conditions through the above lifestyle changes and medication can help reduce the risk.

Conclusion:

The fight against Alzheimer’s disease continues, and while there is no cure, there is hope. Advances in treatment options, coupled with lifestyle changes and prevention strategies, offer a promising path forward. By staying informed and taking proactive steps to maintain brain health, we can all contribute to a future where Alzheimer’s is better understood, managed, and ultimately prevented. Together, we can make strides towards a world without Alzheimer’s disease.