Since 2000, deaths from Alzheimer's have increased 123%. Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. These alarming statistics highlight that Alzheimer's is more of a concern than ever in 2018. With such an incredible impact on so many, what's being done to fight against this health crisis? Are there new medicines underway? Any theories on how to prevent Alzheimer's before it happens.
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What Scientists Are Learning about Alzheimer's
If you're among the 16.1 million Americans providing unpaid care to a loved one with Alzheimer's, then you already know the main symptoms associated with the disease. It involves issues with memory and thinking which can worsen over time until an afflicted individual has difficulty completing everyday tasks. Although it's generally associated with old age, early-onset Alzheimer's (hitting before the age of 65) afflicts 200,000 Americans.
Although scientists are not sure exactly what causes this incurable disease, it's associated with plaques, which are protein fragments that build up between cells. It's also associated with tangles, fibers of another protein that also build up inside cells. Scientists believe that plaques and tangles might decrease the ability of brain cells to communicate with one another, which can lead to disruption of cells' life-sustaining processes in the brain. This can lead to cell death in the brain.
Drugs under development
Though there are currently several drugs on the market that can help with the symptoms of Alzheimer's, there's no drug that actually cures the disease. But due to the increasing public health concerns and cost of Alzheimer's, researchers are investigating several drugs that may help.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, these are some drugs scientists are currently researching:
Remember those plaques we mentioned? Well, the protein Beta-Amyloid is strongly associated with these plaques. Scientists are researching aducanumad as an antibody that targets Beta-Amyloid. Early trials have shown decreased levels of Beta-Amyloid with use of Aducanumad. These studies won't be done until 2019 or 2020.
The tangles that we mentioned as present in Alzheimer's? Their chief component is called Tau Protein. The experimental AADvac1 drug gets the body's immune system going to attack an abnormal form of Tau protein that can cause the collapse of neuron structure. Researchers project AADvac1 studies will finish in February 2019.
These proteins, Beta-Amyloid and Tau Protein, can lead to brain inflammation which is highly associated Alzheimer's. Drugs like Sargramostim could potentially decrease these effects by triggering a useful immune reaction. Researchers should be done with early studies by the end of 2018.
Though none of these exciting drugs are available to the public since they're all in the stages of research, there's emerging evidence that certain lifestyle choices can help reduce your or a loved one's chances of Alzheimer's:
- Physical activity - anytime you get your heart pumping, there's an increase of blood flow to the brain. This blood flow helps keep your cells nourished with oxygen. Physical activity has been linked to better cognitive health, and also helps prevent some of the co-factors associated with Alzheimer's like high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Healthy Diet - Studies show that a Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on healthy fats, could possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. The Mediterranean diet urges a reduced consumption of red meat, the replacement of butter with olive oil, fish or poultry twice weekly, and an increase in healthy whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
- Mental and Social Activity- Keep your brain healthy and active by learning new skills and challenging yourself with new education, skills, or hobbies. Social engagement is also a key factor: hanging out with friends and family, volunteering with others, or simply getting more involved in your community can help prevent cognitive decline.
Though statistics on Alzheimer rates in 2018 can seem discouraging, researchers are pouring their resources into new drugs that might not only treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's, but go after the root causes for an actual cure. Until then, it's important for adopt an active lifestyle, eat a healthy diet, and to keep your brain sharp with mental and social engagement.
When it comes to Alzheimer's, we remain optimistic about the future of care. And we're here to help families transition to care in difficult times. For more information, contact us today.