September 10-16, 2018
By Nan Selz
Executive Council, AARP Arkansas
There’s promising news as researchers attempt to find the cause and the cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In the United States, the rate of Alzheimer’s diagnoses is not climbing as fast as in the past. There is speculation among researchers and physicians that, as Americans control their blood pressure and cholesterol to benefit their heart and circulatory system, they may also be benefitting their brains. There is already ample evidence that physical activity of almost any kind enhances blood supply in the memory centers which keeps the brain healthy.
A number of trials are under way to test whether lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet that are good for the heart can also prevent or postpone Alzheimer’s. Other promising research involves brain stimulation. Several different brain-stimulation mechanisms are being tested, not only to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s, but also to improve cognition in people without dementia. Some of these devices are implanted into the brain, and some are worn externally like a headband.
On another front, researchers found that an experimental treatment completely reversed Alzheimer’s disease in mice by reducing the levels of a single enzyme in the animals’ brains. The results further bolster the theory that amyloid plaques are at the root of this mysterious brain disease, and that addressing these plaques could lead to an eventual cure for Alzheimer’s.
This study, published Feb. 14, 2018, in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, found that slowly reducing levels of the enzyme BACE1 in mice as they aged either prevented or reversed the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, a hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine noted that the results were promising and added further evidence that BACE1 inhibitor could be an effective Alzheimer’s treatment. But he warned that mice are too different from humans to validate assumptions about how these results will impact amyloid plaques in the human brain.
You can read more about Alzheimer’s online at www.aarp.org