Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a devastating, mind-robbing affliction that is now the seventh leading cause of death in the US and the fifth leading cause of death for those over age 65. Within the next few years it will almost certainly kill the more than 5 million currently diagnosed AD sufferers.
Alzheimer's disease research is going at full steam with hundreds of millions of dollars being spent annually to develop products for Alzheimer's treatment and / or Alzheimer's prevention.
As we better understand how AD develops and progresses, the research emphasis has significantly shifted to Alzheimer's Prevention. The hallmark indicator of AD is the development of beta-amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles in the brain. As these plaques and tangles develop, brain cells die. When enough of them die, symptoms of AD begin to appear.
AD appears to be a problem somewhat like Infantile Paralysis (Polio) or Hydrophobia (Rabies). Both of these do massive damage to the nervous system, brain, etc. such that once the disease can be diagnosed on the basis of its symptoms, the damage has already been done. Treatment was not the solution; only prevention would work.
Similarly, with AD the damage to the victim's neurological system, that causes the symptoms, is irreparable. We can not restore lost brain cells, and even if we could, we could not replace the memories and neural paths that the lost cells had contained or been part of.
For this reason, although there are some types of Alzheimer's treatment under development that show promise, the emphasis has significantly shifted to prevention, or very early detection, as the way to go.
While pharmaceutical companies and the rest of the ethical drug industry are deeply involved in Alzheimer's disease research, they are looking for patentable drugs, vaccines or other saleable solutions.
Other researchers are involved too, just looking for understanding. We now understand a great deal more than we did only a few years ago. Researchers looking at why some people get AD and others do not are coming up with interesting findings that apply to prevention.
They have found that heredity plays a part, but the genetic link is much more of a predisposition than it is absolute cause. Environmental factors appear to play a larger role. In studies of identical twins researchers found that one twin might get AD while the other did not. Outside factors apparently triggered AD in one while while leaving the other apparently OK
People with heart and circulation problems or with type 2 diabetes (usually bought on by being overweight), or whose lifestyles provide lower levels of physical and mental activity are more likely to get AD.
Heart-healthy, normal weight people who stay mentally and physically active are more likely to avoid AD altogether. Maintaining proper levels of certain B-vitamins in one's bloodstream, taking certain nutrients in larger than usual quantities and many, many other factors seem to work to avoid AD.
As the clock ticks on while we wait for AD research results, what can we do? Sadly, the current reality is that the medical profession can do little more than make AD victims as comfortable as possible while they are dying. (Although there are some products being tested that show promise at slowing the progress of AD.)
That leaves Alzheimer's prevention as the only real alternative available for those of us who want to avoid Alzheimer's. Each of us needs to take action to affect the AD probabilities in our favor.
Our best chance for Alzheimer's prevention is to "stack the deck" of environmental factors in our favor. We need to use wise lifestyle and nutritional choices to put ourselves firmly in the "less likely to contract AD" groups. Fortunately this is not difficult to do. All you need is to inform yourself and get started!