There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but hope is on the rise from recent studies that it may be possible to delay, slow the progression, or even prevent the disease in the future.
Experts believe that most Alzheimer’s cases develop as a result of complex interactions between multiple factors, including age, genetics, environment, lifestyle, and coexisting medical conditions.
Although some risk factors — such as age or genes — cannot be changed, other factors can and lowering high blood pressure and doing some exercise, may reduce the risk of developing the disease. Research in these areas may lead to new methods of detecting those at higher risk of developing the progressive, neurological disease.
Cardiovascular disease and diabetes
Both cardiovascular disease and diabetes have been linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. So improving cardiovascular health and keeping diabetes under control makes good sense in decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Other prevention strategies include stopping smoking, not drinking large amounts of alcohol, eating a healthy and balanced diet including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, exercising at least 150 minutes every week, and checking blood pressure through regular testing.
Evidence has pointed to an association between future risk of Alzheimer’s and serious head trauma, especially when the injury involves loss of consciousness. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced by using protective gear such as seat belts while in a car, using a helmet when participating in sports, and making improvements to your home to have a “fall-proof” house.
Social connections and mental activity
Evidence from studies has shown that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active may decrease the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. While the reason for this is still unclear, it is thought that social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.
Prevention studies on the way
A small percentage of people develop early-onset Alzheimer’s (disease that usually develops before the age of 65) associated with genetic mutations.
A study called the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN) aims to identify potential biomarkers that may predict the development of Alzheimer’s disease in people who carry a mutation associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Another study is the Phase 3 A4 trial (Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s; NCT02008357), sponsored by Eli Lilly and the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute of the Keck School of Medicine. It is evaluating whether an investigational drug called solanezumab can slow the progression of memory problems linked to amyloid plaques in people who are at risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
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