Protect Against Alzheimer's - We Can Do It

Dementia does  not affect only the United States or Western nations. It is not a problem exclusively of wealthy or of developing nations. It does not target only one race. Dementia affects everyone. Everywhere. It is in everyone’s interest to cure Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia causing diseases.

 

Cure Alzheimer's | Graph showing the predicted worldwide rise in dementia incidence through the year 2050.

† From World Alzheimer Report 2015
Worldwide incidence of dementia is expected to rise exponentially through the year 2050 unless we find a cure or a way to prevent it.

Alzheimer’s Disease International published some pretty scary projections in World Alzheimer Report 2015: The Global Impact of Dementia. Researchers there estimate that worldwide 46.8 million people  were living with dementia in 2015. Furthermore, they warn that, “this number will almost double every 20 years, reaching 74.7  million in 2030 and 131.5 million in 2050.” Presently around the world there is a new case of dementia every 3 seconds. The costs of dementia are also increasing exponentially. Dementia represents an estimated $818 billion per year drain on the world economy. That amount is expected to climb to $2 trillion by the year 2030. That is bigger than Apple and Microsoft combined.  That’s bigger than the GDP of many countries!

The quest to cure Alzheimer’s has become an international effort.

Some good news! There is an increased determination around the world to cure Alzheimer’s disease. It is partly economic. Dementia care is very expensive on a national and international level, and costs continue to rise. In January of 2011 , President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act into law. The act calls for a coordinated national effort to attack the disease and improve care. The President has increased funding for Alzheimer’s research every year since.  Much of the rest of the world has adopted similar programs and increased their own budgets to combat this coming epidemic.

  • Australia was one of the first nations to adopt a national policy to combat dementia. In 2005 Australia implemented the Dementia Initiative with the explicit goal of “making Dementia a National Health
    Priority in the 2005 Federal Budget with additional funding over five years to take action in respect of community care, training and dementia care research.
  • In 2009 England launched its National Dementia Strategy, titled Living well with dementia. The goal of this national plan, is to ensure that significant improvements are made to dementia services across three key areas: improved awareness, earlier diagnosis and intervention, and a higher quality of care.”
  • France launched their  French National Plan in 2008 focused on care and carer support as well as training for professionals, and on expanding research and raising public awareness of dementia.
  • South Korea waged War on Dementia in 2008 to focus on early diagnosis, prevention and treatment, infrastructure, and awareness.
  • Norway ratified its Dementia Plan in 2007 to improve care facilities and develop awareness and expertise through education and training.
  • Denmark’s Dementia Plan, instituted in 2010, focuses on information exchange, research, and diagnosis and treatment.
  • In 2008, the Dementia Care Plan replaced the National Dementia Programme in the Netherlands 
  • Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy was adopted in 2010 to improve standards of care and diagnosis, improve access to care, and to expand research.
Cure Alzheimer's Disease |The human brain. How soon will we cure Alzheimer's. The world is coming together to attack this disease.

NOT IF BUT WHEN! How soon will we cure Alzheimer’s disease?

The approaches taken by all of these different strategies, initiatives and  plans differ somewhat. Each country has it’s own unique population to consider. But without exception they all have as express goals, to improve quality of care, improve quality of life, and to expand medical research. All aim to eventually cure Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause dementia.

Additionally, the G8 dementia summit in December 2013 created the World Dementia Council. The council aims to stimulate innovation, development and commercialization of life enhancing drugs, treatments and care for people with dementia, or at risk of dementia, within a generation. It will do this by providing independent, non-governmental advocacy and global leadership. The views expressed by the council will be independent of any government and not representative of government policy.

The Council’s goal is to cure Alzheimer’s, and to eradicate dementia from the face of the earth.

A cure is elusive, but I am seeing much that indicates progress in the right direction. It also appears that our understanding of neurology and the brain is, like the incidence of Alzheimer’s, expanding exponentially. A better understanding of the human brain will surely lead us closer to a dementia cure.

Will we finally Cure Alzheimer’s — or prevent it?

More good news. It might already be happening. Despite the projections of the Alzheimer’s Association and other health organizations around the world, there is evidence that the incidence of dementia is actually declining. The Framingham Heart Study¹ has been monitoring a group of  5205 persons 60 years of age or older since 1975. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, investigators reported a significant decrease in incidence of dementia in this group over the 4 decades duration of the study. And it’s not a small amount. According to researchers, “An American over age 60 today has a 44 percent lower chance of developing dementia than a similar-aged person did roughly 30 years ago…” One caveat: The reduction held true only among persons who had a high school diploma or better. OK, two caveats: the trend is seen in most of the world’s wealthier nations, while poorer countries continue to experience increases.

But it’s a start. The researchers don’t know the reason for the decline. It’s most likely a combination of things. But if they can identify the factors that are combining to bring this about, we should be able to apply them to the rest of the world. And if rates keep declining we will eventually cure dementia.

On a personal level…

We have always maintained that certain lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of dementia as well as slow down its progression in those already diagnosed. Could it be that, at least in the wealthier nations of the world that are seeing decreases in dementia rates, certain of these choices are becoming commonplace? There is still much to be done, but quite possibly healthy living will provide the clues we need to cure Alzheimer’s.

Read more.


 

More research for “Can We Cure Alzheimer’s

  1. The Framingham Heart Study
  2. Study: U.S. Alzheimer’s rate seems to be dropping. The Seatle Times; Originally published July 15, 2014.

Millions of people fall victim to scams each year, including an increasing amount of seniors who are especially targeted. Scammers are becoming more savvy and refined with their fraudulent measures, so it is more important than ever to identity the scams before becoming a victim.

Researchers in the U.K. have found declining dementia rates over two decades

There are many reasons to get an early and accurate diagnosis if you suspect dementia. Included: treatment is sometimes more effective when started early, early diagnosis gives one time to get affairs in order, and diagnosis might be more accurate if done early. Most importantly, there are many diseases and conditions that mimic Alzheimer’s disease as well as the symptoms associated with most other causes of dementia. Many of these are treatable and even curable!

It is an exciting time for the science of neurology and brain study. I read recently that we have learned more about the brain in the last five years than in the five thousand years previous. Recent advances in brain-imaging technology have given us some incredible tools for studying this most complex structure in the known universe: tools like the fMRI, the EEG, SPECT scan, and CT scan and the PET scan. These special tools allow us to watch electrical activity and blood flow in the brain as it responds to different stimuli and situations. One thing we are learning is there is a special connection between music and the brain.

At a conference we attended recently we were able to spend some face time with Cindy and Darryl, creators of Serenity Babies. We had a really nice visit, as it has been a couple of years since we last saw them. They shared some tips for using dolls as therapy.

Lifestyle choices reduce plaques and tangles

A study, published Aug. 16, 2016 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, found that certain lifestyle factors reduce the amount of amyloid plaque and fibrillary tangles in the brain. These plaques and tangles are always present in the Alzheimer’s affected brain. The group at UCLA found that the brains of subjects who followed a Mediterranean diet and exercised regularly had fewer plaques and tangles than those who did not.

Until very recently the mature brain was thought to be relatively immutable. Neurologists told us that the brain structure doesn’t change significantly following a “critical period” of development early in life; that actual brain growth and development ends after that critical period in our youth. Or so brain scientists thought…

Some new discoveries change the way we think about the mature brain.

Clothing that is easy to put on and take off can extend a person's independence.

As hard as it may be to believe, there is an entirely new concept in fashion design. Advancing age as well as certain medical and physical conditions make dressing oneself difficult, even with another’s help. Immobility makes it hard for a carer to assist in dressing. However,  several clothing manufacturers, including Tommy Hilfiger, are stepping up to with answers to this problem.  Adaptive clothing lines help people with a variety of disabilities to dress themselves, and help care providers to more easily and more effectively do their job.

Leaky blood brain barrier may be responsible for Alzheimer's disease.

Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging, researchers in the Netherlands have found what they believe to be a connection between a leaky blood brain barrier (BBB) and Alzheimer’s disease.  According to their report published in the journal Radiology a team of investigators led by Harm J. van de Haar saw a significantly higher rate of leakage in the BBB in people who had early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease than in normal, healthy adults.

Just what is the blood brain barrier?

A leaky blood brain barrier may be responsible for Alzheimer's disease, or at least a biomarker.

The blood brain barrier is responsible for keeping toxins in the blood stream from infecting the brain. A leaky blood brain barrier may be responsible, at least in part, for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Credit University of Washington

The blood brain barrier is, as the name implies, a membrane that separates the blood in the circulatory system from the fluid that surrounds the brain cells. Its purpose is to filter out possible neurotoxins, including bacteria, contained in the blood. At the same time it allows to pass those nutrients that are essential to normal neurological function. Because of this selective screening system infections of the brain are rare. Conversely, when they do occur they can be extremely difficult to treat. The barrier also blocks many drugs from entering the brain from the bloodstream, including most antibiotics.

In cases like this it is important to consider the direction of cause and effect. Does the leaky blood brain barrier cause Alzheimer’s disease or result from it. By adding analysis of some vascular diseases like diabetes to the mix the study concluded that the permeable BBB likely created the conditions for dementia.

The authors list two important generalizations that can be taken away from their findings:

  1. Patients with early Alzheimer disease have significantly more tissue characterized by blood-brain barrier leakage than do healthy control subjects, both in the normal-appearing white matter (P = .019) and in the gray matter (P = .004).
  2. Blood-brain barrier leakage in the gray matter correlates with lower scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination¹.

The test group in this study was small, which limits its impact. The authors, on the other hand, feel that the differences between the test group and the control group were significant enough to warrant further study. If further study substantiates this teams findings it may lead to an accurate early diagnostic tool. Early diagnosis can provide a powerful tool in our search for a cure because researchers will be able to look at disease as it is taking hold. It will also give the individual diagnosed an opportunity to participate in the planning of their future.

Related Research: leaky blood brain barrier and Alzheimer’s

  1. Mini–mental state examination; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. Erickson MA, Banks WA. Blood-brain barrier dysfunction as a cause and consequence of Alzheimer’s disease. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab 2013;33(10):15001513.
  3. Montagne A, Barnes SR, Sweeney MD, et al. Blood-brain barrier breakdown in the aging human hippocampus. Neuron2015;85(2):296302. CrossRef,

 

Every year Healthline puts together a list of the 20 best Alzheimer’s blogs.  You can view the whole list for 2015 here.  Congrats to everyone who made it on the list – we thank you for your continued dedication to the caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Here are the first 5 mentions:

Alzheimer’s Reading Room

Alzheimer’s Front Row

About.com’s Alzheimer’s and Dementia Blog

Sharing My Life With Lewy Body Dementia

Alzheimer’s Care at Home