By Eduardo Gonzales, MD
A news article I remember reading a few months ago said that a drug that could cure Alzheimer’s disease was already on the horizon. Is this true? –egbert101@@gmail.com
Several months ago, there was really a feeling among experts that a cure for Alzheimer’s disease was in the offing because solenazumab, a drug developed by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly showed promise in earlier studies. Last November, however, Eli Lilly announced that a large trial of the drug ended in failure after people receiving the treatment showed no better improvements than those taking a placebo.
Experts say that, despite the failure of this much anticipated drug, with so many competitors in the race to develop a drug or combination of drugs that can cure Alzheimer, at least a few will get to the finish line by 2025.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a degenerative condition that affects one in 10 people over 65 years old and nearly half of all people over 85. It occurs when certain proteins get deposited in areas of the brain concerned with memory and other mental abilities. This results in the death of brain cells (neurons) and entanglement of nerve fibers that serve as cables that enable neurons to communicate with each other. AD is a progressive disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, in due course, even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.
The cause of AD is still unknown. It probably results from the interplay of many genes and certain environmental and lifestyle factors.
Clinical course of AD
Loss of recent memory is the usual initial symptom of AD. At first, memory loss is not consistent, the person forgets something one day but remembers the same thing the next day. As the disease progresses, however, forgetting becomes a way of life. In time, intellectual capacity declines, abstract thinking is impaired, judgment becomes poor, and the ability to learn new things is lost.
Later, confusion and disorientation with respect to time and place occur, and personality and behavioral changes—neurosis, depression, apathy, or even psychosis—appear. Eventually, the ability to do purposeful movement and to use words to form sentences is lost and speech becomes unintelligible. Terminally, the person becomes bedridden and totally dependent on caregivers.
Usually, people with AD live an average of eight to 10 years from onset of the symptoms.
Preventive measures for AD
There are a couple of recent scientific studies that suggest that the right diet and statin medications might help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Results of one study suggest that a “Mind” diet can reduce the risk of developing AD by as much as 53 percent. This diet consists of 10 food groups that should be eaten and five that should be avoided. To be eaten is green leafy vegetables—six or more servings a week; other vegetables—at least one serving a day; nuts—five servings a week; berries—at least two servings a week; beans—at least three servings a week; whole grain—three or more servings a day; fish—at least one serving a week; poultry—two servings a week; olive oil—use as main cooking oil; and, wine—one glass a day. To avoid: red meat—less than four servings a week; butter and margarine—a tablespoon a day, at most; cheese—one serving a week, at most; pastries and sweets—no more than five servings a week; and fried or fast food—no more than one serving a week.
Statins, on the other, are drugs that are widely used to lower blood cholesterol, but a recent study published in the journal JAMA Neurology indicate they might have an added benefit of reducing Alzheimer’s disease risk by 15 percent in women and 12 percent in men.
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