By: Sasha Klemawesch, RN, MD
Well…sort of. Alzheimer’s has been and continues to be one of the most frustrating diseases for researchers, patients, and caregivers alike. But there may be hope on the horizon.
A new immune therapy called Aducanumab – an antibody against B-Amyloid – is undergoing human testing right now. B-Amyloid leads to plaque creation and deposition in the brain, and those plaques, along with neurofibrillary tangles caused by the Tau protein, are the two key pathologic findings in the neuro-degeneration seen in Alzheimer’s.
The early data is promising; the drug has shown to significantly decrease plaque burden in the recipients’ brains, and many of those same patients showed delay in cognitive decline based on a simple mental status test. However, they did not have similar clinical improvements in cognition scores on more complex/comprehensive testing. It is also not known whether this drug may be able to prevent high-risk populations from developing the disease in the first place.
Obviously, more testing needs to be done, but this drug has been hailed by many Alzheimer’s researchers as “very exciting” and overall, the best news we’ve had in 25 years of Alzheimer’s clinical research.
In the meantime, there are a few basic things you can do that have already been proven to help decrease your risk for dementia:
Exercise: Staying active helps in several ways; angiogenesis neurogenesis, and synaptogenesis. In lay terms, exercise improves blood flow (and therefore oxygen) to and in the brain, helps prevent brain cell loss and improves the connection between brain cells.
Sleep: The B-Amyloid we just talked about? The body normally clears it out while you sleep, and studies have shown that even one night of sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in that protein.
Wear a helmet: sustaining certain types of traumatic brain injuries may increase the risk for developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Eat right: heart healthy diets like the DASH or Mediterranean diets are good, not only for your heart, but evidence has shown they can protect the brain as well.
Don’t worry, be happy: multiple studies have shown that older adults who are depressed are more than 50% more likely to develop dementia.