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Posted October 29, 2019 by Audra E Krebs, MD
Billions of dollars have been spent on researching Alzheimer’s, but it stubbornly continues to affect 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 65. While we are still waiting for a cure, there have been significant advances that have made an impact on the treatment of Alzheimer's and related diseases:
New treatments and positive trials on the horizon
Currently, the medications on the market for Alzheimer’s only relieve symptoms of the disease. None stop the progression. That being said, there are a few clinical trials that are showing early signs of success and researchers are hoping for exciting developments in the years ahead.
Investment in early detection and treatment
It is still very difficult and expensive to diagnose Alzheimer’s, but millions of dollars are being poured into research focused on detecting it earlier and into better understanding of how it progresses.
Biomarkers (short for biological markers) are tests that are used to measure progress (including diagnosing the disease, monitoring the progression of the disease, and helping develop effective drugs to treat the disease).
There are currently three FDA approved diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s, but researchers need to better understand how to monitor biomarkers during clinical trials to make sure the newest drugs on the market are effective.
Better understanding of the process of aging
There are many risk factors for Alzheimer’s but the leading one is aging. Scientists are beginning to understand more about why the aging brain is vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. As researchers learn more about how our bodies age and the issues that come with it, new therapies are being created to help slow down or reverse the aging of the brain, which could also have a positive impact on Alzheimer’s disease treatments in the future.
Many studies test if exercise and healthy eating could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. A study from 2006 in New York City, showed that a Mediterranean diet helped participants lower their risk by up to 40%. Mental stimulation and social health have also shown a promising connection to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
The research and advances that are moving towards safe and effective drugs to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s are showing promise—and it will be exciting to see where the latest research leads in the next few years. In the meantime, the best thing to do for family members who may be exhibiting signs of memory loss is to first understand whether it is normal aging or if it could be possible Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
If you are concerned about your own memory or a family member’s memory, don’t delay in addressing it – treatment works best when started in early stages. At Summa Health, the Senior Health Center provides options for evaluating and assessing memory loss to understand, diagnose, and make recommendations for treatment of memory issues like Alzheimer’s and other types of dementias. Call 330.375.4100 to schedule an appointment.