Myths and Facts about Alzheimer's

  • 24 Aug 2015
  • Reading time 11 mins
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Have you had one of those nasty moments recently when it is clear that your memory is failing? Confidently rushing up stairs to get something then realising you have no idea what it was? Meeting someone you know perfectly well and being unable to remember their name? A few of these moments and a name that none of us forgets comes all too easily to mind: Alzheimer’s.

Very scary since, as everybody knows there is no cure and nothing really to be done to prevent this horrible disorder. And there are other myths that you are probably aware of. Just give the drug companies a bit more time and money and they will come up with a cure. Another is that the two villains responsible, which can be targeted, blocked or destroyed, are a couple of damaged proteins found in sufferers brains – amyloid plaque and tau tangles.

However it is extremely unlikely there will ever be a drug “cure” because once brain cells are destroyed, no drug is going to bring them back. Drugs block things, they don’t regenerate brain cells. But surely some people are genetically doomed to develop the disease, so what about targeting genes? Another blind alley unfortunately since genes only account for 1% of cases of Alzheimer’s. 1

However there is reason to believe that at those moments when the word ‘Alzheimer’s’ pops up, the next thought shouldn’t be ‘despair’ but ‘prevention’. Despite the defeatist attitude of the charities and the understandable lack of interest by the drug companies, there are actually a number of sensible and plausible steps to take that have a chance of cutting your risk by half.

This was the powerful message set out in a statement by 112 leading dementia experts, delivered to the G8 summit on dementia in London in December 2013. It claimed that half of the risk of developing the disease is attributable to known risk factors and recommended that: ‘Health authorities should aim to identify high risk individuals at an early stage, when intervention is likely to help.’ Adding that: “There is already sufficient evidence to justify immediate action.’

The steps they mentioned included controlling blood sugar and blood pressure, taking exercise, cognitive training, social activities, and supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. This statement has since been published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2

Unfortunately the health authorities, even when they are officially committed to “public health”, have so far proved pretty inept at changing the nation’s diet and lifestyle. The response of UK health minister Jeremy Hunt to the looming crisis, for ......

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