Preventing Alzheimer's Disease- Information, Facts, Studies
Whether or not the prevention of Alzheimer’s is possible is something which has divided the medical profession for many years. After all it’s very hard to prevent a disease for which there is no real known cause.
There are many studies which look into the risk factors for cancer and heart disease. We know that if you don’t smoke and are not exposed to other people’s cigarette smoke the likelihood of getting lung cancer is very small. Likewise if you exercise, eat healthily, don’t smoke and drink alcohol only in moderation your chance of getting heart disease is relatively low.
Few would disagree with the old adage that prevention is definitely better than cure. So is there something about how we live or what we do in earlier life that increases our risk of developing Alzheimer’s? Certainly the risk factors for Alzheimer’s are definitely becoming clearer as more money is ploughed into research.
The Theories on Preventing Alzheimer's so far...
Since the mid 1990s researchers have known that there is a possible connection between high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown that nearly three quarters of people who die of heart disease have brain abnormalities known as amyloid plaques. These are also seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
High cholesterol is a major risk factor in heart disease. And studies involving laboratory rabbits have shown that a high cholesterol diet can increase plaques and other signs of Alzheimer’s while a low cholesterol diet can actually decrease the plaques.
So could cholesterol lowering drugs and a low cholesterol diet actually prevent Alzheimer’s? A major study in the United States and the United Kingdom has suggested that these types of drugs could lower a person’s risk by as much as a staggering 70%, although a lot more research is needed before these findings can be confirmed.
High blood pressure in middle age has also been linked to Alzheimer’s in later life. Some studies suggest that it raises the risk by two and a half times compared with someone who doesn’t have high blood pressure. So will giving a person drugs to lower their blood pressure reduce or even eliminate their risk of developing Alzheimer’s? A major trial currently underway in 15 countries is testing such drugs and their effects on memory and recognition.
Likewise, could a diet low in fat and salt and regular exercise, which all help to keep blood pressure down, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s?
Both high cholesterol and high blood pressure go hand in hand with heart disease and vascular disease. There is now more clinical evidence to show that there is a connection between heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Heart disease is caused by poor circulation of blood to the brain. Brain cells are killed off as they are starved of a vital supply of blood. Certainly it is known that vascular dementia is caused by a series of strokes which impair blood flow to the brain, so research is now looking into whether this can also cause Alzheimer’s.
If studies prove a definite link between high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease – all of which are preventable through a healthy lifestyle and medication – there is a real hope that Alzheimer’s can be prevented in some people by simply eating healthily, exercising regularly and avoiding certain known risk factors.