Alzheimer’s disease damages brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. While sometimes forgetting things can be a normal part of aging, symptoms of Alzheimer’s are usually more noticeable, and they become worse or happen more often over time.
Today’s medications cannot prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s. There is a great need for patients to join clinical research studies to help develop medications for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
No treatment is available to slow or stop the deterioration of brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved five drugs that temporarily slow worsening of symptoms for about six to 12 months, on average, for about half of the individuals who take them. Researchers have identified treatment strategies that may have the potential to change its course. Approximately 90 experimental therapies aimed at slowing or stopping the progression of Alzheimer’s are in clinical testing in human volunteers.
Despite the current lack of disease-modifying therapies, studies have consistently shown that active medical management of Alzheimer’s and other dementias can significantly improve quality of life through all stages of the disease for diagnosed individuals and their caregivers. Active management includes appropriate use of available treatment options, effective integration of coexisting conditions into the treatment plan, coordination of care among physicians and others involved in maximizing quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia and use of such supportive services as counseling, activity and support groups and adult day center programs.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the health of the brain — one of the body’s most highly vascular organs — is closely linked to the overall health of the heart and blood vessels. Some data indicate that management of cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity may help avoid or delay cognitive decline.(1-9) Many of these risk factors are modifiable — that is, they can be changed to decrease the likelihood of developing both cardiovascular disease and the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. More limited data suggest that a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables may support brain health, as may a robust social network and a lifetime of intellectual curiosity and mental stimulation.