Many people understand the desperation felt by family members of Alzheimer’s patients. For more than a hundred years, scientists have tried to find a cure for this disease that destroys the memory of more than 5.3 million Americans. A research team has even suggested that marijuana may help cure this debilitating disease. The frustratingly slow research into Alzheimer’s disease leaves many looking answers to this disease that tears to shreds many families, but the answer will surely come from research labs not cupboards.
Over the last 30 years, researchers have pointed to aluminum, excess zinc, food-borne diseases, and viruses as possible causes. Others have suggested that the cure is to consume large amounts of cayenne pepper or coconut oil. Marijuana joins the growing list of failed ideas. Unfortunately, these ideas will never succeed because they are not founded on good science.
Desperate families have been quick to jump on the bandwagon of drug-free approaches for Alzheimer’s patients. Fueling the excitement are mainstream news reporters looking for interesting stores and celebrities looking to make headlines. This gives many people, including those who are well educated, false hope that a simple cure may be found. Unfortunately, as the media and celebrities move away from each story, it can leave many families with an even deeper sense of hopelessness.
The answers will never come easily. The answers will only come as doctors use scientific methods to look for new drugs that will help patients. It will come from understanding how molecules work together, genomes are sequentially arranged, and the role that enzymes play. The answers also will come when people are willing to sacrifice their time to participate in clinical studies.
Researchers know that the disease often takes many years to develop. They know that the beta-amyloid protein is found in excess in some Alzheimer’s patients’ nerve cells. In other cases, researchers know that the conditions for this disease are created by strokes. Many researchers also believe that head injuries can accentuate Alzheimer’s. When nerves tangle, chronic inflammation can damage the brain. Researchers know that this process occurs much faster in some people than in others.
Not exercising, lack of sleep, and eating an unhealthy diet all seem to play a minor role in the development of this disease. The largest factor is age with over 50 percent of all people over the age of 85 having the disease. Alzheimer’s can start much earlier, however, with one in eight people showing signs by the time they are 65 years of age.
The cure for Alzheimer’s starts in a lab, not the cupboard, as researchers arrive at new drugs that will reduce the amount of plaque in the brains of patients, help nerves to make correct connections and help reduce inflammation in the brain.