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Can Alzheimer's Be Cured?

February 1, 2022
Can Alzheimer's Be Cured?
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Approximately 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, according to 2020 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With that figure expected to top 14 million people by the year 2060, the race is on to find better treatments or possibly a cure.

Is there a cure for Alzheimer's disease? No, not yet. However, research offers hope of medications that alleviate symptoms and slow the disease's progression. There are other promising methods that healthcare providers use to help patients maintain mental function and control behaviors as long as possible.

The article further explores the options Alzheimer's patients have in dealing with the disease.

What happens in Alzheimer's disease?

The first official description of Alzheimer's disease was written down 115 years ago. One of the problems in understanding this condition is that it didn't draw a lot of attention until relatively recently.  Before life expectancy increased, Alzheimer's wasn't a disease many families faced. Now that people are living well into their senior years, the prominence of the disease is more noticeable, as affected seniors display memory loss, behavior problems, and other noticeable symptoms.

The Alzheimer's Association and other advocacy groups have helped galvanize the interest of scientists, doctors, researchers, and the general public to further investigate and treat symptoms of this devastating illness, with the hopes of ultimately finding a cure for Alzheimer's.  With more research comes increased hope.

The Cause of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's is caused by a build-up of proteins in and around brain cells, which kills these cells, leading to a loss of cognitive function.  One of these, the protein beta-amyloid, deposits amyloid plaques around the brain cell while the other, tau, forms tangles inside the cell.

The exact underlying cause of these proteins remains a mystery. However, scientists think the brain is affected by a combination of lifestyle, environmental factors, and genetics. With the rise of at-home genetics testing services, many people have become very concerned with identifying genes that indicate a higher risk of developing the disease, such as the APOE gene along with several others. However, genetics plays a smaller role than people realize, as specific genetic changes that point to a certainty of the disease are seen in fewer than 1 percent of cases.

Australian researchers have found what they believe to be the likely cause of the disease. The study showed a potentially toxic fat-protein complex in abundance in the blood and doctors believe it can damage brain blood vessels, causing blood to leak into the brain and kill brain cells.

Doctors are also looking at things like diet and how that affects Alzheimer's disease as certain populations, such as those who live along the Mediterranean, have fewer instances of the disease than other groups. It is thought that increased antioxidants and reduced sugar intake could help ward off the disease.

Can Alzheimer's be cured

Life after Diagnosis

An Alzheimer's diagnosis is tough both on the person diagnosed and his or her family. Many thoughts cross your mind; it is common to feel overwhelmed with questions about what care will be needed, how to find caregivers, how to pay for treatment, and who will be with your loved one as symptoms worsen.

The first thing to do once there is a diagnosis is to give the patient, and the family, time to accept it. Don't rush into doing things. They, and the family, need time to process it and even to grieve.

The Alzheimer's patient should be allowed to feel sad. They will experience cognitive decline and eventually lose things that matter to them, such as their ability to live independently, and their memories.

However, the patient should be reminded they still have roles within the family and even the community. They are still a father, a grandfather, aunt, mother, sister. They can still do things and enjoy things they love. Focus more on what they can still do than on what they will lose or what clinical symptoms they will experience.

Those diagnosed with Alzheimer's need to be able to talk about it with a trusted friend, pastor, or professional counselor. Encourage them to find someone to share their feelings.

Encourage the patient to keep a journal. This can help them sort out their feelings and record the things they remember now. This will help them as they began to lose their memory since they or family members can read it to them to help them remember daily life and events.

Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

Debate exists on how many stages of Alzheimer's disease there are but most agree there are between three to seven stages.

Here is the five-stage list that most agree is accurate with how long each stage can last.

  • Pre-clinical Alzheimer's disease, decades
  • Mild cognitive impairment, years
  • Mild dementia, 2 to 4 years
  • Moderate dementia, 2 to 10 years
  • Late-stage or severe Alzheimer's disease, 1 to 3 years

How to Cope with Your Disease

Coping with Alzheimer's disease will be facilitated by collaboration between the patient, family members, and healthcare providers.

Healthcare

Your doctor and other healthcare providers will be essential partners in coping with any stage or severity of illness, whether you are dealing with early-onset Alzheimer's, moderate Alzheimer's, or severe Alzheimer's.  Your doctor will recommend treatments specifically for Alzheimer's, but just as importantly, he or she will monitor your overall health to protect you from high blood pressure, heart disease, and other problems for which you might be at increased risk.

Lifestyle

There are several aspects of coping with Alzheimer's. The amount of change in lifestyle, diet, and activities could depend on the stage of the disease. Overall, most experts say that life should be simplified. It is important to keep the patient's routine as close to normal for as long as possible. It is also important for them to maintain activities they enjoy as well as responsibilities.

Involve them in making decisions about things they should delegate to others. Move slowly with any changes. Don't argue with them.

The Alzheimer's patient should get out and do things, especially things they enjoy. They can even take a class, like an art or crafting class.

Diet may be something that changes too as new evidence shows the effects that diets have on brain function. This may require some research along with trial and error.

Can Alzheimer's be cured

Tips for Living Alone with Early-Stage Dementia

While some may cringe at the idea of living alone with early-stage dementia, many are doing just that and doing incredibly well. Many have found that Tampa is a good place to continue to live alone because of its resources, transportation, and services provided. Some things need to be in place to make it work.

  • Keep a notebook or calendar of events and appointments.
  • Set up automatic bill payments.
  • Get groceries delivered.
  • Use a weekly pillbox. Put your medicines in it once a week and then you can easily keep track of your daily prescriptions.
  • Get drugs sent automatically by mail.
  • Exercise.
  • Find ways to get around. Eventually, driving will be out of the picture. Figure out how you will still be able to get around to doing all you need to do.

How Is Alzheimer's Disease Treated?

The only approved medication to treat Alzheimer's now is Aducanumab. This is an immunotherapy drug that targets certain proteins to reduce amyloid deposits around brain cells.

However, health professionals also use lifestyle and diet changes to help treat Alzheimer's disease and reduce symptoms. Alzheimer's research is making rapid progress in understanding the disease and hopefully we will soon find additional treatments to help people with Alzheimer's.

Participating in Alzheimer's Disease Research

Clinical trials for people with Alzheimer's are ongoing nationwide, with at least three institutes in Tampa, FL conducting Alzheimer's research. That's good news for those seeking to get some headway with possible new treatments for the disease.

Paid Clinical Trials

One of those is Santos Research Center, which is currently conducting paid clinical trials. They are now enrolling Tampa Bay area patients for clinical research in quality therapy trial programs that are a combined effort of pharmaceutical companies and CROs.

Santos Research Center is already recognized for its professionalism, integrity, and excellent patient care so its clinical trials are also ranking high for recognition in the Tampa Bay area.

There are more than 100 drug trials in the clinical trial pipeline. Currently, 121 unique therapies are going through clinical tests in 136 Alzheimer's trials.

Residents in Tampa, FL., who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's should call 813-249-9100 to see if they can participate in a clinical study. Some studies require a family doctor's recommendation and others require a certain demographic group to participate. However, it is worth investigating because you could receive free or low-cost treatment along with access to new medications.

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Santos Research Center, Corp. is a research facility conducting paid clinical trials, in partnership with major pharmaceutical companies & CROs. We work with patients from across the Tampa Bay area.

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