The fight against Alzheimer's disease is ongoing. While the disease continues to be one of the leading causes of death among seniors, according to the Alzheimer's Association, medical experts are constantly endeavoring to uncover new ways to treat the illness. Unfortunately, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia have traditionally been very resistant to treatment, with only a handful of drugs available that can slow the progression of symptoms. Recent studies, however, have uncovered promising leads into new potential medications.
As the Alzheimer's Association noted, currently only two types of drugs are FDA-approved for the treatment of cognitive symptoms associated with Alzheimer's and dementia. These symptoms commonly include memory loss, behavioral changes and difficulty thinking clearly. However, the source indicated that such drugs can't actually reverse or prevent damage to the actual brain cells caused by the disease - instead, they act on key chemicals in the brain to slow the progression of the symptoms.
New drugs, new strategies
In recent years, however, much work has been done into studying the specific causes of Alzheimer's so that doctors may more effectively treat it. The Mayo Clinic reported that medical researchers have been associating the development of the disease with a buildup of what are called beta-amyloid plaques - tiny clumps of proteins that form in the brain and damage cells. This small but pivotally significant discovery has guided much of the research done into more recent medications. The source stated that researchers have experimented with drugs intended to immunize from the disease by preventing the proteins from forming into harmful plaques, as well as to limit the amount of beta-amyloids formed in the first place.
Medical News Today described a study in which mice with Alzheimer's-like symptoms were administered an experimental drug designed to reduce the aggregation of protein plaques in the brain. While the source indicated that the results of the study were positive, drugs of these types have yet to make it to the market or receive FDA approval.
A new potential treatment from an unlikely source
Research from the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Mainz, Germany, has further explored these potential avenues for new treatment, and the researchers may have stumbled upon a medication from an unlikely source. Researchers found that a drug commonly used to treat psoriasis may actually be responsible for stimulating chemical production in the nervous system that could reduce the formation of protein plaques thought to lead to the disease. Participants in the study treated with the experimental medication displayed a reduction in cognitive symptoms, and an increase in memory and learning capacity. However, the clinical trial was too small to effectively determine if the new medication could be viable on a long-term basis for patients, and more and larger studies will have to be carried out.
Encouraging brain health is important
Despite these exciting advances, there is still no current cure for Alzheimer's, so prevention is regarded as the primary weapon against it. The Mayo Clinic noted that vascular health may be key in keeping the brain functioning at full cognitive capacity. In other words, cardiovascular issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are believed to greatly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
The good news is that heart health - and, by extension, brain health - can be properly maintained through simple lifestyle factors. Exercise is already highlighted as an important aspect of senior care, but in this new light it's more important than ever to stay active so the heart remains strong. When it comes to mealtime, the Mayo Clinic recommended eating fruits and vegetables that are low in sodium to help keep your heart healthier for longer.