Bad news about reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s

While we can accept that Alzheimer’s is a progressive deteriorating brain disease without effective treatment and cure, it’s harder to believe that we can’t do something to prevent its onset in the first place.

Now that we have a surge of baby boomers about to create disproportionate aging population with dementia and Alzheimer’s, the race is on to stem the tide, in hopes that medical science will come to the rescue.

Here’s 3 pieces of bad news while we wait.

  1. Research funding for Alzheimer’s to date has been woefully inadequate when compared to what has been spent on cancer and heart disease.
  2. Our health care system is unprepared, and much of the burden will fall to Medicare (yes, that same program Congress has a problem wrapping its head around).
  3. In 2010 the National Institutes of Health released a panel report “Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Decline.” The NIH panel stated they could not support any method currently being suggested, including – diet, exercise, social engagement, supplements, prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, and any weak correlations between lifestyle choices and reduced risk.

The primary reason for such a position is the lack of adequate data to determine “… the impact of successful aging strategies.” At the same time, the NIH panel did not discourage healthy habits for lifestyle, especially those related to control of weight and hypertension as well as exercise.

The NIH views dementia as a complexity of aging and disease pathologies, and by its very nature may make the evaluation of different treatments and preventions difficult to determine.

This appears to be a disappointment to those seeking confirmation of ways to reduce or prevent dementia/Alzheimer’s. However, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America in response to this report released a statement saying they will continue with “… interventions to improve cognitive functions [that] are not harmful, … encourage health behaviors such as exercise or control of hypertension, that have multiple other proven health benefits, and spotlight the available, credible scientific data that suggests brain benefits.”

Since many of the causative factors of dementia/ Alzheimer’s remain unclear, taking an approach to creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for both body and brain seems to be the best choice we all have as a successful aging strategy.