Image credits: Milad Fakurian en Unsplash
/
News Article

Alzheimer’s Risk Factors, Future Research

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 09/20/2022 - 09:04

The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), affects over 55 million people globally and around 1.3 million people in Mexico. While preventing it is not possible, Mayo Clinic explains there are ways to reduce its impact in the patient’s daily life.

In general, AD causes the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities. It is the largest risk factor of aging but can also occur to people under 65 years old. AD is a progressive disease that worsens over time, leading to fatal conditions due to its degenerative characteristic that eventually stop brain function. While there is currently no cure for this disease, proper attention and treatment can reduce its progression and improve the quality of life of patients and caregivers. 

Risk factors for AD that can be controlled include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, obesity, diabetes and short sleeping hours, according to Mayo Clinic. Other risk factors are excessive alcohol consumption and environmental pollution. “If one or more of these factors are attacked, the risk of developing an intellectual disability as you age can decrease,” says Ronald Petersen, Director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Mayo Clinic.

The National Institute of Geriatrics in Mexico (INGER) observed that in women, the risk of developing AD is highly associated with metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease or depression.

Research on a possible treatment for AD has been going on for years. A popular hypothesis linked changes in the brain to the beta amyloid protein, which frequently accumulates in the temporal lobe. These changes were said to lead to AD as the protein causes progressive neuron death. The most recent treatment approved by the FDA to treat AD is Aducanumab, which aims to stop cognitive and functional decline among those in the early stages by removing amyloid from the brain.

However, the amyloid hypothesis has drawn controversy in recent months. In a now-called “fraudulent study,” Sylvain Lesné stated that the primary cause of this illness are clumps of beta amyloid protein, known as plaques, in brain tissue. At the time, the findings were received as conclusive evidence for the theory and lead to possible therapies.

During research for more therapies for this disease, Matthew Schrag, Neuroscientist, Vanderbilt University, identified apparently altered or duplicated images in one of the most cited studies of this disease. Scientific journal Nature, where the study was first published, is investigating these concerns, and “a further editorial response will follow as soon as possible.” In the meantime, readers are advised to use caution when using results reported therein.

While more studies are done on this and other possible therapies, a safe way to reduce this type of dementia, Petersen urges individuals to stay active physically and socially and intellectually to reduce risk. He also urges people to quit smoking, get enough vitamins, control cardiovascular risk factors, treat medical conditions such as depression or anxiety, eat a healthy diet, get quality sleep and treat hearing problems.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst