How can I slow Alzheimer’s disease progression?
This week we continue our interview with Dr. Ashford and he explains why the Alzheimer’s research field has not been very productive and why it is in a “totally misguided direction.” Dr. Ashford also wants to educate you on how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Dementia can be preventable and it is best to understand and eliminate potential risk factors that you may be dealing with. Read along as we continue our interview from Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio.
Dr. Ashford can you tell us the status of some of the current Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research out there. I know you had mentioned that you thought we were going to be able to prevent this not just cure it but to prevent it. Is there one or two studies that has you excited that are going on out there?
Dr. Ashford :
Aggravated is the best word for my feeling about Alzheimer’s research. I have been in the field since 1978 and I was hoping we would have finished this whole thing 10 or 15 years ago. We are still dealing with it. There is an article that was both in Nature and Scientific America, very prestigious magazines, in June of 2014 that talked about where research was going in the field of Alzheimer’s disease. Since 1994 the field of Alzheimer’s disease has been dominated by something called the Beta-amyloid Hypothesis, the thought being that Beta-amyloid is the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. There were several very solid pieces of evidence that pointed in this direction but did not indicate that Beta-amyloid was actually the culprit of the actual cause, nonetheless, the field had been dominated by this theory of looking for a way to prevent the development of Beta-amyloid. Which is now know to be a very normal protein in the brain, one of the most highly turned over proteins in the brain. Trying to eliminate it is similar to saying “Ok, some one is bleeding. Lets eliminate hemoglobin which might stop bleeding.” It has been a totally misguided direction. About the same time in the early 1990’s there was a discovery that there is a genetic factor related to Alzheimer’s disease, now nobody like to deal with genes especially if its going to tell them there is a high likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s disease. There is a gene that was discovered over 20 years ago called Apolipoprotein E (APOE), and I am hoping that the field is going to turn back to understanding the APOE gene and what it does.
The issue is that the Amyloid pre protein goes in two different directions it either goes into forming new synapses, which are the connection in the brain, or eliminating synapses. This is right along the lines of what just won the Nobel prize today that there is a constant plasticity and constantly changing connection in the brain that Alzheimer’s is attacking. If we understand that and how the genetic factor is related to that attack I think we will be able to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Bredesen’s article in Aging lists about 30 different factors that were important for Alzheimer’s disease and these are the sort of things that we have to look at to see all the different things we can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Let me give you one example: It is unclear if diabetes is related to Alzheimer’s disease but it is related to dementia, it does cause vascular disease and small strokes which is the second leading cause of dementia. In any case you want to prevent diabetes and this type II diabetes is preventable by doing such extremely onerous things as getting enough exercise, not getting overweight, and eating a good diet. Right off those would be the best things to consider for preventing Alzheimer’s disease or at least dementia.
How to Prevent Alzheimer’s disease
Eat a good diet, get enough exercise, make sure you don’t tip the scales too far in the wrong direction. Another important thing that we have seen is that people with more education have less Alzheimer’s disease, we are very much interested in encouraging people to get good education and continue life long learning, those are some very simple things. You can get into some other things like controlling your blood pressure, seeing your doctor regularly, watching vitamin b12 and vitamin D has turned out to be very important. There is a whole series of things like this, it is going to become more and more important for people to be aware of these things to prevent certain risk factors. One of the biggest risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease is head trauma. Wear your seat belt when riding in your car, if your going to ride a bicycle, which is very good for you, wear a helmet when you are riding your bicycle! There is a variety of simple things that, as we can quantitative them more and more, we can get people educated on what to do. It turns out that there is some recent evidence suggests that the incidence of Alzheimer’s is going down as people are following these good health tips but we need to have it go way down by having everybody following these good health tips.
Dr. Ashford recommends you take MemTrax once a week or once a month to get a general understanding of your brain health. Take the MemTrax memory test to identify the first possible signs of memory loss most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.