What Will It Take to Prevent Dementia?
If we are lucky enough to reach age 85, we face a 25 percent chance of dementia, and the odds worsen with time. Some 50 million people worldwide were living with dementia in 2017, and that number is predicted to double every 20 years so that by 2050, the afflicted population will reach 132 million. The most common cause is Alzheimer’s disease, an invariably progressive condition that evolves from mild confusion to personality changes and ultimately to damage that affects the ability to move, communicate or eat. This terrifying diagnosis has eluded significant treatment breakthroughs, but novel and intensive research is underway to change that. Here’s where the hope lies.
Paul AisenFounding Director, Alzheimer's Therapeutic Research Institute, Keck Sc...
Roberta BrintonDirector, Center for Innovation in Brain Science, University of Arizon...
Allan LeveyBetty Gage Holland Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology, Direc...
Kenneth DavisCEO, Mount Sinai Health System
It’s a staggering statistic: women have a twofold greater lifetime risk than men of developing Alzheimer’s. Roberta Brinton, professor at the University of Arizona, says that although women tend to live longer than men and Alzheimer’s presents itself later in life, that’s not the full picture behind the statistic
Big IdeaWhat our work has shown is that it’s not that women live longer than men, it’s that women start [developing Alzheimer’s] earlier.Roberta Brinton
Women can develop detectable signs of Alzheimer’s as early as perimenopause, according to Brinton. The good news, says Brinton, is that some simple metabolic tests can help identify women at risk during these early stages.
Conventional medical wisdom says that increasing overall brain health (also called brain resiliency) through social interaction, learning languages, crossword puzzles, etc., can only help in warding off deleterious symptoms of Alzhiemers. But does brain resiliency actually play a role in treating Alzheimer's itself, or is a resilient brain just better able to weather the symptoms? This question exposes a rift within the medical community, and Allan Levey and Paul Eisen are eager to debate each other about it:
Although 35 different Alzheimer’s drug trials fell flat, Allan Levey explains how this catalyzed pharmaceutical leaders to overhaul their whole research process. When drug companies realized they were duplicating fruitless efforts to develop an Alzheimer’s treatment, they came together with government agencies to share data and resources in a partnership called the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP).
By the Numbers
Paul Eisen says that almost all Alzheimer’s researchers agree that until an effective treatment is found, no option should be left on the table. With a disease as complex and insidious as Alzheimer’s, the range of possible treatments has to be narrowed before real progress can be made.