Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive case of dementia in which the patient’s cognitive ability, memory, and normal functioning are diminished. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease has been found to be the most common cause of dementia. Dementia due to Alzheimer’s is directly proportional to age and with passing time the number of patients also increases. In the same vein, according to statistics, the number of sufferers is expected to double in the future, even surpassing death by stroke and heart disease. Therefore, the need for medication that works against the disease has gained further importance and momentum. The present treatment for the disease only targets its symptoms, but new medications are on the horizon.
Present treatments for Alzheimer’s
The present treatment is only for managing symptoms of Alzheimer’s; it can’t cure the disease or stop or delay its progression. Two classes of FDA-approved drugs are currently being used to manage the symptoms. These include N-methyl-D-aspartate or NMDA, which is a receptor antagonist, and cholinesterase inhibitors or ChEIs. Upon diagnosis, the initial treatment consists of cholinesterase inhibitors. These include rivastigmine, tacrine, galantamine, and donepezil. The NMDA receptor antagonist memantine is used either as a monotherapy or as an adjuvant to cholinesterase inhibitors for managing the symptoms of the disease.
There are a number of medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s that are in the pipeline, with studies being conducted to judge their effectiveness.
- The first medication is to target beta amyloid clumps called plaques, the presence of which is a sign of Alzheimer’s. The plaques can be targeted using monoclonal antibodies, such as solanezumab and aducanumab. Beta amyloids combine with the Fyn protein to destroy nerve cell synapses during the course of the disease. The cancer drug saracatinib is being tested to prevent this destruction of nerve connections. Another strategy is to block the production of beta amyloid itself using enzyme inhibitors.
- When the tau protein twists into tangles, which are microscopic fibers, it leads to collapse of the transport system of the brain. A tau vaccine and tau aggression inhibitors are being studied as likely treatments.
- Low levels of brain cell inflammation are caused by Alzheimer’s, and research is being carried out to combat this.
- Research is even being conducted to study insulin resistance and its effect on Alzheimer’s.
- The connections among heart, health, and brain are also being studied, revealing that with an increase in heart conditions the chances of Alzheimer’s also increases. Thus, treatments for heart conditions are being developed too.
Reduction of risk for Alzheimer’s
The risk of Alzheimer’s, especially in the aging population, is high. A few steps can be taken to reduce the risk. These include being physically active and exercising regularly. Muscle building exercises must be inculcated to pump the brain along with coordination and balance exercises. A healthy diet and quality sleep are equally important. Stimulation of one’s mental abilities is also highly recommended, such as solving puzzles, learning something new, and testing one’s memory. Being socially active helps keep the disease at bay too. All of these reduce stress and in turn reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.