If you’ve ever lived with someone suffering from the horrible effects of Alzheimer’s, you know that you’d do almost anything to stop this disease in its tracks. If you’ve been spared that experience, take a look at Nancy Reagan’s face at her husband’s funeral. That’s the look of somebody who has acted as caretaker for a man who was at one time the most powerful person in the free world, and then, not such a long time later, wasn’t entirely sure where, or who, he was.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the drugs that promise to effectively treat this disease actually worked?
As a doctor familiar with Alzheimer’s and its effects on families, I’m sad to say that they don’t. At least not very well. The drugs we have, though widely advertised, are little more effective than placebo, and for this reason some doctors no longer prescribe them. In fact, in a recent independently funded study, Dr. Richard Grey concluded Aricept, the most popular drug in the class of Alzheimer’s treatments, was “worthless.”
Why don’t Alzheimer’s drugs work?
According to a leading researcher of Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials, Dr. Paul Aisen (photo), our drugs don’t work because doctor’s like me are not prescribing them early enough. Dr. Aisen suggested Alzheimer’s should be diagnosed 10 years earlier than it currently is, before most symptoms develop. He proposes implementing his newly developed tests to detect it early. He is also developing new guidelines for doctor’s to follow to enforce this testing on all of us, and his ideas are being heavily promoted in the New York Times, ABC news, and elsewhere.
There’s a small problem. His plan has no basis in medical fact. Unlike treatable diseases like say asthma, in which spasms of the muscles in the lungs can be blocked with albuterol or atrovent, or hypertension, in which spasms of muscles within blood vessels can be blocked with all kinds of medications, Alzheimer’s is not a “blockable” disease. At its core, Alzheimer’s patients suffer from a lack of action within the brain, and lack of action can’t be blocked. So what we’re left with is natural prevention.
Unfortunately, since the money for useless drugs and expensive testing comes out of our pockets so indirectly (though insurance premiums) and since we keep keep hearing that Alzheimer’s is “poorly understood,” nobody calls people like Dr. Aisen to task on their logic. And everyone making money developing tests and selling pills is smiling all the way to the bank.
What do you think?
Should people be tested for Alzheimer’s early? Would you want to know if you were in the early stages of Alzheimer’s? What about your spouse? Or you sister, brother, mom, or dad? Would you be willing to take a pill? What about change your diet? Please post your comments; We want to hear your opinions and experiences!
Here’s what we know about preventing Alzheimer’s.
Inflammation and the resulting premature nerve cell death are the underlying physical cause of Alzheimer’s. Emotions play a role, too. Depression and lack of engagement and excitement about the future often forewarn of an impending decline in mental function.
Bottom line, if you want to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s you have to do more than pop a pill. You have to reduce your body’s tendency toward inflammation. As I’ve written elsewhere, the two key factors that promote inflammation are sugar/carb and vegetable oil consumption. Exercise and activity also reduce inflammation and, if you are already active, the most important thing you can do for your brain is to get these foods out of your diet. Once you do, you’ll set your mind and your body on course for long-term health.