Last week, I met a wonderful lady with Alzheimer’s. So sweet, and pleasant, but she was about to move to an assisted living where her diabetes could be monitored during the day, and I could tell she was scared. I mentioned to her daughter that moving to an assisted living facility was going to be scary because–well, just imaging waking up in the dark and not knowing where you left your shoes, where the bathroom is, or if there is anyone else in the room! Then I asked her how she felt about her Alzheimer’s. Her response was immediate, “Do you have a rope?”
As much I wish there were a drug I could prescribe to help this charming woman with her terrible illness, I don’t believe there ever will be. Just today, the NY Times reported that Eli Lilly halted a clinical trial of it’s much touted latest Alzheimer’s drug because it made people worse, not better. The drug was designed to reduce protein deposits associated with the disease, and that part of the trial worked. It just didn’t work they way they thought it would.
I doubt that Eli Lilly’s researchers actually believed this approach would work; they just want to get their grants and pay their bills and to do that they have to play the “Next-Big-Breakthrough game.” Now, of course, they have to act all surprised and disappointed. The protein deposits in question have never been shown to CAUSE Alzheimer’s, they’re just something that shows up after Alzheimer’s develops, like scars, or age spots in the brain. Age spots don’t cause aging in your skin, and removing them won’t unwrinkle the effects of time on your body. The real hope for Alzheimer’s lies in understanding the basic cause, which all the research shows has to do with inflammation.
In fact, a second NY Times article out today shows that inflammation underlies another progressive, devastating nervous system disease: Lou Gherig’s. In Lou Gherig’s case, the inflammation may have been caused by multiple concussions. NFL player Chris Henry who is believed to have suffered repeated brain trauma before and during his NFL career. He had behavioral problems in his final years and was arrrested five times in a 28 month period. When he died at age 26, the autopsy showed his brain already contained the sinister inflammation-related protein deposits, hallmarks of concussion-related dementia.
The key to reducing all brain damage, whether after concussion or after decades of life, is controlling inflammation. Take head injuries seriously and if you have Alzheimer’s or even a family history of Alzheimer’s, your best bet is to treat your brain to a healthy, inflammation-fighting diet.