Alzheimer’s Disease: sorting out all the information

Bonnie Sandler, S.W., The Senior Times – September 2007

In trying to keep up with information on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (AD/RD), I subscribe to magazines and online newsletters related to the topic. My eyes are trained to scan newspapers for anything pertaining to dementia. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of information available. I read one article only to read another that contradicts the first.

The good news is that there is much attention being given to this disease. Scientists and researchers are devoting time and effort to studying AD for a better understanding of it, which will hopefully lead to prevention and the discovery of a cure for this difficult illness.

To date, there seem to be only two undisputed facts about AD/RD:

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.

There is no way to prevent its onset.

I remember when aluminum and mercury fillings were suspected as possible causes of AD. Some of us had our mercury fillings changed and made adjustments in our kitchens, attempting to eliminate the use of aluminum products. I once read that taking an Advil a day could help prevent Alzheimer ’s. I was quick to start popping a pill a day and suggested to loved ones that they do the same. Of course, this did not last long.

I recently read an article in our daily English newspaper stating that caffeine has been shown to slow memory loss in older women who have no diagnosis of dementia. This is translated into three cups of coffee or tea a day for women aged 65 or older. I hope I remember when I turn 65 to increase my intake of coffee. However, somehow I think by that time this study may be discredited and perhaps the side effects of drinking more caffeine may be more harmful than useful.

I have been informed, both through my readings and by attending lectures given by medical experts, that the medication Aricept may plateau the disease for approximately 18 months, after which time it loses its effectiveness. Yet many clients report to me that their loved ones continue taking this drug for years, following their physician ’s advice. New research is now showing that this drug does provide some relief of the symptoms of AD on a long-term basis.

Here are some of the readings that I have recently come across:

  • Pomegranate juice aids memory (remember when it was certain vitamins?)
  • Individuals who lead mentally stimulating lives, through education, occupation and leisure activities, have a lower risk of developing AD. For many of us, this information is not new, yet we all know highly educated, active people who have this disease.
  • A new study shows a link between glaucoma and Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Aricept eases symptoms of severe Alzheimer’s sufferers (as noted above.)
  • One study notes that one Exelon pill a day, combined with a daily glass of wine, cognitive exercise and certain lifestyle changes can return an Alzheimer patient to normalcy.
  • An ingredient in curry may help clear plaques found in Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Raising levels of “good” cholesterol may help protect people from AD. It has been found that those with higher levels of HDL cholesterol have lower levels of a certain protein linked to Alzheimer ’s Disease.
  • Insulin may play a role in AD and studies are underway to better understand the relationship between dementia and diabetes.

This is just a sampling of what I have read in the past couple of months. Although the information can be overwhelming, and sometimes contradictory, I feel that all the attention will bring us to a closer understanding of AD/RD, leading either to prevention and/or our ultimate goal of finding a cure.