No News Is Bad News

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It appears that that the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s has stalled. Each summer the Alzheimer’s Association holds an international summit where researchers report on advances in the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. This year, the gathering was notable for its lack of new information.

The paper that received the most publicity was simultaneously reported in The Lancet, a leading British medical journal. It identified nine lifestyle approaches that were likely to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. The report was not the result of a clinical trial that followed a large population over time, but a result of a meta analysis, a statistical modeling of data developed by many other studies over time. The study did not identify which of these nine practices were the most efficacious, and the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded there was no proof to support the paper’s conclusions.

The operative assumption behind this work is that the brain changes slowly over the years before any cognitive impairment is noticed. By consciously opting for healthy choices through the life span, people can prevent or delay the onset of the disease, which theoretically will reduce the number of cases of Alzheimer’s at any given time by up to one-third.

The report lays out its recommendations based on age:

During Childhood:

  • Get a solid education

During Middle Years:

  • Control blood pressure
  • Prevent obesity
  • Treat hearing loss
  • Don’t smoke

During Late Years:

  • Adjust diet to avoid and/or treat diabetes
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Maintain social connections
  • Treat depression

The Alzheimer’s Association has distilled the study on its website to Ten Ways to Love Your Brain.

None of this is new information. It is a basic road map for healthy living, one that is likely to reduce the chances of developing any one of a number of illnesses. For the millions of Boomers who are worried about their cognitive health and who already practice healthy lifestyles, the frustration is growing. Billions of dollars have been spent seeking to find the silver bullet that will inoculate us all from the destruction of Alzheimer’s, without success.

 

Is it time for the research community to re-assess its game plan?

 

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