Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia which affects people over the age of 65. This dementia is progressive and usually leads to institutionalization and eventual death. Although there is no definitive cause or treatment for this disease, there are some interesting features that distinguish it from other forms of dementia.
When you suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, the brain and various areas of the cerebral cortex are replaced with large plaques composed of amyloid protein and neurofibrillary tangles. Gradually, healthy neurons are replaced with tau proteins. These abnormal cellular growth patterns in the cortex disturb neuronal function and the transfer of information from various parts of the brain.
Recently, researchers discovered one of the reasons why people may actually develop Alzheimer’s disease. In a recent study published in the journal Neuron, researchers working with human and mouse brain neurons were able to isolate an enzyme called BACE-1 which, when combined with an amyloid precursor protein, produces the characteristic amyloid plaque. The researchers discovered that in healthy brain neurons, the BACE-1 enzymes are separated from the amyloid precursor proteins thus preventing the formation of the plaques. The challenge now is to determine what causes these two molecules to interact and what can be done to prevent this from occurring.
Although this basic research is compelling, there are some take away points which are worth knowing. It’s estimated that approximately 34 million people are living with Alzheimer’s globally and the incidence is expected to triple in the next four decades. Certain modifiable risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, smoking, depression, a sedentary lifestyle, lower education levels, and cognitive inactivity are all related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s also estimated that approximately 50% of all Alzheimer’s cases are directly attributable to these risk factors! If the risk factors attributed to this disease were reduced by a mere 10-25%, there would be between 1.1-3.0 million fewer cases of Alzheimer’s worldwide!
The point here is that Alzheimer’s disease can be partially averted by specific lifestyle changes, improvements in mental acuity, and modification in other associated risk factors attributed to the development of this disease. Although valuable research is important to determine possible drug therapies, there are things most people can do on a daily basis which will lower the chances of them ever having to deal with the most common form of dementia.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“Why not everyone gets Alzheimer’s?” Huffington Post web site, August 11, 2013; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/11/why-not-everyone-gets-alzheimers-proteins-enzymes_n_3721160.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living, last accessed August 13, 2013.
Das, U., et al., “Activity-Induced Convergence of APP and BACE-1 in Acidic Microdomains via an Endocytosis-Dependent Pathway,” Neuron. August 7, 2013; 79(3): 447-460.
Barnes, D.E., et al., “The projected effect of risk factor reduction on Alzheimer’s disease prevalence.” Lancet Neurol. September 2011; 10(9): 819-28.