We need a miracle. We need that first big, blockbuster drug that can spare us from the threat of Alzheimer’s disease.
And we keep hearing news that it might be coming. I belong to a private Facebook group for people with mild cognitive impairment, and just the other day someone posted this headline — a possible Alzheimer’s vaccine.
I see headlines like this all the time. Here’s another one.
Now these are still a ways off, but they’re promising. So that’s why I’ve got my fingers crossed. I’m hoping two things.
My first hope is that one of these things works, and we get it sooner than later.
My other hope is that in the meantime, we don’t overlook the miracle that’s available to us right now.
Hi, I’m Tony Dearing of GoCogno.com, the website for people with mild cognitive impairment.
Anyone over the age of 50 lives with the threat of Alzheimer’s these days, and for people with MCI, that concern is heightened, because they are at even greater risk.
We are all hoping and praying for that one thing that deliver us from that scourge, the way medical breakthroughs have for other causes of death.
Take heart attacks and stroke. Back in the 1980s, these were leading causes of death among older adults.
One thing these deadly medical conditions had in common was high cholesterol. We needed miracle drug that could help people bring their cholesterol level down.
It took decades, and billions of dollars, and failure after failure after failure, but eventually science produced that drug. Statins.
What can a miracle drug like that do for us?
Well, we know from a 2008 study that statins reduced the risk of heart attack by 54 percent and the risk of stroke by 48 percent in people with high risk who used it as a preventative medicine.
That’s what we need for Alzheimer’s disease.
When it comes, that will be huge. Champagne corks will be popped. There will be parades. They’ll be handing out Nobel prizes.
But in the meantime, how can we help people — both doctors and patients — fully understand and appreciate the miracle that is available to them right now?
What qualifies as a medical miracle? Well, in the case of statins, it was a drug that reduced risk in the range of 45 to 55 percent.
So let’s remind ourselves what research has shown us the past few years.
Studies have shown that exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 45 percent.
Research has found that the MIND diet, that especially brain healthy diet, can reduce the risk of dementia by 53 percent.
And what about people who go all-in, and embrace a number of healthy habits?
A study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles last year found that combining five healthy habits — regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, limiting the consumption of alcohol, and engaging in cognitively stimulating activities — can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 60 percent.
The researchers said they were floored by the magnitude of that result.
Heather Snyder, of the Alzheimer’s Association, said: “The fact that four or five lifestyle habits put together can have that kind of benefit for your brain is incredibly powerful.”
Now, let’s be clear. This is not the banishment of Alzheimer’s disease. We need some combination of effective treatments that not only prevent Alzheimer’s, but can halt and ideally even reverse the neurodegeneration in people who have it.
The scientists and neurologists that I talk to agree that drugs, and the kinds of drugs we’re working on right now, will have to be part of the solution.
But they also say there’s not just going to be that one cure-all drug for Alzheimer’s. They see the eventual treatment of Alzheimer’s as more of a “cocktail approach” that will include some combination of drugs as well as improvements in lifestyle behaviors.
As those drugs are discovered, believe me, you will know it. There will be massive hoopla.
But what about the announcement in LA last year? Did you ever even hear about that?
These unheralded results — from exercise, from diet, from combining healthy habits — they’re miracles too. And they are available to you right now. Today. Don’t let that be lost on you. Embrace them. Defend your brain.
Thanks for joining me today. I hope to see you again next week. Until then, as always, be kind to your mind.