Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia, a general term to describe a group of conditions that impairs brain function and compromises the ability to think clearly and rationally. Alzheimer’s is progressive and irreversible, with symptoms likely to develop slowly, worsen over time, become serious enough to impede on daily life, and eventually take the lives of those affected.
Unfortunately, the upbringing and pathophysiology of the disease is multifactorial and complex, causing complications in therapeutic advancement. And as data projects an exponential rise in the number of AD cases, there is great emphasis on the need for emerging an effective cure and treatment.
Thanks to past and current treatments, next generation therapeutics may be the answer to deter the expected growth of Alzheimer’s disease, along with ensuring a greater quality of life for those affected and their corresponding family members and caregivers.
Treatment Options for Alzheimer’s Disease
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but rather drug and non-drug therapies to help mitigate both cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
• Medications for Memory Loss
At this time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two medications to lessen symptom severity of memory loss and confusion. Cholinesterase inhibitors are often prescribed for early to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease, while memantine is approved to treat moderate to severe AD. However, doctors sometimes prescribe both types of medications together dependent on the individualized need.
• Treating Behavioral and Sleep Changes
Aside from memory loss, those affected with AD are also likely to experience behavioral and sleep changes. The way irritability, anxiety, depression, anger, sleep disturbances, and other emotions are managed depend on the situation at hand, although medical factors, coping strategies, environmental changes, and medications are commonly considered and used.
• Alternative Treatments
Herbal remedies and dietary supplements are common alternative therapies, though should be treaded with caution related to insufficient evidence to support their use and lack of controlled regulation. However, there are a number of backed supplements for cognitive function, including coenzyme Q10, gingko biloba, and omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, some of the most researched and best vitamins for cognitive function include vitamins C and E, particularly related to their antioxidant concentration. Nonetheless, it is imperative to consult your primary care provider to ensure the upmost safety and potential effectiveness of the therapy.
Next Generation Therapeutics for Alzheimer’s Disease
Though current AD management is beneficial, it goes without saying further exploration for a cure and advancing therapeutics is warranted. However, it is important to express gratitude regarding previous and current treatment options, as their development and exploration has revealed a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also have gained greater insight of underlying mechanisms and revealed major progresses, including a deeper comprehension of amyloid and tau, two proteins associated to Alzheimer’s disease, along with recognizing the role of inflammation on brain health. Additionally, researchers are tightening the connection between genetics and AD development, particularly related to apolipoprotein E (apoE). Researchers also associate nutritional deficiencies, smoking, physical inactivity, stress, and health conditions such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol), and hypertension (high blood pressure) as risk factors for AD. But out of them all, advancing age is the most significant risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease, further postulating the need for action, particularly as age is unmodifiable.
Ultimately, the mechanisms surrounding the etiology, onset, progression, and duration of Alzheimer’s disease are multifactorial and complex. So rather than honing in on a “one-size-fits-all” therapy, researchers and doctors are realizing and pioneering the prerequisite for a systemic therapeutic approach, which may include both pharmacological and non-pharmacological components. Piggybacking on this need, Dr. Dale Bredesen and colleagues found vast improvements in cognition following a therapeutic approach, also dubbed metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration (MEND). The protocol was implemented among 10 patients (nine with ApoE4+ and one ApoE4-) with cognitive decline, which then produced general improvements in homocysteine, glucose utilization, inflammation, and other parameters related to cognitive decline.
Furthermore, concurrent and ongoing research supports focusing on the whole person and total lifestyle, ultimately in hopes to reduce inflammatory markers, mitigate age-related changes, and optimize both physical and mental wellbeing. Individuals are encouraged to consume a well-balanced diet, stay physical activity, continue and practice cognitive training, consider clinical Atrial participation, and routinely schedule and attend check-ups with their primary care provider. At an organizational level, the Alzheimer’s Association states, “To ensure that the effort to find better treatments receives the focus it deserves, the Alzheimer’s Association funds researchers looking at new treatment strategies and advocates for more federal funding of Alzheimer’s research.”