The longer you live, the greater the chance you’ll develop Alzheimer’s disease. By some researchers’ estimates, up to two-thirds of people in their nineties will show AD symptoms. But, even if the disease is an inevitable byproduct of aging (and the jury is still out on that one), it doesn’t mean that its primary symptom — dementia — can’t be kept in check. The new PREVENT-AD cohort study will soon begin to explore five promising interventions:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs. This study will say a great deal about the “whys and wherefores” of the long-term trial that Dr. John Breitner helped launch while at Johns Hopkins University, and which is nearing completion. “Those fi ndings are very exciting,” says Breitner, “so we want to independently confi rm and extend them.”
- Insulin. Studies have shown that spraying a very small concentration of insulin into the nostrils has powerful eff ects on cognition and chemical changes in the brains of people already suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia. Might the same treatment slow, or even prevent, the onset of dementia in people not yet showing symptoms?
- ApoE inducers. One of the most important risk factors for Alzheimer’s is a variant form of a gene called apolipoprotein E (apoE). When people have this variant, they make less of the apoE protein. Some drugs can promote the synthesis of more apoE. “Will these drugs slow the development of Alzheimer’s symptoms? We need to find out.”
- Exercise. Two hours of heart-rate-elevating physical activity per week, already known to improve cognition, may actually stave off dementia.
- A “Mediterranean” diet. Cut down on sugars or simple starches, cut down on saturated fats… cut down on Alzheimer’s dementia? Could be. Breitner points to comparative studies between genetically similar populations, one in Nigeria, the other in Indianapolis. “The American population surely ate much more fast food, and they were two to three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia. It’s worth exploring the possible correlation.”