Can Alzheimer’s Be Cured?

A fascinating interview appeared in Scientific American this morning.  Mind Matters editor Jonah Lehrer interviews P. Murali Doraiswamy, the head of biological psychiatry at Duke University and a Senior Fellow at Duke’s Center for the Study of Aging. He’s also the co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan, a guide for patients and family members struggling with the disease. In this interview, Lehrer discusses with Doraiswamy some of the recent advances in Alzheimer’s research and what can be done to prevent memory loss.

Some highlights from the article:

  • The two biggest misconceptions are “It’s just aging” and “It’s untreatable, so we should just leave the person alone.”
  • There are four FDA-approved medications available for treating Alzheimer symptoms and many others in clinical trials.  Strategies to enhance general brain and mental wellbeing can also help people with Alzheimer’s.
  • A population study from Finland has developed a fascinating scale that can predict 20-year risk for dementia – sort of a brain aging speedometer.  Obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are some of the culprits this study identified.  So keeping these under control is crucial. Depression is another risk factor for memory loss, so managing stress and staying socially connected is also important.
  • By using a combination of biomarkers, genetic tests and new brain scans, we are inching very close to predicting not only who will develop Alzheimer’s but the exact age when they may start developing symptoms.  This offers huge opportunities for conducting prevention trials.
  • The interactions between vascular disease and memory loss suggest that at least some aspects of Alzheimer’s may be modifiable through diet and exercise.

Read the complete article in Scientific American.

Photo: Les Todd, Duke Photography