|Country singer Glen Campbell, who has Alzheimer's disease,|
stands with wife Kim during a national conference Tuesday.
Associated Press photo by Charles Dharapak.
One plan of attack is testing therapies before people show symptoms of memory loss, since the disease starts attacking the brain at least 10 years before memory problems appear. An international study will see if an experimental drug can halt the disease in "people who appear healthy but are genetically destined to get a type of Alzheimer's that runs in the family," reports Lauran Neergaard for The Associated Press. In another study, researchers will see if a nasal spray that shoots insulin to the brain can help patients with early memory problems.
Part of the challenge in combatting the disease is researchers are still not sure what causes it. "The chief suspects are a sticky gunk called bata-amyloid, which makes up the disease's hallmark brain plaques, and tangles of a protein named tau that clogs up dying brain cells. One theory: "Amyloid may kick off the disease while tau speeds up the brain destruction," Neergaard reports.
Given the expected increase in the number of people with Alzheimer's, the Obama administration has adopted a national strategy to fight the disease, part of which is a website that is a "one-stop shop for families" to offer information about dementia and links to community resources. Today, there are 5.4 Americans with Alzheimer's or related dementias.
There are steps people can take to protect their brains from the disease, including intellectual and social stimulation to help build "cognitive reserve." Doing crossword puzzles, for example, can help. So can physical activity. "Any time your heart is healthier, your brain is healthier," said Dr. Elizabeth head of the University of Kentucky. Diet is another consideration, since foods that are heart healthy are brain healthy, including omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. (Read more)