This fall, thousands of people have joined walks in their North Shore Communities to help raise money for Alzheimer’s care and research. During November’s National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, the Alzheimer’s Association is still actively raising awareness about this disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the seventh leading cause of death in Canada. It is the only leading cause of death in the top 10 in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cure or slowed.
Ruth Drew, Director of Family and Information Services at the Alzheimer’s Association, answered our questions about the status of research for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Q: As people join in walks to “end” Alzheimer’s this fall, what does that mean?
A: Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research programs. Held in more than 600 communities across the country, Walk to End Alzheimer’s participants are invited to start or join a team and help raise awareness and critically needed funds. In 2014, more than $67 million was raised for care and research. For more information, visit alz.org/walk.
Q: There are a lot of stories in the media about drugs or therapy that can help stave of symptoms of the disease, but what’s real?
A: Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or way to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
However, there is evidence that regular physical activity, staying mentally and socially active and eating a heart-healthy diet can reduce the risk of cognitive decline as we age, and possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. To learn more checkout the Alzheimer’s Association’s 10 Ways to Love Your Brain.
Q: When people talk about a cure, does that mean to prevent the disease from occurring at all or to stop it in its tracks or reverse it?
A: In contrast, many of the new drugs in development aim to modify the disease process itself, by impacting one or more of the many wide-ranging brain changes that Alzheimer’s causes. These changes offer potential “targets” for new drugs to stop or slow the progress of the disease. Many researchers believe successful treatment will eventually involve a “cocktail” of medications aimed at several targets, similar to current state-of-the-art treatments for many cancers and AIDS.
Q: Are there promising medications or therapies currently available to stem the progression of the disease?
A: Finding better treatments and prevention strategies for the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s is a priority for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Although current medications cannot cure Alzheimer’s or stop it from progressing, they may help lessen symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion, for a limited time.
Researchers are looking for new treatments to alter the course of the disease and improve the quality of life for people with dementia.