No one knows how to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers are finding clues to the mystery by studying exercise, estrogen, diet and drugs, and many other avenues.
A special report on Alzheimer’s disease, a supplement to the October issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter, describes focus areas in prevention research. They include:
Physical activity and healthy living -- Some of the most recent research indicates that taking steps to improve cardiovascular health -- such as losing weight, and controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol -- may help prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Diet -- Like physical activity, diet influences conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may be risk factors for Alzheimer’s. A recent study found that consumption of fruit and vegetable juices may delay Alzheimer’s. Other research has suggested this protection may be related to consuming antioxidants (polyphenols) found in fruits and vegetables.
Alzheimer’s vaccine -- Preliminary trials of an Alzheimer’s vaccine were halted several years ago when some participants developed inflammation as a side effect. Those who didn’t have inflammation showed some positive benefits. Researchers are working on a second-generation vaccine.
Cardiovascular therapies -- Some studies of cholesterol-lowering drugs in the statin class have indicated that using these medications regularly in midlife decreases a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s. However, two recent clinical trials found no preventive benefits from statins.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) -- Inflammation has been observed in the brains of some people with Alzheimer’s, and researchers have looked at whether NSAIDs could prevent the disease. Several studies have indicated that ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, others) and indomethacin (Indocin) may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Recent trials that included naproxen, celecoxib (Celebrex) and aspirin found no similar benefits.
Estrogen -- Early studies suggest that estrogen may protect against Alzheimer’s, but more recent studies have not confirmed that finding.
Mental fitness -- Some studies have suggested that remaining mentally active, especially as a person ages, reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
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