Myths and facts: what helps against Alzheimer's?



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Dementia research still faces numerous puzzles
05.03.2012

The wildest myths are circulating in the fight against Alzheimer's. A glass of red wine a day should maintain mental fitness as much as a lot of vegetables or brain jogging. But the facts speak for themselves: So far there is not the slightest scientific evidence that Alzheimer's disease can be effectively prevented.

Alzheimer's frightens Who is not afraid of Alzheimer's losing his mind one day, giving up his personality, losing his own independence and eventually becoming just a burden for the relatives. "If there is one thing in my life that I was always afraid of, really shit in good German, then Alzheimer's," reports Rudi Assauer, who recently made his Alzheimer's disease public. "Don't get demented in old age, that was often buzzing in my head, "said the former soccer manager. Assauer comes from a family in which the disease had already occurred more frequently.

To the best of our knowledge, medication can slow the disease down by possibly a year. Therapy to cure Alzheimer's still seems a long way off. Despite successful research, scientists and doctors are largely in the dark.

Alzheimer's begins many years before the first signs of dementia. First of all, there is a slight forgetfulness in those affected. They keep asking the same question or telling the same story, forgetting how to do everyday household chores, misplacing objects and neglecting their personal hygiene and appearance. In the advanced stage, they no longer recognize their own children. But the disease begins many years before the first signs of dementia appear with the deposition of so-called senile plaques and neurofibrils in the brain. The protein deposits on the plaques mainly consist of the beta-amyloid peptide. Neurofibril bundles are located intracellularly and are made up of the tau protein, which aggregates into fibrils through increased occupation with phosphoric acid residues (hyperphosphorylation). It is not yet known whether tau phosphorylation triggers the disease or is triggered by it. The deposits cause neurons to die, which leads to a decrease in brain mass. In addition, the messenger substance acetylcholine is produced in too small quantities, which results in a general decrease in brain performance.

No evidence of changeable influencing factors in Alzheimer's? In April 2010, a group of leading Alzheimer's researchers commissioned an analysis from the United States Department of Health to help prevent Alzheimer's disease and reduce mental performance. Preventive medicine doctor Martha Daviglus from Northwestern University in Chicago and her team of independent experts analyzed all important examinations. They concluded that there is currently "no evidence of even modest scientific quality for a link between a changeable influencing factor - dietary supplements, medication, nutrition, exercise and social commitment - and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease" the experts considered the situation for the topic “general intellectual degradation.” However, it could not be concluded from this that preventive measures were ruled out, but based on the current state of knowledge, no clear recommendation could be made Criticism: There was talk of excessive pessimism and nihilism. Other scientists praised their colleagues and saw the evaluation as a call for more and better Alzheimer's research. Konrad Beyreuther from Heidelberg University, one of the leading German Alzheimer's researchers, said that now do better research because the early signs of the disease can be visualized using a brain scan.

The U.S. government has now decided to increase funding for Alzheimer's research by $ 50 million in 2012. The national anti-Alzheimer's plan states that by 2025 both successful prevention and treatment of the disease should be developed. However, the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's is increasing age, which cannot be influenced. A genetic predisposition cannot be changed either. Few of those affected fall ill between the ages of 40 and 50. The symptoms of Alzheimer's only appear with increasing age. However, due to demographic change, more and more people are reaching an old age and suffering from the so-called prosperity diseases that did not occur a hundred years ago or to a much lesser extent. In addition to dementia diseases, cancer and heart disease should also be mentioned here.

The number of people with dementia could double by 2050 According to the dementia report 2011 of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, around 1.3 million people nationwide suffer from dementia. Alzheimer's was diagnosed in two thirds of them. Expert Prof. Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen of the Berlin Charité also points out the growing spread of dementia diseases. According to experts, the number of people affected could even double by 2050. However, this not only includes Alzheimer's disease but also other sub-forms of dementia such as vascular dementia.

Steinhagen-Thiessen mentioned as an important influencing factor for the development of Alzheimer's hypertension. Elevated cholesterol and diabetes also play a role, according to the expert.

Recently, scientists led by Li Liu from the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology at the Taub Institute for Alzheimer's Disease Research at Columbia University in New York published a study in the journal "PloS One", which suggests that Alzheimer's in the brains of those affected along the anatomical networks Spreads neurons. The faulty tau protein that is blamed for Alzheimer's disease jumps from neuron to neuron. According to the scientists, Alzheimer's disease spreads further from the cortex in the brain. If the researchers succeeded in limiting or even preventing the skipping of the tau proteins from neuron to neuron, this could possibly help to slow down or stop the spread of the neurodegenerative disease. This would require an early diagnosis of the disease in order to prevent the spread of tau proteins in the brain as early as possible. (ag)

Read more about Alzheimer's:
Deciphered spread of Alzheimer's in the brain
Alzheimer's: More and more people suffer from dementia
Alzheimer's can already be recognized by the nose
Walks protect against Alzheimer's
Dementia and Alzheimer's
Dementia: A growing social problem
Dementia: holistic treatment approach
Over-medication of dementia patients
Alzheimer's is far from curable
Natural dye new hope in Alzheimer's

Photo credit: Gerd Altmann / pixelio.de

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