Many organizations, such as the National Institute of Health and Alzheimer’s Association are committed to the global effort of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Since 1983, the number of Americans with the disease has more than doubled. In the United States, the statistics on Alzheimer’s disease and the effects it has on families can be overwhelming:
- Nearly 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s disease.
- 6th leading cause of death.
- Affects 1 of every 3 seniors over the age of 65.
- Annual health care costs are estimated at $236 billion.
15.9 million family members and friends provided 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care.
Frequently, people associate dementia with aging, but it is not a part of the normal aging process. Dementia has a very broad definition that pertains to chronic memory loss, changes in personality and the ability to think—all severe enough to affect daily activities. There are many causes of dementia, such as stroke, cardiovascular disease, and injuries or trauma to the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is another cause of dementia.
“Alzheimer’s disease requires a specific diagnosis that’s not just memory loss,” said Dr. Kelli K. Maw, Principal Investigator at Meridien Research in Brooksville, Florida. “The criteria for a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease focuses on the rate of decline of memory and executive functions, and some problems with language, visual-spatial orientation and personality changes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.”
The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease can be very difficult to diagnose because a person can still function independently. They are also able to work and be social, regardless of their frequent lapses in memory or concentration. It’s typically the family members and close friends who begin to notice the subtle changes in their loved one. There are several FDA approved medications for people with Alzheimer’s Disease: Aricept, Exelon, Namenda, Namzaric, and Razadyne. These are cholinesterase inhibitors, used to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—an important neurotransmitter for memory and learning.
“Unfortunately, medications like Aricept cause more systemic side effects when taken at higher doses, because the medication spreads throughout the body,” explained Dr. Maw. “Currently, there are medications being tested that enhance the effects of these cholinesterase inhibitors. These newer drugs could potentially minimize the side effects and allow for higher doses of medication to target the brain.”
One of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease is the buildup of amyloid plaque in very specific areas of the brain. The plaque cuts off nutrients and prevents regular cellular functions, leading to the death of neurons. Recent discoveries and advances in medications are focused on breaking up the plaque and preventing it from building up, again.
Researchers have also discovered that inflammation occurs in the brain decades before the condition shows any other signs. This gives hope to the possibility that doctors can determine which people will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease while there is still time to make lifestyle changes or take drugs to slow down the condition. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
Treatments that can prevent or slow dementia are currently in the clinical trial phase and could be available within a few years.
Early diagnosis and treatment can possibly prevent cell death or inflammation and slow or prevent the damage caused by the disease. Treating the disease before it causes more damage may be the key to overcoming the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Decades of research may offer hope for individuals and families who are dealing with this dreadful disease. Physicians and their patients have more options to treat the disease and getting closer to curing Alzheimer’s disease through clinical trials of the latest medications.
If you would like more information regarding the clinical research studies being conducted Meridien Research, please call 888-777-8839 or go to the Studies page of our website as we have six sites located in Central Florida.