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An Echo Press Editorial: 5 signs of progress in Alzheimer's research

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

EP Echo Press Editorial
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Alzheimer’s disease, sometimes referred to as “the long goodbye,” is a cruel, heartless affliction that slowly robs its victims of their memories and other cognitive abilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Alzheimer’s is ultimately a fatal form of dementia and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Although there is no cure yet, there is hope.

Health experts say that 2022 was an especially productive and promising year for Alzheimer’s research, including new discoveries related to the causes, risk factors and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, according to the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota chapter. In a recent news release, the association listed five important things that were learned in 2022:

1. Alzheimer’s treatments are getting better. In November, pharmaceutical companies Eisai and Biogen announced positive results from their global Phase 3 clinical trial of an Alzheimer’s drug called lecanemab, slowing the rate of cognitive decline in study participants by 27% over 18 months. These are the most encouraging results Alzheimer’s researchers have seen to date for an Alzheimer's treatment. A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision on accelerated approval is expected soon, potentially making lecanemab the second FDA-approved drug in 18 months.

2. A daily multivitamin may slow brain aging. Research published in September in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association found that taking a multivitamin-mineral supplement every day for three years resulted in a statistically significant cognitive benefit. This is the first positive, large-scale, long-term study to show that multivitamin-mineral supplementation for older adults may slow cognitive aging. With confirmation through research, these promising findings have the potential to significantly impact public health – improving brain health, lowering health care costs and reducing caregiver burden, especially among older adults.

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3. Frozen pizza, candy and soda may raise the risk of cognitive decline. At the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) last summer, new research results found that eating a large amount of ultra-processed food can significantly accelerate cognitive decline. The research was then published in JAMA Neurology in December. Ultra-processed foods make up more than half of American diets. The good news is there are steps to reduce risk of cognitive decline as people age. These include eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting good sleep, staying cognitively engaged, protecting from head injury, not smoking and managing heart health.

4. Experiencing racism is linked to poor memory. Also at AAIC 2022, researchers reported that experiences of structural, interpersonal and institutional racism are associated with lower memory scores and worse cognition in midlife and old age, especially among Black individuals. These data are especially important given Black Americans are about twice as likely, and Hispanic Americans are about one and one-half times as likely, to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

5. Wearing hearing aids may reduce risk of dementia. Individuals with hearing loss who used hearing restorative devices had a 19% decrease in risk of long-term cognitive decline, according to research published in December in JAMA Neurology. This data appeared five months after the FDA announced it will allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter, greatly expanding access to 30 million Americans living with hearing loss. In addition to improving daily communication, use of hearing aids may also benefit brain health.

While advancements are happening, the significant impact of Alzheimer's remains, the association added. Over a recent 20-year period, deaths from heart disease went down 7.3%, while deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 145%. In 2022, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $321 billion.

Everyone can help in the fight to end Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer's Association encourages citizens to join the cause by staying informed, making a donation or becoming an advocate for those with Alzheimer's disease and their families. For more information or to donate, go to www.alz.org/get_involved .

Another way local residents can join the fight is to participate in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s that takes place in September. For more information, search for Walk to End Alzheimer's – Alexandria Lakes Area .

Related Topics: ALEXANDRIAHEALTHHEALTH NEWS
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