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The Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease Probably Won't Come in a Pill Bottle

Updated: Nov 6, 2022

As of 2022, there are about 300 failed therapeutic trials (drugs, biologics, other) looking for a prevention, a disease-slowing, or a cure for AD or other dementias. There is some noteworthy progress. Recently, Biogen and Eisai announced that the experimental monoclonal antibody lecanemab completed a phase III trial. The treatment reduced clinical decline on the global cognitive and functional scale compared to placebo by 27% at 18 months. This is a breakthrough but falls far short of the therapeutic goal of stopping AD in its tracks. And it does not address the ultimate goal – the prevention of the disease.

Instead of a drug, however, there are thousands of research studies over the past several decades demonstrating that AD risk reduction and prevention can be achieved by addressing medical risk factors combined with a brain-healthy lifestyle.

The prominent and widely honored neuroscientist, Michael Merzenich, PhD, a co-inventor of the cochlear implant, emeritus professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, recently contributed an opinion piece with the above title to Medscape, a leading online worldwide resource for physicians and other healthcare professionals.

Merzenich noted that the explosion in research on modifiable risk factors is a blessing. Why? One example cited: The Lancet Commission in the U.K. published a report in 2022, noting that 40% of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed by addressing known medical and lifestyle risk factors. He commented, “I believe that this greatly understates the potential benefits of more complete and controlled management of brain health in older adults.”

Merzenich concludes his article with this statement: “It's an exciting time now in Alzheimer's research. Finally, there is a growing appreciation that there will not be a single silver bullet. It will take an integrated approach to actively manage our brain health with evidence-based interventions. And the faster we get there, the better.”

Each of us needs to be our own brain health quarterback. This means 1) identifying medical risk factors with the help of your doctor and addressing them, and 2) living a brain-healthy lifestyle. This combined approach will put you on the road to healthier, happier aging, better brain health, and a significant reduction of risk for Alzheimer’s dementia.

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