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Prevention on the Horizon?

Prevention on the Horizon?
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Spring 2019
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What can we do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease? This question has been asked by concerned individuals and researchers for years

Currently, there is no known way to treat or cure Alzheimer’s. But for those seeking to prevent or slow mental decline, and potentially even Alzheimer’s, there is hope on the horizon. Evidence now hints that lifestyle changes may hold the key.

“We’ve seen that lifestyle changes have helped drive down death rates from cancer, heart disease and other major diseases,” says Dr. Maria Carrillo, Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer. “Our goal is to determine if the same could be true for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

What you can do now: Love your brain

Many factors can affect brain health and your risk of developing dementia, including cardiovascular fitness, nutrition, education and learning. As we age, some decline in memory or cognition is normal. However, if someone is experiencing changes in memory, thinking or behavior that are severe enough to interfere with daily life, it’s important to consult a physician to determine the cause. While these changes could be signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer’s, they could also be signs of another dementia or a potentially reversible medical issue.

Growing evidence indicates that people may be able to prevent cognitive decline with age and reduce the risk of dementia by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. The 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, tips created by the Alzheimer’s Association, includes ideas on how to incorporate healthy habits into your daily life.

What you can do now: Control high blood pressure

The results of the federally funded SPRINT MIND study released at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® 2018 (AAIC®) show that aggressive treatment of high systolic blood pressure (the top number in your blood pressure reading that reflects the levels of pressure on your arteries) reduces risk of MCI.

MCI causes a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in memory and thinking skills. While not everyone living with MCI develops Alzheimer’s, a person with MCI may be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

“This study shows more conclusively than ever before that there are things you can do —especially regarding cardiovascular disease risk factors — to reduce your risk of MCI and dementia,” says Carrillo. “We encourage people to know their numbers and talk to a physician about how to lower their blood pressure.”

What's next?

Despite these exciting steps forward, many questions remain including, “As we age, what is the right healthy lifestyle approach to protect our memory and thinking abilities as much as possible?” The Alzheimer’s Association is seeking these answers through the recently launched U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health Through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER) ( This two-year clinical trial, funded by the Association, will examine whether exercise, nutrition, cognitive and social stimulation, and improved health self-management can prevent cognitive decline and dementia. U.S. POINTER is the first such study to be conducted in a large group across the United States.

“We must test all options to treat and prevent this horrible disease. We must find the answers for millions,” says Carrillo. “We are eager to learn the results of this study and determine their potential impact on prevention.”