Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder which means the neurological functions (the brain) degenerate over time. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia, which is a cluster of symptoms that cause mood swings, memory loss, personality changes, and erratic sleep habits among others.
Over the last few years, there have been some breakthrough studies on people and animals alike. Although each claims to have reached a new and better understanding for the disease, it’s still not clear what’s fact and what’s false hope. That’s cold comfort for aging peoples and even less respite for elders who have recently been diagnosed.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a default diagnosis. A default diagnosis is the medical equivalent of an SAT’s student’s process of elimination. When the cause of dementia cannot possibly be anything else, an elder is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – some have even speculated that Alzheimer’s is a symptom, not the cause.
This diagnosis hasn’t changed and there is no cure which leaves many to speculate “How can we possibly make a breakthrough in researching a disease if we do not even understand what it is?” However, Dr. Dale Bredesen (Professor of Neurology at the University of California in Los Angeles) asked that very question for his research study.
In his research study, Dr. Bredesen reports that there are 3 distinct types of Alzheimer’s Disease. He conducted metabolic tests on 50 Alzheimer’s patients over two years. The three types are as follows:
People who suffer from the inflammatory form of Alzheimer’s have high levels of C-reactive proteins (which increases inflammation). Meanwhile, the non-inflammatory type seems to be tied with insulin resistance and other metabolic abnormalities. And the third type (cortical) is different from the other two entirely in regards to brain activity and dementia symptoms; and the common denominator among them was a zinc deficiency.
What makes this study so compelling is what it implies in regards to treatment. Should this study prove to be true (and it makes a very valid case), then the treatment for each of these subtypes of Alzheimer’s Disease would be very different.
It may also mean that previous studies are worth revisiting with this concept in mind as maybe those treatments and breakthroughs will be more effective if applied to the right subtype.
Dr. Bredesen’s research shows how much we still don’t know about Alzheimer’s and what we need to learn to better combat this disease.
President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, Harry Johns, has been working hard to convince congress that more funding needs to go to Alzheimer’s Disease research. The data he provides is daunting and especially when viewed against how much of government funds are already going to Alzheimer’s care by proxy. (For a better point of reference, 1 in every 5 Medicare dollars goes towards providing care for Alzheimer’s Disease patients.)