This is the age of health breakthroughs, such as a genetic treatment for a rare, inherited form of blindness. That’s wonderful for the comparatively small number of people affected. But what about a much more prevalent condition, currently afflicting five and a half million people — a number that could more than triple by 2050, to the tune of one trillion dollars?
Alzheimer’s, the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., has long been considered incurable. But several new discoveries are about to change that.
Is Alzheimer’s an infection?
A new study published in the journal Brain reveals that tau proteins, the primary cause of Alzheimer’s disease, appear to spread through the brain like an infection. And just as doctors quickly began using penicillin to treat a host of bacterial infections, the discovery of how tau proteins spread could rapidly herald a cure.
We’ve explored ways to keep senior brains healthy and reduce the risk of dementia for as long as possible. We’ve examined the importance of preserving family memories for those exhibiting signs of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD). We’ve even touched on the importance of preventing and treating urinary tract infections (UTIs), which, undiagnosed, can mimic dementia in the elderly.
Sometimes, though, science strikes gold in unusual places. For example, did you know Viagra was originally used for pulmonary hypertension? Perhaps its more common usage has also helped to lower men’s blood pressure.
Now the scientific community has stumbled on another wholly beneficial medical treatment while seeking a diabetes cure: a positive side effect that “significantly reversed memory loss” in test subjects! The lead researcher said the novel treatment “holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.”
The medication, known as a triple receptor drug, “reportedly works in multiple ways to protect the brain against degeneration and promote growth.”
The neuroprotective benefits aren’t a complete surprise to researchers, as insulin desensitization has also been observed in the Alzheimer’s-riddled brain. It is, however, a highly promising step for the millions who are affected by Alzheimer’s.
Gene Wilder recently succumbed to this cruel disease. His widow describes the devastation of the final years and months of his life, as the beloved actor and activist spiraled into incapacity. Once he was diagnosed, Gene “took the news with grief, of course, but also astonishing grace. I watched his disintegration each moment of each day for six years.”
Sadly, the diabetes/Alzheimer’s discovery came too late for Gene Wilder. But it may be right on time for future HECM clients, or their spouses or other loved ones.
Marriage: the best dementia protection
The best tried-and-true medicine for protecting the brain against Alzheimer’s may be something your reverse mortgage prospects are already “taking”: a loving spouse.
Data from 15 combined studies of more than 812,000 people worldwide showed that those who were widowed had a 20 percent higher risk of developing dementia than their married counterparts, and those who had never married had a 42 percent higher risk.
These findings correlate with research on elder orphans, social isolation and loneliness, and reaffirm the need for seniors who are widowed, never married, divorced, or otherwise solo to gather a tribe for their later years.
The extra few minutes you spend talking with a HECM prospect, the card you take a moment to pick out and mail, the introduction to another senior or social resource, could ultimately help save a senior’s mind — and life.