When it comes to treating Alzheimer’s, the best approach may be to think outside the box. Although medications that are traditionally prescribed for the disease are known to have success, treatments for other conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes are also shown to have positive results. Understanding alternative approaches can give you broader options for combatting Alzheimer’s that many patients and families are not aware of.
Traditional Treatments for Alzheimer’s
Traditional Alzheimer’s medications treat cognitive symptoms of the disease, such as memory loss, confusion, and problems with language and judgment. These drugs target protein fragments (beta-amyloids) that build up as plaques in brain cells. This buildup causes the damage that leads to Alzheimer’s.
Physicians will prescribe a drug regimen based on the stage of the disease. While traditional drugs can’t cure Alzheimer’s or stop brain cells from deteriorating, they can delay the disease’s progress for a certain period of time.
Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer’s
In contrast to traditional therapies, alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s have shown to lower the risk of the disease and even reverse its symptoms. Although some of the recent breakthroughs were accidental, each of the drugs listed below shows promises in making Alzheimer’s a disease of the past.
1. Blood pressure medicines:
High blood pressure is typically treated with life style changes and medications. These medicines include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) and diuretics. Each of these medicines impacts the cardiovascular system in such a way as to lower blood pressure.
A recent study at Johns Hopkins University demonstrated how patients who took certain blood pressure medicines lowered their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent. Researchers haven’t yet been able to determine exactly why certain blood pressure medicines affect cognitive function the way they do. But their findings warrant further studies.
2. Diabetes treatments:
Scientists at Lancaster University examined the diabetes drug Victoza as a potential Alzheimer’s therapy. Victoza falls into a class of drugs designed to stimulate natural insulin production for diabetics. But researchers believed it could also prevent the buildup of beta-amyloids on brain cells.
They injected Victoza into mice suffering from late-stage Alzheimer’s. After two months, the drug had reduced beta-amyloid plaques on the brain by 30 percent. And it actually protected brain cells from damage. These results have led to clinical trials to determine if the drug has the same effect on humans.
3. Rheumatoid arthritis drugs:
Physicians generally prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). If those don’t work, they’ll look to biologics. Made of proteins, biologics inhibit areas of the immune system that contribute to inflammation.
At the University of Southampton, researchers have planned a study on the biologic Enbrel as an alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s. Enbrel blocks
(TNF-alpha), a molecule that helps immune cells communicate. Blocking TNF-alpha reduces inflammation in the body. Beta-amyloid buildup also causes inflammation that remains after standard Alzheimer’s treatments. Researchers hope that Enbrel can reduce this inflammation and, ideally, stop Alzheimer’s damage.
4. Cholesterol medicines:
Statins are widely used to help people suffering from high cholesterol. These drugs block the action of an enzyme in the liver that produces cholesterol. If left untreated, high cholesterol can cause plaque buildup in the arteries and eventually cause heart attack or stroke.
Previous studies had shown that statins might cause memory loss. However, the latest research indicates that in high doses statins help prevent dementia. Scientists specifically noted high potency statins as having the greatest effects on lowering dementia risks. The FDA continues to include a warning about the cognitive effects of statins on drug labels. So further studies are needed before statins can receive approval as an Alzheimer’s treatment.