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Alzheimer's Disease Therapy Options

(continued)

Other Alzheimer's Therapies

It has been suggested that some non-drug therapies also can help Alzheimer's patients cope with the symptoms of the condition. 

Vitamin E. Vitamin E has been researched as a therapy for Alzheimer's disease, because it is an antioxidant that was thought to protect nerve cells from damage. However, many doctors no longer recommend vitamin E, because there is little scientific evidence that it is effective.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Some studies have suggested that postmenopausal women who are taking hormone replacement therapy have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The female hormone, estrogen, is thought to help nerve cells make connections, and interfere with the production of beta amyloid -- a protein that is the main component in the plaques that lead to Alzheimer's disease.  However, more recent research has found no improvement with HRT, and one study even suggested that estrogen use might actually increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's rather than protect against it. HRT also may increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer.

Sensory therapies. There is some evidence that sensory therapies such as music therapy and art therapy can improve Alzheimer's patients' mood, behavior, and day-to-day function. By stimulating the senses, these therapies may help trigger memory recall and enable Alzheimer's patients to reconnect with the world around them.

Alternative therapies. Some people have tried alternative remedies, including coenzyme Q10, coral calcium, huperzine A, and omega-3 fatty acids to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease. However, there is not yet enough research on these treatments to recommend using any of them as an Alzheimer's therapy. The FDA does not regulate supplements as it does medications and there is not standard to prove efficacy. Supplements may cause dangerous side effects or interact with other medications patients are taking. Just because it is sold over the counter without a prescription does not guarantee that it will be safe for you.

Researchers are looking into several new treatment options for Alzheimer's. One of the most promising Alzheimer's therapies in development focuses on beta amyloid. Researchers are trying to develop new therapies that prevent beta amyloid from forming, or break it down before it leads to Alzheimer's.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD on June 25, 2012
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