Dr. Allan Levey on Alzheimer’s Disease

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Allan Levey, MD, PhD
By the time one reaches the age of 85, studies suggest that anywhere between one out of every three or one out of every two individuals has Alzheimer’s disease. What is inevitable is that our brains slow down a little bit. The processing speed at which we think slows down. Lots of aging studies have shown that memory changes a little bit as we age as well. Right now, we don’t know that there’s anything one can do to prevent it. There are lots of risk factors for developing memory loss as people get older. However, there are lots of really exciting things on the way. We now know that Alzheimer’s disease begins in the brain 15, 20 years or maybe even more before symptoms begin. For the first time in my career, there are far more great ideas to test than there are resources available to test them. So now is the time for us really to invest more, to make some important progress in treating the disease more effectively and ultimately preventing it. But unfortunately, we’re not yet there where we can prevent the disease and we think some of the things that might be very important include physical exercise, diet, and mental stimulation, keeping one’s mind active, having a purpose in life. Unfortunately, right now we don’t have a single medication that works for slowing down the progression of Alzhimer’s disease once memory loss has started. There are medications which help with some of the symptoms, but the disease progresses relentlessly. And we are very optimistic. There are lots of new oppurtunities to actually develop ways to slow the disease. But right now, that’s the biggest challenge for us as researchers and there are lots of many ideas being tested. Everything from, will physical exercise slow it down? Will changes in diet slow it down? Will changes in mental stimulation slow it down? Will doing games like luminosity or other things that are mentally activating, will that slow it down? And then the Holy Grail will be, can we have a medication which can stop this in its, you know stop this in its tracks and reverse things? If someone has any concerns about memory loss for themselves or for a loved one, the first thing to do is go to one’s general doctor, their main doctor and ask to make sure that medical causes of memory loss are identified and treated if necessary. So, before jumping to the conclusion that somebody might have a really devastating disease like Alzheimer’s disease, there are also many other things that can cause memory loss.