baudrunner's space: Alzheimer’s disease is preventable
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Alzheimer’s disease is preventable

A great deal of knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease has come to light as a result of intensive research over the last few years. Some sources estimate that about 50% of people who live longer than 80 years of age will probably develop the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

More than just cognizance and awareness are affected by this insidious disease. The brain monitors and manages heart rhythm, breathing reflex, the immune response, and so on – in short, all of the transparent physiological and metabolic functions that keep us alive and healthy while we go about our business. People don’t necessarily die from Alzheimer’s directly. The disease causes the brain to malfunction in those areas. The normal communication between neurons and neuron networks are disrupted to the extent that their normal functions cease and the body steadily degenerates as a result, leaving it prone to complications from other causes like cancer.

There is hope, in the form of a particular type of vaccine produced by the Merck Company called Zostavax. Zostavax is a vaccine provided only to people over the age of 60 to protect against the development of shingles in mature adults. Shingles is a painful condition caused by the infection and subsequent deterioration of the myelin insulation which protects healthy nerves. A very common virus lies at the root of this condition.

Chicken pox, and later shingles, are caused by the Varicella zoster virus, or cold sore virus. Herpes zoster remains dormant in the roots of certain nerves and can be reactivated during times of stress. Anyone who has had chicken pox as a child is at very high risk for developing shingles in their maturity.

There are at least 8 viruses associated with the herpes family which can infect humans, of which the most common is the cold sore herpes virus called HSV1. HSV1 is carried by anyone who has had the chicken pox and/or who develops cold sores. That very likely includes almost everyone alive.

Recent studies at the University of Manchester of the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients have revealed the presence of HSV1 DNA in 90% of the amyloid plaques found in the affected brain areas. This fact points to a direct correlation between HSV1 and Alzheimer’s.

It follows that a good first line of prevention of Alzheimer’s disease is to treat any HSV1 infection with acyclovir, the anti-viral agent commonly prescribed for herpes. In older people, the best possible deterrent against the development of Alzheimer’s associated with the re-activation of the dormant HSV1 virus leading to shingles is to ask the doctor for the Zostavax vaccine as soon as one is past 60 years of age.

It is becoming apparent that vigilance in the application of preventive measures can probably prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s in people who might otherwise die because of it. I saw my mother go that way recently, and it is not pretty.

1 comment:

Matt said...

This is a great blog dealing with some sensitive issues. I think this site can assist others not knowing how to deal with such sensitive issues. I spent nearly four years working in an Alzheimer’s/Long Term Care facility in Utah and I know the difficulties and pains associated with caring for a loved one. I personally got to know some great people I helped care for and I also became close with some of their families. I also assisted with care planners. I’ve seen a lot of resources that help like this one. I know of one in particular that seems to be quite helpful: Please pass this link along to anyone you feel could benefit from it.