The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research. Since 1982, we have awarded over $350 million to more than 2,300 research investigations worldwide.
When Dr. Alois Alzheimer first described the disease in 1906, a person in the United States lived an average of about 50 years. Few people reached the age of greatest risk. As a result, the disease was considered rare and attracted little scientific interest. That attitude changed as the average life span increased and scientists began to realize how often Alzheimer’s strikes people in their 70s and 80s. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated the average life expectancy to be 78.8 years.
Today, Alzheimer’s is at the forefront of biomedical research, with 90 percent of what we know discovered in the last 20 years. Some of the most remarkable progress has shed light on how Alzheimer’s affects the brain. Better understanding of the disease’s impact may lead to better treatments.
Clinical studies drive progress
Scientists are constantly working to advance our understanding of Alzheimer’s. But without clinical research and the help of human volunteers, we cannot treat, prevent or cure Alzheimer’s. Clinical trials test new interventions or drugs to prevent, detect or treat disease for safety and effectiveness. Clinical studies are any type of clinical research involving people and those that look at other aspects of care, such as improving quality of life. Every clinical trial or study contributes valuable knowledge, regardless if favorable results are achieved.
Visit alz.org/TrialMatch to learn more about Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch®, a clinical studies matching service that connects individuals living with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, healthy volunteers and physicians with current Alzheimer’s-related clinical studies.
New directions in treatment and prevention
One promising target is beta-amyloid. This protein fragment builds up into the plaques considered to be one hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have developed several ways to clear beta-amyloid from the brain or prevent it from clumping together into plaques. Experimental drugs that zero in on beta-amyloid are now being tested.
Many other new approaches to treatment are also under investigation worldwide. We don’t yet know which of these strategies may work, but scientists say that with the necessary funding, the outlook is good for developing treatments that slow or stop Alzheimer’s.
While there is no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, emerging research suggests that the steps people take to maintain heart health may also reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
This connection makes sense, because the brain is nourished by one of the body’s richest networks of blood vessels, and the heart is responsible for pumping blood through these blood vessels to the brain. It’s especially important for people to do everything they can to keep weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar within recommended ranges to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Eating a diet low in saturated fats and rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and staying mentally and socially active may all help protect the brain.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.
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