Can Alzheimer's disease be cured? Experts share tips for tackling dementia with a 'new paradigm'

With more people dying from Alzheimer's disease More than ever, experts emphasize the importance of early diagnosis and intervention.

The number of deaths from the disease increased by 141% between 2000 and 2021, according to the 2024 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report.

Additionally, the number of Americans living with the disease is also increasing – up to 6.9 million and counting.

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“As the elderly — primarily baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 — make up the fastest-growing segment of the population, and this same demographic is at the highest risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, it n “It's not entirely surprising that the number of cases continues to rise,” Dr. James Galvin, chief of cognitive neurology and director of the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at the University of Miami Health System, told Fox News Digital.

Older woman

The number of deaths from the disease increased by 141% between 2000 and 2021, according to the 2024 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report. (iStock)

Another factor contributing to the increase in cases is that the disease is being detected earlier, he noted, “thanks to scientific advances in knowledge, diagnostic criteria and laboratory tests that allow health professionals to make diagnoses with greater safety and precision.

Importance of early detection

Early detection and diagnosis allows the family to plan future care at a time when the patient is able to express their wishes and desires, Galvin noted.

Additionally, many medications available to reduce symptoms are most effective when started early in the course of the disease, he added.

Patients diagnosed early will also have a better chance of enrolling clinical tests for new drugs and diagnostics.

To hold hands

Many medications available to reduce symptoms are most effective when started early in the course of Alzheimer's disease, one expert said. (iStock)

“There are newer potentially disease-modifying drugs that are approved or being considered for approval, so patients have more treatment options,” Galvin said.

Current medications largely treat symptoms and slow the progression of the disease, but several trials are underway to test preventive therapies.

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“Specifically, these are monoclonal antibodies against beta-amyloid protein, the building block of senile plaques in the Alzheimer's brain,” Galvin said.

“This is particularly interesting because rather than being reactive after the onset of the disease, these new programs are proactive and could potentially have a much greater impact on public health“.

Can Alzheimer's disease be reversed?

Dr. Heather Sandison, a leading California-based expert in the care of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, said that in some cases the disease can be slowed or even reversed.

“The ways in which individuals can potentially reverse Alzheimer's disease vary, because the causes of Alzheimer's disease vary from person to person,” said Sandison, author of the upcoming book “Reversing Alzheimer's: The New Toolkit to Improve Cognition and Protect Brain Health,” told Fox News Digital. .

Neurologist and patient

Early detection and diagnosis allows the family to plan future care at a time when the patient is able to express their wishes and desires, one doctor noted. (iStock)

“Instead of thinking in one or two ways, I propose a whole new paradigm for thinking about the causes of Alzheimer's disease: identifying them for the individual and creating a targeted, precise approach to treatment.”

A person, for example, may suffer from Alzheimer's disease associated with genetic predispositionhigh blood sugar and a history of strokes, she noted.

“The choices you make each day about what you put in your mouth, how much you move, and what time you go to bed have the biggest impact on long-term brain health.”

Another person may suffer from Alzheimer's disease caused by inhaling toxins from environmental pollution, obstructive sleep apnea reducing oxygen intake, and a history of head trauma.

Someone else may have all of these factors.

“We would treat these individuals differently,” Sandison said.

Older man talking with doctor

“How an individual can potentially reverse Alzheimer's disease varies, because the causes of Alzheimer's disease vary from person to person,” one expert said. (iStock)

Regardless of risk factors, Sandison said the best ways to prevent Alzheimer's disease are to eat a diet rich in vegetablesgood fats and proteins, along with regular vigorous exercise, quality sleep, and daily stress management practices.

“The choices you make every day about what you put in your mouth, how much you move, and what time you go to bed have the biggest impact on long-term brain health,” she said.

Like any complex system, the brain and body require “homeodynamic balance” to function well, according to Sandison.

“An imbalance – too much, too little, in the wrong place, at the wrong time – will create dysfunction and, in the case of the body and brain, disease,” she warned.

“The main causes of brain imbalance include toxins, nutrients, stressors, structure, infections and signaling.”

Woman looking out the window

The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease now stands at 6.9 million. Like any complex system, the brain and body require “homeodynamic balance” to function well, an expert has said. (iStock)

With her reversal techniques, Sandison said she gets the best results with patients who are younger than 75, have MoCA (Montreal Cognitive Assessment) scores of 18 and above, and have a support network of their loved ones around them, “so that they can fully dive.” in the lifestyle changes“.

She added: “That being said, we have seen miraculous results with patients in their 80s with single-digit MoCA scores.”

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“You don’t have to be perfect, but to get results you have to be willing and able to make changes,” Sandison continued.

“If you have that, there is room for hope, no matter how the disease progresses.”

To her patients, Sandison recommends combining lifestyle recommendations with conventional medicine.

“Diet, lifestyle and functional medicine approaches are best used in collaboration with a primary care provider and neurologist on your team,” she said.

“I am hopeful that in the future we will use the anti-plaque medications to reduce structural changes in the brain…in combination with a multi-pronged approach to reversing Alzheimer's disease.

“Connection rather than correction”

Sandison coined the “connection rather than correction” approach as a way to help caregivers cope with what can often feel like an “overwhelming burden.”

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“There are complex emotions, from joy and gratitude for precious time spent with a loved one to grief and despair when you slowly lose them,” she said.

“The physical, financial and emotional toll adds up.”

heart-shaped bowl with fruits and vegetables

Regardless of a person's risk factors, experts recommend eating a diet rich in vegetables, good fats and protein, combined with regular vigorous physical activity to help reduce the risk of dementia. (iStock)

One way to reduce the burden is to accept that your loved one has changed and stop correcting them, according to Sandison.

“Focus your energy on connecting with them in a way that honors their current capacity,” she advised.

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“If they make a mistake with a word, repeat a question, or miss an appointment… make accommodations and focus on the positive aspects of the day, without dwelling or dwelling on the mistake.”

man with Alzheimer's supported by his wife

The “connection rather than correction” approach is one way to help caregivers cope with what can often feel like an “overwhelming burden,” an expert has said. (iStock)

Having compassion for loved ones with dementia and understanding that they have an illness they can't control can help reframe these frustrating situations, she said.

“We all function better when we have connections with others and when we can avoid the unnecessary stress of feeling that we are wrong or that we have displeased someone,” Sandison added.

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The biggest myth surrounding brain health, she says, is that nothing can be done to prevent or reverse dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

“That’s just not true,” she said. “It’s almost overwhelming how much can be done to optimize cognitive function at any stage of life.”

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