For over 30 years, Alzheimer’s research has sought answers about the progressive and irreversible brain disorder that affects millions worldwide, slowly destroying memory and cognitive skills. While we don’t have a cure yet, research delivered insights into causes and symptom management. Dr. Kulrithra Pisanuwongrak, a distinguished Cognitive Neurologist at Bumrungrad Hospital explore the latest breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s research.
Q: Dr. Kulrithra, can you shed some light on Alzheimer’s research impact?
Dr. Kulrithra: We note significant progress in Alzheimer’s research. The latest advancement in Alzheimer’s disease treatment is the introduction of the Anti-amyloid injection. This innovative approach comes from the existing understanding that Alzheimer’s could potentially be linked to the accumulation of a ‘toxic’ protein called Amyloid in the brain. However, the new treatment may be effective only at early stage and has serious side effects. Thus, early detection and early intervention for Alzheimer’s prevention are of utmost importance.
Q: What are the key Alzheimer’s risk factors for people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s?
Dr. Kulrithra: We found that getting older, limited education level, less social activities are main Alzheimer’s risk factors across age groups. Midlife stress to our brain such as head injury – once or multiple times, having metabolic disease like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or arterial diseases also increase Alzheimer’s risk. And interestingly, current studies have found that not engaging in regular exercise, experiencing habitual constipation, and consuming an unhealthy diet show strong evidence of increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition, carrying gene shortly named ‘ApoE4’ could be one of the Alzheimer’s risks too. ApoE4 carriers are more prone to the accumulation of toxic protein, brain inflammation and damage, which increases their likelihood of developing the disease
Q: How does sleep quality impact Alzheimer’s risk?
Dr. Kulrithra: Previous studies found that declining sleep quality might reduce our ability to wash out the toxic proteins in the brain, which are primary risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Recent research has examined individuals with OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) and discovered that those with untreated OSA exhibit higher levels of brain knots in their spinal fluid, indicative of brain degeneration. Eventually, those experiencing sleep problem should consult a healthcare professional for possible interventions.
Q: How do diet, hydration, and bowel habits affect neurological health, particularly in Alzheimer’s patients?
Dr. Kulrithra: Those are crucial for brain health. The brain is composed of about 75% water, and even mild dehydration can lead to neurological issues and cognitive impairment. Drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water daily is recommended to maintain a healthy brain. Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence supporting a new concept called the ‘Gut-Brain Axis,’ which emphasizes the intricate connection between gut bacteria and brain function. It means that our eating habits and bowel movements can also impact our brain health.
Q: What message would you like to convey to our readers?
Dr. Kulrithra: As we commemorate Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I urge readers to stay informed and proactive in reducing Alzheimer’s risk. Protect yourself from head injuries, prioritize sleep quality and engage in regular exercise to enhance cardiovascular health, maintain a proper diet, bowel habits, and hydration. Early detection through specific tests and interventions can significantly reduce or prevent the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
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