Alzheimer’s Prevention

It was Alzheimer’s Prevention Day this week. With the news last month of a trial offering thousands of people a blood test for Alzheimer’s so they can potentially access drug treatments earlier if diagnosed, I worry that once again perhaps the crux of the problem is being overlooked and this is just another pathway to drugs.

As an Integrative Cancer Doctor, I am aware of more science backed tests towards earlier cancer detection being developed. I applaud the medicine behind this, as earlier detection will mean increased survival rates given the right care. However, with cancer, like most illnesses, prevention rather than cure is the absolute key to reducing down disease occurrence and it worries me how comparatively little research goes into looking into probable cause and/or prevention.

Alzheimer’s is the UK’s leading cause of death and also one of our most expensive diseases with last year £42 billion* spent on dementia care (*figures from alzheimers.org.) It is estimated that there are 55 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s with 10 million more being diagnosed every year. Although there is promising research on the horizon for some new drugs for those already suffering, some of the reported side effects are worrying. And as far as I can tell there is still no cure or anything that will significantly bring the disease under control or do much other than slow progression. I am cynical perhaps, but an incredible amount of money goes into profitable drugs research and sadly little into preventative measures.

What causes Alzheimer’s is hypothesized – we do know there is a small genetic component (a rare single gene which can be inherited) and also a link to cardiovascular disease and diet. There is an increasing body of research shining a light onto the Mediterranean Diet and also the inclusion of olive oil in our diets as a preventative measure for cognitive decline and/or dementia which is promising. 

A Mediterranean Diet‐Based Metabolomic Score and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults: A Case–Control Analysis Nested within the Three‐City Cohort Study – Tor‐Roca – Molecular Nutrition & Food Research – Wiley Online Library

Consumption of Olive Oil and Diet Quality and Risk of Dementia-Related Death – PubMed (nih.gov)

It’s estimated that around 1 in 100 cases of Alzheimer’s is genetic, meaning 99% of Alzheimer’s cases are caused by lifestyle factors which can include diet, exercise, substance use, vitamin D deficiency, exposure to pollution, stress management and others. This is not to lay blame at the door of those that get the disease – but to emphasise the need for education on these serious illnesses and ways you can try and lower your own risk.

I talk about it a lot, but empowering people with knowledge about their own health and their own self care is paramount to the ethos of Integrative Medicine and I think the future of healthcare in this country certainly. Education and prioritising the need for proactive health management must be given back to the people as the NHS cannot cope with rising population rates and soaring chronic illness into old age.

Anyone who has known someone with Alzheimer’s knows what a cruel illness it is, sometimes harder for the families than the person suffering, but in truth there are no winners with this disease. There are already some really wonderful resources out there for families and people who have Dementia and Alzheimer’s but if you are interested, I also wanted to point you in the direction of resources for prevention:





Dr Elizabeth Thompson