Alzheimer’s Insights: Being Thankful

Published 10:38 am Saturday, November 30, 2019

What are you thankful for this year?   I hope you are both healthy and happy.  At the Alzheimer’s Association, we have five major items to be thankful for as researchers worldwide continue to advance toward one day stopping Alzheimer’s disease dead in its tracks.

First, a healthy lifestyle may counteract a genetic risk for dementia.

New research reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2019 in Los Angeles suggests healthy lifestyle choices — including a healthy diet, exercise, and cognitive stimulation — may decrease the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Second, there is a global “race” to uncover and develop new screening and diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s disease, such as a blood test that could be given at your doctor’s office.

A new report at AAIC 2019 describes methods for measuring abnormal versions of amyloid protein, which is the building block of one of the hallmark brain lesions of Alzheimer’s disease, in blood and correlating it with established Alzheimer’s markers. Two additional reports describe new blood-based methods for assessing alpha-synuclein, which contributes to the brain changes of Parkinson’s disease and Dementia with Lewy Bodies, and neurofilament light, which may turn out to be the most reliable indicator of general brain cell damage.

Third, the risk and progression of Alzheimer’s appears to differ by sex. 

Two-thirds of people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States are women, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts & Figures report.

Researchers have found a number of potential reasons why more women than men have Alzheimer’s or other dementias.  These include sex-specific differences in the spread of abnormal tau protein, a toxic substance associated with cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s;  sex differences in levels of energy usage in the form of brain glucose metabolism; and a faster rate of memory decline among women who never engaged in waged employment compared to women who participated in the paid labor force.

Fourth, researchers have found that experiencing multiple sensory impairments, such as vision and hearing problems, are associated with an increased risk of developing dementia in older adults.

One study showed that impairment of vision or hearing increases the risk of developing dementia and that impairment in both senses further increases those odds. Another study looked at the combined effects of loss of smell, touch, vision, and hearing; finding that even mild impairments in multiple senses were associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline.

Finally, there are new possible treatments and drug targets for Alzheimer’s disease in the pipeline. 

Over 500 new candidate drugs that tackle everything from reducing brain inflammation to safeguarding the health of nerve cells are being explored, and more are on the way in 2020.  While there is still no cure, researchers are constantly adding to what we know about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

There is a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

If you have questions, call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900 for more information.


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. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s®. For more information, visit or call the 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900.

Scott Finley is Media Relations Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association® in Texas.  He can be reached at