While genes and environmental factors play prevalent roles in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s development, inflammation is a key player. Seven out of twenty Americans over 85 have Alzheimer’s, and one out of twenty have Parkinson’s. Research clearly indicates that it is quite impossible to reduce the instances down to specific genetic or environmental triggers.
The role in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Very rarely do people develop Alzheimer’s before the age of 60. This is fortunate; however, there are more than 50 known genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s. While specific factors are difficult to pin down, inflammation is a known and frequent contributor. This can lead to tissue death and damage and then, further inflammation. Similarly, Parkinson’s possesses 90 possible genetic factors with specific neurons affected by inflammation. While it is nearly impossible to determine every combination of genetic and environmental risk, it is believable to expect that a future therapy for both will have an anti-inflammatory component.
Cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, psychotic symptoms, and sleep disturbances often accompany both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Cognitive decline, though less common with Parkinson’s, can range from mild to full-blown dementia. Apathy and depression develop in both diseases; however, it can be difficult to tell them apart. It is important to do so as they need to be managed differently. Anxiety may require behavioral treatment or lowering AD or PD medications while adding anxiety medications. These may leave patients, however, with unwanted side effects. Delusions and hallucinations may indicate your loved one is experiencing delirium from an infection, other medical condition, or from the medications themselves. Patients with AD or PD, too, may experience a deteriorating quality of sleep which can exacerbate inflammation.
Ways to stop inflammation
Common treatment for both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are largely ineffective due to the medications used for them are blocked by the blood-brain barrier which protects the brain from bacteria or toxins. Researchers are finding new ways to change the way these medications can work, preventing inflammation in the brain.
Anti-inflammatory diets high in vegetables may decrease dementia risk. These diets include rich levels of fruits, vegetables, beans, and tea or coffee. The diets including these are full of healthy vitamins and minerals which protect cells from damage and prevent inflammation, helping to reduce the risk of developing both diseases. Eating healthy foods, sleeping well, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking and heavy drinking, and minimizing stress are our best chances at prevention.