Memory Loss: A Common Symptom
By Dr. Jennifer Johnston
This month the FDA approved a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease. This medication is called Aducanumab (brand name Aduhelm). The last time a medication was approved for Alzheimer’s disease was in 2003, so a new treatment is a big deal! Millions of people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and current treatments don’t make a huge difference. However, is this new medication really going to help people?
How does Aducanumab work? We know that people with Alzheimer’s disease have a buildup of beta-amyloid protein plaques (also called deposits) in the brain. Aducanumab helps slow down the deposit of beta-amyloid in the brain. Sounds promising, right? Even though Aducanumab did reduce the amount of beta-amyloid in the brain, it is not clear that this actually helped people with Alzheimer’s. Despite approval by the FDA, this medication is needing further research and studies to assure its safety and promises to improve outcomes to those suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. The company that makes Aducanumab, Biogen, has promised further studies to help doctors decide if this is a safe medication that will help our patients. Time will tell.
Even though Aducanumab needs more time to prove itself, it is still very exciting to have renewed hope in Alzheimer’s treatment!
I wanted to spend a few moments talking about memory loss and dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. However, memory problems are a common symptom in several disorders of the brain and body. What is dementia? Dementia is the general term for a group of brain disorders that cause memory problems and make it hard to think clearly. A person is diagnosed with dementia by doing thinking and memory tests with their doctor or provider. Sometimes blood work and brain scans are done too. If you are noticing that you are having more trouble with your memory, it is important to get a check-up. Other things can also cause memory problems (like high blood sugar in diabetics) and seeing your provider can help get this figured out.
At this time, there is no way to prevent dementia. However, we do know that exercising regularly, having a healthy diet (5+ servings daily of fruits and vegetables) and healthy social interactions are good for your brain.
If you are someone living with dementia or other memory problems, it is important to keep yourself safe and happy.
Here are a few tips:
• Make sure you are seeing your doctor/provider regularly. Try to bring a trusted family member or friend with you to visits.
• Consider getting a pill box to help remember and sort medications. Ask a trusted person to help you sort it every week or ask the pharmacy to help you sort them (called “bubble packs”)
• Keep your keys, wallet, phone, etc. in the same place everyday
• Do your best to prevent falls
o Secure loose rugs
o Tuck away loose wires or cords
o Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes
o Keep walkways well lit
• Trust your family, friends and other care team to help you to know when it is no longer safe for you to drive, cook, or do other things that could be dangerous.
Clearwater Valley Health is here for you and your family. We are proud to work for you!