Memory loss and alzheimer's medical symbol represented by a human brain with a missing piece of the puzzle texture.

More than 60,000 San Diegans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the third leading cause of death for our fellow residents. The good news for the over 150,000 Alzheimer’s caregivers in the county, and their loved ones, is that San Diego is committed as a city to advancing Alzheimer’s research. This month, we update the caregivers, home care aides, and loved ones who are living with Alzheimer’s disease every day in San Diego on what the future may hold.

In local news, the Shiley Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at UCSD moved to a new, high-tech location in a more central location on the UCSD campus. UC San Diego’s School of Medicine considers the October move as a way for researchers to more easily collaborate with their peers on campus, and improve the services offered to patients. In July 2016, Dr. Mark W. Bondi, a psychiatry professor at UCSD, was awarded the 2016 Alzheimer Award, presented by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. This annual award recognizes his exceptional work on a new way to identify the precursors of Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, 2016 was the first full year of operation for the newly independent Alzheimer’s San Diego, formerly the local chapter of the national Alzheimer’s organization. Per Alzheimer’s San Diego’s website, the organization served more than 32,000 San Diegans in 2016. They offer respite care, support groups, classes and workshops, social activities, and other programs designed to support Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. One of the most important is free memory screening for those with a family history, those who are concerned about their forgetfulness, or those who want to be proactive about brain health. On January 24th, 2017, at the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, anyone can get a free 20-minute memory screen. Contact them at 858-822-4800 for more information and registration.

The fight against Alzheimer’s disease is progressing on many fronts. The medical community in San Diego, Southern California and the world made several important discoveries in 2016 that will advance the treatment of Alzheimer’s, and the development of a cure. Here are the top five pieces of the puzzle uncovered last year:

  • Eat well and exercise regularly: researchers at UCLA discovered in 2016 that consistent exercise and following the Mediterranean diet as closely as possible can reduce build-up of the brain damaging protein that is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. DIET AND EXERCISE
  • Embrace the benefits of marijuana: researchers found in 2016 that neurons exposed to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) lived longer and developed less amyloid beta protein. The neurons lived longer, avoiding the cell death that causes Alzheimer’s disease to progress. Animal and people studies come next.
  • A new use for a PMS drug: researchers in Manchester, England discovered that a routine anti-inflammatory drug called mefenamic acid, prescribed for menstrual pain, can treat memory loss and reduce brain inflammation in mice. No word on why mice with memory loss were being treated for menstrual pain.
  • Treat Alzheimer’s with a custom holistic plan: researchers at UCLA conducted a study with Alzheimer’s patients that addressed diet, exercise, and sleep hygiene, while using brain stimulation, vitamins and pharmaceuticals. The lifestyle changes and custom drug therapy generated a dramatic improvement over the course of 10 months of treatment.
  • Gut health improves brain health: while the over-use of antibiotics can produce super-bugs, researchers announced in July 2016 that mice fed antibiotics for nearly six months lost a significant amount of accumulated amyloid peptide plaque. Plaque build-up and inflammation is connected to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but also to specific functions of the immune system. Steady doses of antibiotics reduced peptide levels, and slowed the progression of the disease.

Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers who live in San Diego are looking forward to more progress and more support than ever in 2017.