How close are we to stopping Alzheimer’s?

Open navigator

1. A frightening prospect

Every three minutes, somewhere in the UK, somebody develops dementia.

Two-thirds of these people will develop Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia.

Find out what causes Alzheimer’s disease, what we can do to prevent it, and how close scientists are to finding a cure.

2. How the disease affects your brain cells

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by faulty proteins called amyloid and tau that become wrongly-folded and accumulate in the brain. Click on the hand icon to see how the build-up of tau proteins damage the brain.

This content uses functionality that is not supported by your current browser. Consider upgrading your browser.

3. Making progress

For decades, numerous attempts to find a drug that might slow the progress of the disease have failed. Without an effective drug treatment, doctors and scientists have pragmatically focused on treating people’s symptoms.

Recently, a new trial drug, aducanumab, has emerged that offers strong hope, particularly for those with mild symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Early trials show the drug works by reducing the build-up of amyloid, another protein implicated in the disease, which clumps together in plaques years before the tau forms tangles.

However, this new approach also has some worrying side effects. Watch the video to discover more.

4. How lifestyle may help

Which of the following has been shown to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Diet

You selected

MAYBE

Diets rich in sources of omega-3, such as oily fish, may be good for the heart, but there isn’t much evidence that they prevent Alzheimer's yet.

Exercise

You selected

YES

Those who exercise regularly throughout their lives seem to be at a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Cognitive training

You selected

MAYBE

Studies have shown that some specific methods of ‘brain training’ can reduce cognitive decline in older people.

Learning an instrument

You selected

NO

There is no evidence that learning an instrument helps prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. But it might increase general happiness!

5. The special role of sleep

New research by Professor Maiken Nedergaard at the University of Copenhagen suggests that regular, good quality sleep throughout life may powerfully prevent the accumulation of amyloid in the brain.

Scientists think that during sleep, cerebrospinal fluid ‘cleans’ the brain of the amyloid protein which has built up during the day.