Harvard Health Letter

Ask the Doctor: Can we prevent this type of dementia?

Q. Do you think we'll ever be able to prevent Alzheimer's disease?

A. I do. Not because I'm an optimist (though I am) but because of the results of research in the past 25 years.

We had very little idea 25 years ago about what caused Alzheimer's disease. Since then, research has solidly pointed the finger at two particular proteins in the brain, named beta-amyloid and tau. They may not be the whole story, but they are very likely a big part of the story, so they have become targets for treatment. Research laboratories all over the world now are shooting at those targets, trying to figure out how to coax the brain into making less of those proteins and how to counter their destructive effects. I think that, because of this research, the day will come when we can identify people early in life who are at risk for getting Alzheimer's disease and reduce their risk. I think we'll someday even be able to reverse the disease (at least, to some degree) in people who already have it. I don't know when these advances will come, but they will come.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »