Which of These 4 Types of Alzheimer’s Disease Could You Get?

Types of Alzheimer’s Disease

If you’ve witnessed a parent, grandparent, relative, or friend suffer from the ravages of dementia, you know that it is a condition you wouldn’t wish on anyone. It is devastating and heartbreaking to see previously vibrant, energetic, and smart people you care about develop symptoms and lose their memory and cognitive abilities—or even have personality changes.

Yet it happens all too often. And the trend is likely to continue—especially with the youngest of the baby boomer generation getting closer to their 60s, along with the significant rise of obesity and related inflammatory illnesses—such as diabetes—in the general population.

While there are several different types of dementing diseases, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common and accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases. Most people who are diagnosed with it are 65 or older. However, early-onset Alzheimer’s affects about 200,000 younger people in the U.S.—some of whom are in their 30s and 40s.

Basic Brain Biology in Alzheimer’s Disease

Many years ago, doctors and researchers found that the underlying pathology of AD begins decades before the onset of clinical symptoms. Slowly, certain abnormal neurobiological processes start to take place, including these:

  • Plaques of beta amyloid protein build up between brain cells and interfere with cell-to-cell communication.
  • Twisted strands—or tangles—of tau protein accumulate inside brain cells.

While beta amyloid and tau proteins are normally found in our brains, there are abnormal amounts of them in people with AD. The significant accumulation of plaques and tangles cause brain cells to die.

Although brain SPECT imaging doesn’t assess the quantity of beta amyloid and tau proteins in the brain, it can show the degree of damage caused by them. In AD patients, SPECT typically shows areas of low blood flow in the temporal lobes, parietal lobes, and posterior cingulate gyrus. Other areas of the brain can be involved as well, depending on the progression of the disease.

Promising New Research in Alzheimer’s Disease

As researchers continue to investigate the molecular underpinnings of this terrible disease, some fascinating results have recently been discovered. Scientists from around the world collaborated on a research study that was recently published in the scientific journal, Nature Medicine. Using positron emission tomography (PET—a type of functional scan, like SPECT) and a tracing agent that attaches to tau proteins, the brains of more than 1,600 people with varying progressions of AD were analyzed.

The researchers identified 4 variations in the pattern and spread of tau protein found in the subjects’ brains, and these patterns aligned with the patients’ more pronounced symptoms. The findings from this study include:

  1. 33% of subjects showed the spread of tau primarily in the temporal lobes, which are involved with memory.
  2. 18% had a greater amount of tau in the cortex (grey matter) and this reflected problems with self-control, ability to focus, and difficulties with executive function.
  3. The 3rd variant—30% of the cases—had an accumulation of tau in the visual cortex (back of the brain), which affects one’s orientation to space and the ability to identify shapes, contours, and distances.
  4. An asymmetrical spread of tau across the left hemisphere of the brain was found in 19% of the subjects and reflected their difficulty with language skills.

This study, and others similar to it, have found that Alzheimer’s disease, like so many other brain conditions, is not a simple disorder. Although it is not yet understood why one person would have a particular pattern of tau vs. another, the variations in the underlying pathology can help explain why a universal cure has not been found, despite all the clinical trials that have been conducted so far. This new knowledge may be useful for the development of different types of treatment that can address the varying disease patterns.

Risk Factors for Dementia

Generally speaking, age is the biggest risk factor for dementia. It’s estimated that 50% of all people aged 85 and older will be diagnosed with some form of dementia. Genetics can also play a role in developing AD, especially if someone carries the APO E4 gene, which is associated with overall lower blood flow to the brain. But not everyone who inherits this gene will get AD—in fact, 75% won’t. Aside from factors such as these that are largely out of anyone’s control, lifestyle behaviors are known to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease—or another type of dementia.

Aside from age and the inheritance of certain genes, healthy lifestyle behaviors such as diet, exercising your body and brain, and positive social connections are known to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Click To Tweet

Prevention is the Best Cure!

As mentioned above, the pathology of AD and other dementias begins in the brain many years before a person shows symptoms. Therefore, what you do today can have a positive—or negative—impact on your chances of becoming demented down the road. So, if you’ve been on a less-than-healthy path, you can still take steps to make changes that could have big payoffs later on in life.

Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

  • Switch to a diet with lots of fresh produce, healthy fats (like walnuts and avocados), and clean protein, especially fish such as salmon and tuna that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Exercise your body regularly because it increases blood flow to your brain, which helps to ensure your brain cells are getting the glucose and oxygen they need.
  • Exercise your brain, too, by learning new things and playing brain games.
  • Protect your brain from injury by wearing a helmet when you bike, skateboard, ski, inline skate, snowboard, or ride a motorcycle.
  • If you have depression, seek treatment to reduce symptoms, since depression increases your risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Connect to others by spending time with friends and loved ones, and volunteering in your community.
  • Avoid things that are harmful to your brain, such as toxins (i.e., smoking cigarettes and using alcohol and illicit drugs) and getting concussions.

You can also look into the Memory Rescue Program to identify any early signs or risks you might have for memory problems. In addition, you’ll learn about more ways you can optimize your brain function now, to reduce your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia in the future.

Concerns about memory problems and dementia shouldn’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever!

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

13 Comments

  1. Very helpful post on AD

    Comment by Sandra — June 14, 2021 @ 4:13 AM

  2. Is there any research being done for cognitive issues after long Covid hospitalization? It has been 6 months and I am not able to focus or retain information

    Comment by Laura Boschelli — June 14, 2021 @ 5:48 AM

  3. Well explained article
    Very interesting and useful

    Comment by Donatella Dillon — June 14, 2021 @ 6:13 AM

  4. What’s the difference between my doctor’s reading my MRI vs your SPECT brain scans ?

    Comment by Patricia — June 14, 2021 @ 6:20 AM

  5. Informative article…thank you.x

    Comment by ragnone victoria — June 14, 2021 @ 6:39 AM

  6. My husband began showing signs of memory problems anout 6 years ago. He is now diagnosed with Hardening of the Arteries and Chronic Microvascular Disease. His grandfather, mother, and uncle were all diagnosed with Hardening of the Arteries. All 3 developed into severe memory loss and eventual non communication. I am concerned for my husband and our children. What can be done. Is it possible for you to look into his brain and give us insight to help our children and grandchildren? Thank you for all you do!

    Comment by Jan Threatt — June 14, 2021 @ 7:01 AM

  7. me interesa el tema somos cinco mjeres ya mayores hijas de un mismo papa y mama y tres de las mayores han tenido problemas cerebrales, dos han tenido ictus y una tiene demencia de la memoria corta , no enfrentar el presente, por tal razon las dos de abajo que somos mas pequenas estamo buscando porque o que podemos hacer para evitar cualquiera de las dos condiciones, si en algun tipo de estudio pudiera incluirme me llamaria la atencion . mil gracias

    Comment by Dra Paty Alejos — June 14, 2021 @ 9:07 AM

  8. Hello Jan, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to reach out to you directly with more information about potentially getting your husband into one of our 9 clinics so one of doctors can see what the best treatment plan for him could be. We look forward to speaking with you soon

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 14, 2021 @ 1:59 PM

  9. Hello Patricia. MRI scans and SPECT scans are similar but not the same. For more information about what exactly SPECT is, follow this link: https://www.amenclinics.com/services/brain-spect/ . We also have several blogs that discuss MRI scans in relation to the Amen Clinics Method: https://www.amenclinics.com/?s=mri

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 14, 2021 @ 2:02 PM

  10. Hi, after my fourth baby, I wonder if I had the psychotic form of baby blues. I was given Lithium and other psychotic drugs for many years. After that time I was diagnosed as bipolar manic. Could the medicines have caused harm to my brain?

    Comment by Diana — June 14, 2021 @ 7:56 PM

  11. Such great information, my family has many with dementia, my mom also. I am 57 and trying to break the pattern with holistic approach. Thanks.

    Comment by Stephanie Grey — June 15, 2021 @ 3:48 AM

  12. I have always being very fund of all programs regarding AD and especially the ones with Dr. Amen. I forget quite a few things and there are times when I get a little confused. I am a 79 year old lady who has done yoga for 45 years and I feel wonderful. I have a very positive attitude about life and I adore Dr. Amen and all his programs. I moved in with my daughter and family in SC which I’m enjoying immensely. Sometimes It is too hot to exercise outside so I do the stairs up and down for 7 minutes. Thank you for all your information Blessings,
    Cecilia

    Comment by Cecilia Davidson — June 15, 2021 @ 12:16 PM

  13. TUNA as a clean protein?!?!? Seriously, Dr Amen’s writers should know tuna is full of mercury and the last thing any of us should do is eat that to prevent dementia. Many people with AD have mercury and other toxic exposures.

    Comment by Barbara — June 15, 2021 @ 7:08 PM

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