Alzheimers Home > How Ginkgo Biloba, Vaccines, and Social Interaction May Help Prevent Alzheimer's
Ginkgo biloba is a readily available natural product that has been the focus of recent media reports as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Although a 1997 study in the United States suggested that a ginkgo extract may be of some help in treating the symptoms of AD and vascular dementia, there is no evidence that ginkgo biloba will cure or prevent Alzheimer's disease. In fact, some recent studies imply that daily use of ginkgo biloba extracts may cause excessive bleeding, especially when combined with daily use of aspirin.
(Click Ginkgo for more information about this product in relation to Alzheimer's prevention.)
Will a vaccine some day prevent Alzheimer's? Scientists are studying whether immunizing against beta-amyloid (the major component of the plaques that develop in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease) might prevent the condition. Early vaccine studies in mice were so successful in reducing beta-amyloid deposits and improving brain performance on memory tests that investigators conducted preliminary clinical trials in humans. These studies had to be stopped because of side effects that occurred in some participants, but research on this strategy is continuing on a number of fronts. This research is helping to clarify the Alzheimer's disease process, and scientists are continuing to explore this approach as a possible Alzheimer's disease prevention strategy.
Evidence from studies of animals, nursing home residents, and community-dwelling older people has suggested a link between social engagement and cognitive performance. Older adults who have a rich social network and participate in many social activities tend to have reduced cognitive decline and decreased risk of dementia. In the NIA-funded Chicago Health and Aging Project, a high level of social engagement was associated with a significant reduction in cognitive decline. More research is needed to understand why social ties may have a protective effect. For example, is it simply because lifestyles that involve much social interaction and diverse social activities are cognitively challenging? Or do these lifestyles contribute in some other way to brain reserve?