Alzheimer’s Disease is devastating at its best, even with treatment. And the more we learn about it, the more it may make sense that it begins with common viruses. To make sense of recent findings, here’s everything you need to know about Alzheimer’s Disease and common viruses we probably already have dormant in our bodies.
First, What Exactly Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
I’ve heard the term Alzheimer’s Disease since I was little, so it’s been around my whole life. Thankfully, there hasn’t been anyone in my blood family to be diagnosed (thank heavens and knock wood). So, knowing the disease exists but not knowing exactly how it begins and progresses, I thought you might be like I am and need a basic lesson to put you up to speed.
Alzheimer’s Disease, in a nutshell, causes dementia. And if you want some stats, it’s the most common cause of dementia (60-80% of all dementia cases) which causes memory loss and a loss of cognitive ability. Until recently, the main risk factor for Alzheimer’s was simply growing old, mainly affecting folks 65 and older.
Alzheimer’s Disease gets more severe over time, so it’s considered a progressive disease. With regard to longevity, most people live 4-8 after the initial diagnosis but can live up to 20 years as well.
As for a cure, at this point, there isn’t one, sadly. There are treatments that have shown promise in slowing the progression and even a medicine that removes the amyloid (a protein that builds up in the body) that causes organs not to work properly, but other than that, scientists are still working on one.
Is Alzheimer’s Disease Hereditary?
In a word, nope. Having written that, if you have a parent or sibling that has had the disease, it’s more likely that you may get it, though – there’s a 50/50 chance.
What Are the Early Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Common early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease include:
- Time and Place Confusion
- Trouble with Understanding Images and Spatial Relationship
- Problems with Writing or Speaking
- Memory Loss that’s Disruptive
- Misplacing Items
- Changes in Mood & Personality
- Trouble with Decision Making and Having Poor Judgment
When you read this list, don’t freak out. Many of the symptoms can also be caused by stress, lack of sleep, or even multitasking. But, if you’re seeing a trend in you or a loved one, please contact your doctor and let him know your concerns. In my opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry and have cautious optimism.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Viruses
If you’re one of the “lucky” (and I write that in the snarkiest way possible) ones that get the occasional cold sore, you’re definitely among friends, as 50 to 80 percent of us have also won the cold sore lottery. Transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, they take 4-6 days to show up and can last up to two weeks.
More of an inconvenience, I’ll never forget the “facing the world with a cold sore” line and the lady with her turtleneck over her mouth from those 1980’s Campo Phenique commercials and the product that never worked for me, sadly. These days, I’m all about Abreva (not sponsored) and carry it, especially when I travel.
Recent information (as of August of 2022) shows that there may be a link between Alzheimer’s Disease and herpes simplex virus type 1. Also known as HSV-1, the virus is responsible for all cold sores. Sadly, once you have the virus in your body, you’ve got it for life, and it remains in a dormant state until it’s triggered to reactivate and replicate through stress or immunity mechanisms. I learned over the years that sunshine is a big trigger for me.
Research on Alzheimer’s Disease at Oxford Institute has been ongoing for three decades. It’s there that HSV-1 has been found in the brains of a large number of aged folks. And this is a big deal: it’s the first microbe to be detected in that specific area of the body. And it’s this HSV-1 virus, along with a specific genetic factor, that is showing a high rate of developing the disease.
On another note, when HSV-1 infected cells are treated with a specific antiviral, the cells are protected against Alzheimer’s Disease.
While research began with the HSV-1 virus, research has shown that the virus that causes both chickenpox and shingles may be responsible for Alzheimer’s Disease as well by causing inflammation and reactivating the HSV-1 virus.
But There Is Good News…
Manchester University research has shown that vaccines (like the ones for chicken pox and shingles) may not only protect against those diseases but actually may protect against Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia by reducing inflammation – yet another reason to make sure our vaccines are up to date.