Forgetting where you’ve parked your car in a multi-storey is one of life’s guarantees. For some, it’s nothing more than a slip of the mind; for others, however, short-term memory loss can signal the onset of dementia, a destructive condition that affects around 450,000 people in Australia.
To find a cure, many researchers have swapped lofty hypotheses for simple theories. They now believe that Alzheimer’s is caused by germs: not an exotic new pathogen, but the microscopic organisms responsible for gum disease and cold sores.
As the blood-brain barrier becomes more porous with age, these germs infiltrate your neural cortex to instigate the onset of Alzheimer’s. The protein fragment beta-amyloid is known to form plaques in the brain, which contribute to the development of the disease, and autopsies have detected viral DNA in amyloid plaques. When patients have been prescribed antibiotics or antivirals, they have displayed improvements in symptoms.
Scientists have yet to find a cure for dementia, but these findings suggest that a breakthrough may be imminent. Perhaps we’ve had the solution to dementia all along. The race is now on to determine the exact strain of germ we need to target. For the time being, however, prevention trumps cure.
How to prevent dementia
While researchers focus on bacteria, we rate the everyday preventatives that will help to protect your grey matter until the science catches up.
1. THE MED DIET
The promise: Filling your basket with oily fish, nuts and a bottle of red is now linked to slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. It’s the dependable option for better health.
Verdict: Solid science and an excuse for a glass of Barolo.
2. CATCH UP WITH FRIENDS
The promise: Loneliness can trigger anxiety, which is linked to Alzheimer’s. Staying socially active reverses this by releasing endorphins, improving your mood.
Verdict: Fire-up WhatsApp and we’ll see you at the bar.
3. EIGHT HOURS’ KIP
The promise: Inadequate shut-eye increases brain beta-amyloid production, which forms plaques and has been linked to the onset of dementia. So, hit the sack.
Verdict: The benefits of sleep, it seems, are boundless.