Bad News For Alzheimer’s Disease

Here’s an article in the New York Times that describes why scientists are baffled as to why we’ve made essentially no progress in preventing or treating Alzheimer’s disease, despite all the recent advances in understanding this all-too-common condition. Could it be because our fundamental explanation for Alzheimer’s is wrong to begin with? Researchers are convinced that buildup and accumulation of plaques in the brain is what causes this condition and that by preventing its’ buildup, we can better control this disease. So far, nothing has worked. No surprises.

This general paradigm of Western medicine is that if you can lower your numbers (cholesterol or blood pressure), or prevent buildup of plaques in your blood vessels or brain, then you can supposedly “cure” the disease. But this is the fundamental problem with Western medicine. Every medicine that we use for chronic medical conditions only covers up the end result, rather than treating what’s actually causing the problem: our stress-filled modern lives, poor diet, lack of exercise, and poor breathing at night. Yes, lowering your cholesterol may lower your risk of heart disease by 10%, but at what cost? Side effects such as liver toxicity are routine in various cholesterol medications. In the same way, side effects from the various Alzheimer’s drugs are also very common.

Knowing what we know about the effects of untreated obstructive sleep apnea on the brain, and with the HUGE number of untreated sleep apnea patients, it’s time that sleep apnea researchers and Alzheimer’s researchers begin talking to each other.

Should scientists continue to go figure out ways to block amyloid plaque production, or should they be looking for an alternative explanation, such as obstructive sleep apnea? I’d like to hear your opinion. Please enter your comments in the box blow.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “Bad News For Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. Given that my “migraines” have completely gone away since I started using CPAP every night, and the number of other stories I have heard about effective treatment of apnea “curing” many troubles, this makes perfect sense. I have not seen anyone say that their cholesterol levels improved because of CPAP, but that is an effect one cannot see unless you have a blood test.

  2. Rod,

    I’ve had many patients state that their cholesterol levels improved after starting treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, there are numerous studies that show that having sleep apnea can raise your cholesterol levels (especially the bad kind).

  3. Dr. Park,

    The problem with finding a cure for Alzheimer’s is the same as that of other chronic, devastating diseases; treating people for the symptoms (while creating more symptoms) without treating the source creates more revenue for the drug companies as long term chronically ill people sign on to take dangerous, ridiculously expensive medications for the rest of their lives. Add in a diet in overly processed food, a broken health care system, and doctors who don’t have the time or knowledge to educate their patients about healthy choices and we’ve got a true crisis on our hands, one that will stretch generations.

    As for Alzheimer’s itself, there is some evidence that Lyme disease is involved, and much other evidence that links Lyme disease to other chronic conditions. Judging by the way the science concerning this horrible bacterial infection is being fought, we can at least be sure there is a significant market for chronic illness in this country. Pretending each disease is completely random and ultimately incurable is like treating the symptoms, not the source.

  4. Jade,
    I do agree that any infection, whether it’s Lyme, Epstein-Barr, or the common cold have aggravate or accelerate processes that causes brain damage, especially if you have a sleep-breathing problem, such as upper airway resistance syndrome or obstructive sleep apnea. Knowing what we know about the effects of obstructive sleep apnea on the brain, it’s puzzling why Alzheimer’s researchers never consider sleep apnea as a major possible cause, but would rather focus on proteins and chemical changes that occur as an end result of obstructive sleep apnea.

  5. Dr. Park,

    Thanks for your insight about OSA/AD (Alzheimer’s). I have read your book and have been watching your work closely for the last 2 years…congratulations on your great insights. I was disabled for 1 year (35 years old now) in 2008 due to so many mysterious symptoms. Throughout 2009, I have been diagnosed with OSA and have been recovering slowing but surely with CPAP, a septoplasty, and UPPP/Tonsillectomy.

    I am convinced that my brain has made substantial improvements including better focus, better memory, more mental energy, no depression, etc. I also found that my father (now 69 years old) had OSA…now that he has been on CPAP for 8 months, he has shown similiar improvements.

    You mentioned that its about time that sleep medicine researchers must collaborate with AD researchers. So far, I have not seen anyone from the sleep medicine community take a leadership role (except you) in building OSA awareness. I believe this needs to come first before AD doctors start taking OSA seriously.

    The NIH, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the National Sleep Foundation, etc are promoting the education of diagnosing and treating OSA for patients who know they have OSA, but no organization is promoting the issue of “undiagnosed OSA”. I started my own consulting firm whose main mission is to change the corporate strategy of health insurance companies and CPAP manufacturers. I believe once these for-profit companies incorporate this medical paradigm shift, the link between OSA and other health condition can accelerate in the medical community. These companies can greatly benefit from these strategic OSA findings by spending marketing dollars that increase awareness among doctors and patients. So far, my networking for a strategy consulting project with these companies have been difficult.

    Your response is greatly appreciated!
    Dean Rim