Article written by Christine Gorman, Alice Park, and Kristina Dell. Paraphrased by “Balancing Your Health”
Doctors who have been treating Alzheimer’s patients took a closer look at who seemed to be giving in to the disease, and discovered something in the process: those who were already taking anti-inflammatory drugs for arthritis or heart disease tended to develop the disorder later than those who weren’t. It’s possible the immune system mistakenly saw the plaques and tangles that build up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients as damaged tissue that needed to be cleared out.
If so, the ensuing inflammatory reaction seemed to be doing more harm than good. Blocking it with anti-inflammatories might limit, or at least delay, damage to cognitive functions.
The most likely culprits are the glial cells, whose job is to nourish and communicate with the neurons. Researchers have discovered that glial cells can produce inflammatory cytokines that call additional immune cells into action. “The glial cells are trying to return the brain to a normal state,” explains Linda Van Eldik, an anatomy and neurobiology professor at the University of Kentucky. “But in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, the process seems to be out of control. You get chronic glial activation, which results in an inflammatory state.”
Preliminary research suggest that low-dose aspirin and fish-oil capsules– both of which are known to reduce inflammatory cytokines–seem to reduce a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease.