Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

November’s Café Scientifique on the diagnosis, treatment and research into Alzheimer’s disease was given by Dr Cheryl Hawkes from the Department of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences at the Open University.


Cheryl started by explaining that 35.5 million people in the world and 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form. Several people in the audience indicated that somebody they knew was suffering from dementia.


The disease is diagnosed by identifying its symptoms which include a loss of memory, mood swings and problems with communication and reasoning. These are assessed using standardised memory tests.


Dr. Cheryl Hawkes at Smokin’ Billy’s giving her Cafe Scientifique talk

Alzheimer’s disease is caused when Tau proteins, which strengthen microtubules in our central nervous system, start to change and form tangled clumps inside nerve cell bodies, causing the microtubules to fall apart. The formation and build-up of extracellular Amyloid beta plaque has been implicated as the underlying cause and its removal has been the subject of several clinical trials.


Cheryl ended by giving us some useful advice on how to lower our risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease which included both physical and mental exercise and a healthy diet. She advised that although alcohol was not recommended, if one ‘must’ indulge, red wine may reduce our risks.