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Alzheimer's Could Be Set Off by These Common Viruses, New Study Finds

Here's what to know about these disturbing threats that could trigger Alzheimer’s.

One fear of getting older is developing Alzheimer's disease. This heartbreaking illness compromises one's cognitive abilities and deeply impedes their quality of living. Although Alzheimer's isn't always a typical side effect of aging, the utmost risk factor of the disease is aging. A recent study conducted by Tufts University, however, reveals that some common viruses can also set off Alzheimer's. Read on to learn more about these disturbing threats.

Over 6 million Americans have Alzheimer's

man dealing with Alzheimer's

It's staggering to learn that, according to Alzheimer's Association, over 6 million Americans have Alzheimer's. This number is expected to jump to close to 13 million by 2050. The disease causes death in one in three older adults, which is more than prostate and breast cancer mortalities combined. Most Alzheimer's patients are 65 years of age and older.

The most frightening thing about this horrible disease? It can begin gradually and be somewhat undetectable. The symptoms are so subtle that they can appear as normal forgetfulness that happens naturally as we age.

A shingles infection can trigger inactive neurological herpes viruses, leading to a buildup of proteins associated with Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's concept

A recent study published in ScienceDaily and the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease reveals that it's possible for a shingles infection to trigger inactive neurological herpes viruses, herpes simplex virus (HSV) and varicella zoster virus (VZV). This trigger of dormant viruses can instigate inflammation along with a buildup of proteins that are associated with Alzheimer's.

David Kaplan, Stern Family Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts' School of Engineering, points out that the team utilized established proof that HSV is related to a stronger chance of developing Alzheimer's disease in individuals. According to Dana Cairns, a research associate in the Biomedical Engineering Department, "Our results suggest one pathway to Alzheimer's disease, caused by a VZV infection which creates inflammatory triggers that awaken HSV in the brain. While we demonstrated a link between VZV and HSV-1 activation, it's possible that other inflammatory events in the brain could also awaken HSV-1 and lead to Alzheimer's disease."

Ruth Itzhaki of the University of Oxford is one of the very first individuals who hypothesized a correlation between the herpes virus and Alzheimer's. Itzhaki worked together with the Kaplan lab on this research. Itzhaki explains, "Some suggested involvement of VZV, but what we didn't know is the sequence of events that the viruses create to set the disease in motion," adding they believe they now have proof of them.

Related: The #1 Best Eating Habit To Prevent Alzheimer's Disease, New Study Suggests

The VZV vaccine, which helps prevent shingles, has been proven to reduce the threat of dementia significantly

older woman getting shingles vaccine

Approximately 3.7 billion individuals who are under 50 years of age, according to the World Health Organization, have HSV-1, the virus responsible for oral herpes. That's 67% of the world's population. The majority of cases are asymptomatic, ScienceDaily reports, which means the virus remains dormant within the body's nerve cells. If activated, it can wreak havoc, creating nerve and skin inflammation, in addition to incredibly painful blisters. Fortunately, the majority of carriers (the CDC says one in two Americans) will experience extremely mild or no symptoms at all prior to the virus lying dormant. It's important to note that the connection between HSV-1 and Alzheimer's happens only when HSV-1 becomes reactivated, leading to blisters and painful inflammation.

When you get older, VZV can become activated and bring on shingles, an infection that's distinguished by skin blisters. It's very painful and can persist for weeks or months. The great news? The VZV vaccine that helps you avoid shingles has been proven to reduce the threat of dementia significantly.

For more…

mature woman running on the beach, the exercise habits that slow aging

Ready for more mind and body news? If so, check out What Science Says About the Exercise Habits That Slow Aging to stay up to date on the latest scoop. Here, we discuss some productive exercise tips backed by science that'll help you keep your body and brain 10 years younger. So run, don't walk, to these tricks. Grab your sneakers, and get ready to perform some aerobic exercise! Your mind and body will seriously thank you.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa