3 Vaccines That May Lower Alzheimer’s Disease Risk

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Vaccines can reduce the risk of developing dangerous and even life-threatening illnesses. Now, it appears that some common vaccines also might protect your brain.

Having received certain vaccines is associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as a senior, according to researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

For a recent observational study, these researchers analyzed data on tens of thousands of patients who had no dementia and were at least 65 when they started an eight-year follow-up period. The researchers compared the adults who had been vaccinated previously with those who had not to determine whether there was a connection between prior vaccinations and any Alzheimer’s diagnosis during the follow-up period.

The study findings were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Based on those findings, here are the vaccines that might protect your brain later in life.

Tetanus and diphtheria vaccine (with or without pertussis vaccine)

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Other names for this vaccine: Tdap/Td

Shares of patients who developed Alzheimer’s disease during the study follow-up period:

  • 7.2% of vaccinated patients
  • 10.2% of unvaccinated patients

Tetanus, sometimes also referred to as lockjaw, is a bacterial infection that affects your nervous system and can be fatal. Diphtheria also is a bacterial infection. It typically affects the mucous membranes that line the inside of the nose and throat.

Vaccines for tetanus and diphtheria sometimes also cover pertussis, aka whooping cough.

The study found that seniors who received the Tdap/Td vaccine, with or without pertussis, were 30% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who did not receive the vaccine.

Herpes zoster vaccine

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Other names for this vaccine: HZ vaccine, shingles vaccine

Shares of patients who developed Alzheimer’s disease during the study follow-up period:

  • 8.1% of vaccinated patients
  • 10.7% of unvaccinated patients

Herpes zoster, also known as shingles, is caused by reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.

Seniors in the UTHealth Houston study who had been vaccinated for shingles had a 25% lower chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s compared with those who did not receive a shingles vaccine.

A prior study also linked shingles vaccination to a lower stroke risk in seniors.

Pneumococcal vaccine

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Shares of patients who developed Alzheimer’s disease during the study follow-up period:

  • 7.92% of vaccinated patients
  • 10.9% of unvaccinated patients

Pneumococcal infections are caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus. The vaccine itself can help prevent some cases of pneumonia, meningitis, sinus infection, blood infection (sepsis) and middle ear infection, according to the researchers.

The study found that seniors who received a pneumococcal vaccine had a 27% lower risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s compared with those who had not received this vaccine.

Why do these vaccines protect against Alzheimer’s disease?

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In a summary of the findings, Dr. Avram Bukhbinder, one of the study’s co-authors, says the reduced Alzheimer’s disease risk is likely due to a combination of mechanisms involving the vaccines:

“Vaccines may change how the immune system responds to the build-up of toxic proteins that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, such as by enhancing the efficiency of immune cells at clearing the toxic proteins or by ‘honing’ the immune response to these proteins so that ‘collateral damage’ to nearby healthy brain cells is decreased. Of course, these vaccines protect against infections like shingles, which can contribute to neuroinflammation.”

The three vaccines examined in the study are not the only ones linked to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. For more, check out “This Vaccine May Lower Your Alzheimer’s Risk by 40%.”

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