Category Archives: Alzheimer’s risk

Blocking a key enzyme may reverse Alzheimer’s memory loss – MIT study

In the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, many of the genes required to form new memories are shut down by a genetic blockade, contributing to the cognitive decline seen in those patients.

MIT researchers have now shown that they can reverse that memory loss in mice by interfering with the enzyme that forms the blockade. The enzyme, known as HDAC2, turns genes off by condensing them so tightly that they can’t be expressed.

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For several years, scientists and pharmaceutical companies have been trying to develop drugs that block this enzyme, but most of these drugs also block other members of the HDAC family, which can lead to toxic side effects. The MIT team has now found a way to precisely target HDAC2, by blocking its interaction with a binding partner called Sp3.

“This is exciting because for the first time we have found a specific mechanism by which HDAC2 regulates synaptic gene expression,” says Li-Huei Tsai, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the study’s senior author.

Blocking that mechanism could offer a new way to treat memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients. In this study, the researchers used a large protein fragment to interfere with HDAC-2, but they plan to seek smaller molecules that would be easier to deploy as drugs. Continue reading

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To what extent is dementia preventable?

Regular readers know that my family has a history of Alzheimer’s Disease and/or dementia. This is true on both my mother’s and father’s side. So, at 77, I am totally focused on anything that relates to these mental conditions. The following is from the Keck School of Medicine at USC by Erica Rheinschild.

Experts say that one-third of the world’s dementia cases could be prevented by managing lifestyle factors such as hearing loss, hypertension and depression.

 

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This remarkable fact was part of a report by the first Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care that was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017 and published in The Lancet. The report also highlighted the beneficial effects of nonpharmacologic interventions such as social contact and exercise for people with dementia. Continue reading

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Could changes in thinking skills be reversible dementia? – Harvard

Regular readers know that I have had a number of Alzheimer’s and dementia occurrences in my immediate family. So, I am especially sensitive to anything related to dementia. The following is from Heidi Godman, Exetutive Editor, Harvard Health Letter.

We use the term “dementia” to describe a number of conditions that cause permanent thinking skills changes, such as memory loss and confusion. The most common kind of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterized by clumping proteins that get tangled in and around brain cells, eventually causing them to die. The second most common type of dementia is vascular dementia, caused by decreased blood flow to the brain from atherosclerosis—the accumulation of fatty deposits on artery walls.

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Once dementia strikes, the damage is permanent, and we don’t have many treatment options. So, before a diagnosis is made, it’s crucial to rule out whether the causes for dementia are actually reversible conditions. Continue reading

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What about Alzheimer’s in the family? Harvard

Regular readers know that my family has suffered at least one case of Alzheimer’s and one or two of general dementia. I think it is fair to say that mental illness damages the entire family either directly or indirectly. It also has implications on individuals’ future mental health.

Harvard Medical School offers some fine counseling on the subject.

Alzheimer’s disease represents a personal health crisis, but it’s also a family concern. What does it mean for your children or siblings if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? What does it mean for you if a close relative develops the condition?

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“People think that if their dad or aunt or uncle had Alzheimer’s disease, they are doomed. But, no, that’s not true,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. “Even though family history adds to the overall risk, age still usually trumps it quite a bit. It means your risk is higher, but it’s not that much higher, if you consider the absolute numbers.”

Family history by the numbers

Studies of family history say that if you have a close relative who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease—the most common form of dementia in older adults—your risk increases by about 30%. This is a relative risk increase, meaning a 30% hike in your existing risk.

Continue reading

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Can gut bacteria affect Alzheimer’s?

As a person who has lost three family members to dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, this new information on the subject knocked me out.

Please see my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more.

Tony

New research finds the microbes in your gut may play a major role in escalating the chronic brain disease. A raft of recent studies has shown that the microbiome is a factor in the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and cardiovascular disease. Now, we can add Alzheimer’s disease to the list. A new […]

via Can Gut Bacteria Affect Alzheimer’s Disease? — Our Better Health

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Can exercise help people at risk for Alzheimer’s – Study

One of the main goals in living longer is having one’s brain fully functional. Since I have both Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family tree, I am totally focused on keeping my brain working. There is no question that exercise can help one defend against dementia, but with Alzheimer’s the jury is still out.

Can exercise slow or prevent cognitive decline in older people who are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease? A new clinical trial led by National Institute on Aging (NIA) -supported scientists in collaboration with the YMCA aims to find out whether exercise may be an effective nondrug treatment for staying cognitively fit.

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The trial, called EXERT, will enroll 300 people, age 65 to 89, with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition of mild memory problems that often leads to Alzheimer’s dementia. Based on the trial’s results, the researchers hope to develop an evidence-based “prescription” that will tell people the type and frequency of exercise needed to support memory and thinking skills.

“We want to design a real-life program that can be implemented in the community and prescribed by healthcare providers,” said Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., who is leading the study with Carl W. Cotman, Ph.D., of the University of California, Irvine.

Continue reading

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High cholesterol intake and eggs do not increase risk of memory disorders

I am now and  have been for years a big fan of eggs. A hundred years ago, it seems, I worked on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor where I covered the egg futures market along with pork bellies, live cattle and live hog futures. In that capacity, I learned a great deal about eggs from their production to our consumption. I have posted on them numerous times. Here are a few: Eating eggs is good for you. I wrote that in the first month of this blog’s existence. Feel free to type e-g-g-s in the search box at the right to read more posts on eggs.

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A new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows that a relatively high intake of dietary cholesterol, or eating one egg every day, is not associated with an elevated risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, no association was found in persons carrying the APOE4 gene variant that affects cholesterol metabolism and increases the risk of memory disorders. APOE4 is common in Finland. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Continue reading

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The three stages of Alzheimer’s Disease – NIA

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. As a person with family members on both sides who have suffered from dementia in general and Alzheimer’s in particular, I wanted to share this with you, from the Alzheimer’s Disease Education & Referral center.

The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person. For many, difficulty with tasks like word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may signal the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Typically, Alzheimer’s progresses in three stages: Continue reading

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What are some actions that prevent or delay Dementia and Alzheimer’s?

The question of brain games and other cerebral activities to prevent or delay dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease was taken up by The Ask the Expert column in the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry.

“What kinds of brain activities did we find to be beneficial? While more research is needed to learn the best types of activities, the studies we reviewed included a wide range of possibilities….”

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“Here are some ideas:
•    Read a novel, a non-fiction book, a magazine, or newspaper.
•    Play board games with your children or grandkids.
•    Volunteer for a local organization.
•    Host a weekly card game for friends.
•    Register for an adult education class at your local college.
•    Look for art, cooking or other fun classes in your community.
•    Play video games with a young person in your life.
•    Attend a play or visit a museum.

Continue reading

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Study Finds Shark Meat Contains High Levels of Neurotoxins Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

It appears that even food products of fish caught in the ocean can cause us problems.

In a new study, University of Miami (UM) scientists found high concentrations of toxins linked to neurodegenerative diseases in the fins and muscles of 10 species of sharks. The research team suggests that restricting consumption of sharks can have positive health benefits for consumers and for shark conservation, since several of the sharks analyzed in the study are threatened with extinction due to over fishing.

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Photo – Neil Hammerschlag, Ph.D.

Fins and muscle tissue samples were collected from 10 shark species found in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for concentrations of two toxins—mercury and β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA).  “Recent studies have linked BMAA to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS),” said Deborah Mash, Professor of Neurology and senior author of the study.

Researchers at the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and UM Miller School of Medicine detected concentrations of mercury and BMAA in the fins and muscles of all shark species at levels that may pose a threat to human health. While both mercury and BMAA by themselves pose a health risk, together they may also have synergistic toxic impacts.

“Since sharks are predators, living higher up in the food web, their tissues tend to accumulate and concentrate toxins, which may not only pose a threat to shark health, but also put human consumers of shark parts at a health risk,” said the study’s lead author Neil Hammerschlag, a research assistant professor at the UM Rosenstiel School and UM Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy.

Shark products including shark fins, cartilage and meat are widely consumed in Asia and globally in Asian communities, as a delicacy and as a source of traditional Chinese medicine. In addition, dietary supplements containing shark cartilage are consumed globally.

Recently scientists have found BMAA in shark fins and shark cartilage supplements. The neurotoxic methyl mercury has been known to bioaccumulate in sharks over their long lifespans.

About 16 percent of the world’s shark species are threatened with extinction. The shark species sampled in this study range in threat status from least concern (bonnethead shark) to endangered (great hammerhead) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“Our results suggest that humans who consume shark parts may be at a risk for developing neurological diseases.” said Mash.

“People should be aware and consider restricting consumption of shark parts.  Limiting the consumption of shark parts will have positive health benefits for consumers and positive conservation outcomes for sharks, many of which are threatened with extinction due in part to the growing high demand for shark fin soup and, to a lesser extent, for shark meat and cartilage products.” said Hammerschlag.

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Alzheimer’s is a common contributor to death

Regular readers know that I have a vested interest in Alzheimer’s Disease information having lost an aunt to it as well as two other family members to dementia. According to research by Rush University Medical Center the disease is responsible for far more deaths that are reported.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Alzheimer’s as the cause of about 70,000 deaths in 2010, making it the sixth greatest cause of death (heart disease and cancer hold a firm grip on the top two spots). However, when related conditions are considered, the number actually is about 500,000, according to a research study authored by Bryan James, PhD, an epidemiologist with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and assistant professor in Rush’s Department of Internal Medicine.

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Many people with the illness succumb to related conditions rather than Alzheimer’s itself. The most common are pneumonia and falls, according to Raj Shah, MD, a researcher with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and an associate professor in the Rush Department of Family Medicine.

“They may be listed as the causes on a death certificate, but the person wouldn’t have had that fall or pneumonia without Alzheimer’s,” Shah says. Continue reading

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Diet plus exercise can reduce Alzheimer’s protein build-ups, UCLA study shows

Regular readers know that I have a particular interest in Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia as I have lost several family members to them. I am 76 years old and want to maintain my mental faculties through my senior years. That’s one of the reasons I stress exercise and its positive influence on the brain so often on the blog. See my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)  for more.

So I was thrilled to learn that UCLA has some positive news on that front.

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A study by researchers at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior has found that a healthy diet, regular physical activity and a normal body mass index  can reduce the incidence of protein build-ups that are associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. (my emphasis) Continue reading

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How to Reduce Your Chances of Alzheimer’s – Harvard

I have mentioned numerous times how much concern I have regarding dementia and Alzheimer’s disease because three of my close family members suffered from one or the other of them. To clarify: Dementia is not a disease but a group of different diseases characterized by the gradual worsening of cognitive abilities. Dementia is seen across all ethnic groups and increasingly so with advancing age. Among 65–69-year-olds, about 2 percent are afflicted, with this figure doubling for every five years of age. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.

Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. In fact, Alzheimer’s is the second most feared disease, behind only cancer. So, I am not alone in my concern. Although it is said a person with Alzheimer’s can live from two to 20 years, my understanding is that few make it beyond 7 years. Harvard Medical School has released a new study on it.

They point to age, gender and family history as factors outside our control regarding the disease. On a positive note, everything I support in this blog works to lower Alzheimer’s risk – exercise, watching your weight and eating right.

Harvard said, “While there are no surefire ways to prevent Alzheimer’s, by following the five steps below you may lower your risk for this disease — and enhance your overall health as well.

1. Maintain a healthy weight. Cut back on calories and increase physical activity if you need to shed some pounds.

2. Check your waistline. To accurately measure your waistline, use a tape measure around the narrowest portion of your waist (usually at the height of the navel and lowest rib). A National Institutes of Health panel recommends waist measurements of no more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.

3. Eat mindfully. Emphasize colorful, vitamin-packed vegetables and fruits; whole grains; fish, lean poultry, tofu, and beans and other legumes as protein sources; plus healthy fats. Cut down on unnecessary calories from sweets, sodas, refined grains like white bread or white rice, unhealthy fats, fried and fast foods, and mindless snacking. Keep a close eye on portion sizes, too.

4. Exercise regularly. This simple step does great things for your body. Regular physical activity helps control weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, biking, rowing), can also help chip away total body fat and abdominal fat over time. Aim for 2 1/2 to 5 hours weekly of brisk walking (at 4 mph). Or try a vigorous exercise like jogging (at 6 mph) for half that time.

5. Keep an eye on important health numbers. In addition to watching your weight and waistline, ask your doctor whether your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar are within healthy ranges. Exercise, weight loss if needed, and medications (if necessary) can help keep these numbers on target.” For more on ways to prevent Alzheimer’s you can order A Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease from Harvard.

Tony

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Harvard on Alzheimer’s in the Family

Regular readers know that my family has had three cases of dementia, including one of Alzheimer’s Disease. So, I am very sensitive on the subject of mental health. I was very gratified to read the item from Harvard on the subject.

Dementia affects the person diagnosed but also raises fears for siblings and children. Here are the facts.

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“Alzheimer’s disease represents a personal health crisis, but it’s also a family concern. What does it mean for your children or siblings if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? What does it mean for you if a close relative develops the condition?

“‘People think that if their dad or aunt or uncle had Alzheimer’s disease, they are doomed. But, no, that’s not true,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. “Even though family history adds to the overall risk, age still usually trumps it quite a bit. It means your risk is higher, but it’s not that much higher, if you consider the absolute numbers.’

Family history by the numbers

“Studies of family history say that if you have a close relative who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease—the most common form of dementia in older adults—your risk increases by about 30%. This is a relative risk increase, meaning a 30% hike in your existing risk.

“If you are age 65, the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is 2% per year, although this also means a 98% chance per year of not developing Alzheimer’s. In absolute numbers, a 2% annual risk means that two out of 100 65-year-olds will develop dementia every year.

“Family history raises the 2% annual risk by about 30%, to 2.6% per year. That means going from 20 cases in a group of 1,000 to 26 in 1,000, or six additional cases in 1,000. “So the absolute increase is relatively small,” Dr. Marshall says.

“Age raises the chance of Alzheimer’s more than family history. People in their 70s have a 5% chance of being diagnosed—more than twice that of people in their 60s. Family history raises this by 30%, from 5% to 6.5%. Again, the absolute change is relatively small.”

What to do if someone in your family is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

    Contact the Alzheimer’s Association. Find out about resources available to help you and your family. State and county agencies may also be able to help.
•    Plan for the future. This includes legally designating someone to make health care and financial decisions for the affected person when he or she can’t.
•    Investigate long-term care options. Nursing care is expensive, and finding a good place can take time. Start early.
•    Take care of physical health. People with dementia who live a healthy lifestyle tend to progress more slowly to the later stages.
•    Steer away from genetic testing. Even if you have the APOE Alzheimer’s risk gene, it usually doesn’t mean you will develop dementia later in life.

Finally, to add to the Harvard recommendations, please check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits). I have a ton of positive reassuring information there. So far it seems to be working, I just turned 76 and my brain seems intact … if this blog is any evidence of that.

Tony

 

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This Fine Belief May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

This seems to be more good news about Alzheimer’s disease which ravages our older population.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that:
*One in nine people age 65 and older suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. *About one in three people over age 85 has it.
*Some 81 percent of people who have Alzheimer’s are over 75 years old.

As I have lost three close family members to Alzheimer’s and dementia, I have a keen interest in the subject. Check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise benefits) to learn more.

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Tony

Our Better Health

This belief about ageing may protect against memory loss linked to Alzheimer’s.

Holding more positive beliefs about ageing may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, a new study finds.

The results come from one of the longest-running studies of ageing in the US.

People who thought of the old in negative terms, such as being decrepit, were more likely to show signs of Alzheimer’s themselves.

Dr Becca Levy, who led the study, said:

“We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes.
Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realize that these negative beliefs about aging can be mitigated and positive beliefs about aging can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable.”

Brain scans of participants found that those with negative ageing beliefs had smaller hippocampi.

In fact, those with…

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Being Overweight in Midlife May Increase Alzheimer’s Risk – Study

As if we didn’t need another reason to control our weight, the National Institute on Aging reports that being overweight may increase our risk for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
obese“Being obese or overweight in middle age has been linked to increased risk of dementia. To learn more, researchers at the National Institute on Aging, part of the NIH, further explored the relationship between weight at midlife and Alzheimer’s among volunteers participating in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), one of the longest running studies of human aging in North America. They found that being obese or overweight at midlife—as measured by body mass index (BMI) at age 50—may predict earlier age of onset of the devastating neurodegenerative disorder.”

The study led by Madhav Thambisetty, M.D., Ph.D., appeared online Sept. 1, 2015, in Molecular Psychiatry.

“Cognitively healthy at the start of the nearly 14-year study, each of the 1,394 BLSA participants received cognitive testing every one to two years; 142 volunteers eventually developed Alzheimer’s disease.

The investigators found:
▪Each unit increase in BMI at age 50 accelerated onset by nearly 7 months in those who developed Alzheimer’s disease.
▪Higher midlife BMI was associated with greater levels of neurofibrillary tangles—a hallmark of the disease—in the brains of 191 volunteers, including those who did not develop Alzheimer’s.
▪Among 75 cognitively healthy volunteers who had brain imaging to detect amyloid, a protein whose fragments make up the brain plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, those with higher midlife BMI had more amyloid deposits in the precuneus, a brain region that often shows the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s-related changes.”

Eat less; move more; live longer.

To read further about keeping your brain healthy, check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits).

Tony

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