Category Archives: Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Disease Redefined

Researchers have published a new study framework that defines Alzheimer’s disease by brain changes, not symptoms.

“NIA-AA Research Framework: Towards a Biological Definition of Alzheimer’s Disease” was published in the April 2018 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. First author Clifford R. Jack, Jr., M.D., of Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN and colleagues propose shifting the definition of Alzheimer’s disease in living people – for use in research – from the current one, based on cognitive changes and behavioral symptoms with biomarker confirmation, to a strictly biological construct. This represents a major evolution in how we think about Alzheimer’s.

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In 2011, the Alzheimer’s Association (AA) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health convened experts to update the diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Understanding and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias may be the most difficult challenge for the medical/scientific community this century. The field has experienced monumental challenges developing new and effective drug therapies, not the least of which was the discovery that – until recently – clinical trials were conducted where up to 30% of participants did not have the Alzheimer’s disease-related brain change targeted by the experimental drug. Continue reading

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Alzheimer’s in the family – What next? – Harvard

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

I have three cases of Alzheimer’s/dementia on both sides of my family, including mother, aunt and grandfather. So, I am extremely sensitive to any information on the subject of cognition and aging. One of the aspects of Alzheimer’s that few people consider, until a loved one becomes afflicted, is that the relatives and people who care about the person suffer greatly as they see a person they loved deteriorate mentally and physically before their eyes. It also raises the specter of – what about me? Will I get it, too?

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Here is a good no nonsense discussion from Harvard Men’s Health Watch.

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. Continue reading

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Aerobic exercise may ease some Alzheimer’s symptoms

Regular readers how focused I am on the connection between exercise and the brain. I lost three family members to Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia. And, I just turned 78 two weeks ago. So, I was most interested in this report on the benefits of aerobic exercise on Alzheimer’s symptoms. When you finish reading, please check out my Page – Important facts about  your brain (and exercise benefits.)

Alzheimer’s Disease is a brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills over time. It is the most common form of dementia in older adults. There is presently no cure for the condition, though treatment options are available. Today, some 5.3 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s Disease, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The number of older adults who will develop AD is expected to more than triple by 2050.

Geriatrics experts have suggested that exercising can improve brain health in older adults. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommendations for how much older adults should exercise. They suggest that older adults perform 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking), 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic training, or a combination of the two types. The WHO also recommends older adults perform muscle-strengthening exercises on at least two or more days a week. Continue reading

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Massaging Brain Cells to Fight Alzheimer’s

I have written repeatedly about physical exercise benefiting the brain. It seems that now a new study has found a way to actually stimulate the brain cells which may benefit individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Some researchers at Montana State University have a light touch when it comes to unraveling the mysteries of the brain and exploring new ways to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s.

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A team led by Anja Kunze, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, uses tiny magnets to stretch small branches of individual brain cells in her lab.

“It’s a very gentle force,” Kunze said. “It would be like getting a massage.” Continue reading

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Lack of Sleep Boosts Levels of Alzheimer’s Protein – Study

I wrote about the dangers of sleep deprivation earlier this week. Here is the opening paragraph of that post: Regular readers know that I am an old man and very highly value a good night’s sleep. That is not the way I felt 20 years ago when I was in the working world. In those days I felt strongly that sleep was an intrusion on my life and activities and resented having to do it. I got a little wiser as the years went by. Please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for significantly more details on this very important aspect of living a long healthy life.

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Have you resolved to take better care of yourself in the new year? Here’s a relatively painless way to do it: Catch a few more zzz’s every night. A third of American adults don’t get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention..

Chronic poor sleep has been linked to cognitive decline, and a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis explains why: As a wakeful brain churns away through the night, it produces more of the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid beta than its waste-disposal system can handle. Levels of the protein rise, potentially setting off a sequence of changes to the brain that can end with dementia.

“This study is the clearest demonstration in humans that sleep disruption leads to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease through an amyloid beta mechanism,” said senior author Randall Bateman, MD, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology. “The study showed that it was due to overproduction of amyloid beta during sleep deprivation.” Continue reading

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Can you get Alzheimer’s when you are young?

I used to attend regularly a program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital called ‘Healthy Transions.’ It was for folks over 55 years old and dealt with the situations they would encounter as they aged. The most popular talks by far were the ones on MCI – mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s not surprising that as we age we get serious concerns about our brains functioning fully.

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Here is what Sharecare had to say on the subject: We rightly associate Alzheimer’s disease with an older population. Most people who develop this progressive brain disorder are age 65 and older. Currently some 5.5 million Americans—two-thirds of them women—live with the disease. But hidden within that estimate, a smaller number—approximately 200,000 adults—develop the condition under the age of 65. When this happens, it’s called younger-onset, or early-onset Alzheimer’s. “Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia, and given the frequency of early-onset it’s somewhat uncommon,” says H. Rai Kakkar, MD, a neurologist at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Centerin Denver, Colorado.

How is early-onset different?
Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (EOAD) is the same as Alzheimer’s disease in terms of progressive deterioration of cognitive function, but there are differences in causes. Some cases are the result of familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD), caused by an inherited change in one of several specific genes. Continue reading

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November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Regular readers know that I and my family have had several members suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia. As this is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month I thought I would round up some of my Alzheimer’s posts and list their links for you. But, before you start on them, I need to direct you to my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits.)

 

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These are in reverse chronological order:

Memory loss reversed in early Alzheimer’s – Study

Cholesterol levels linked to Alzheimer’s – MNT

Some possibly good news on Alzheimer’s Disease- TED talk

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

What about Alzheimer’s in the family? – Harvard

Extra virgin olive oil may prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Weight and Alzheimer’s risk – Tufts

Can gut bacteria affect Alzheimer’s?

Can exercise help people at risk for Alzheimer’s?

Get the jump on Alzheimer’s and dementia – Rush

Can Ayurveda help with Alzheimer’s and dementia?

How to reduce your chances of Alzheimer’s – Harvard

Does forgetting things mean I am coming down with Alzheimer’s?

Those are all from 2017 except the final one which was last year. Feel free to search the blog for more in you want to read further on the subject.

Tony

 

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Winter is coming. Are you ready for it?

I would like to add a personal word here. When I first started taking care of my aunt with Alzheimer’s some years ago I was concerned about her handling winter. We had always been close and I remember that winter’s short and dark days got her down. The doctor had told me that she would be able to live at home if she didn’t become aggressive. I had no idea how to keep her mood up but I stumbled upon an article about these full spectrum lights that mimic the sun’s rays.

So, I thought I would get her a couple of these lamps to fool her body and brain away from dark thoughts and moods. Long story short: it worked. She was able to live out her life in her own house. By the way, this was the house she moved into when she married my uncle more than 60 years earlier.


Tony

Our Better Health

Well with the forecast in mind, snow, wind, and all the things associated with it, I have to ask: Are you ready for winter?

The ten foot snow banks, the blizzards, the -38 C wind chills, the bad roads and everything else that I’d rather not even think about right now?

Hold on a second.

You might have assumed I was talking about the physical requirements to get through yet another Winnipeg winter, but I wasn’t. We all go through it every year right? Winter clothes are in good shape? Check. The furnace is in good working order? Check. Got the winter tires on? Check.

Sure all those things are necessary to get by in the six month Manitoba deep freeze, but what about mental preparation?

I never used to think about that very much because you just dealt with it, you handled it. You knew what to expect and…

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Memory loss reversed in early Alzheimer’s – Study

Researchers have successfully reversed memory loss in a small number of people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease using a comprehensive treatment program, which involves a combination of lifestyle changes, brain stimulation, and medication.

Researchers suggest the MEND program is highly effective for reversing memory loss.

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Memory improvements as a result of the treatment program have so far been sustained for 2 years, the researchers report, and some patients have even been able to return to work as a result.

Study co-author Dr. Dale Bredesen, of the Buck Institute on Research and Aging in Novato, CA, and colleagues recently published their findings in the journal Aging.

While the study only involved 10 patients, the researchers believe their findings may open the door to an effective therapy for cognitive decline.

“The magnitude of improvement in these 10 patients is unprecedented, providing additional objective evidence that this programmatic approach to cognitive decline is highly effective,” says Dr. Bredesen.

There are currently around 5.4 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

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Poor sleep habits related to dementia

I have written about the value of sleep for some years here. It along with walking are two of the most unappreciated aspects of living a healthy life. You can check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more details.

I wanted to share the following video with you as it highlights another aspect of the value of a good night’s sleep.

Dr. Breus is a clinical psychologist, and is known for his expertise on sleep and health. He’s a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine,.

Poor sleep literally causes dementia. It’s one of the causes, and fixing it is one of the ways you can reverse dementia.

Dr. Breus explains exactly how lack of sleep affects your body and brain, and how disturbances in your sleep cycles can “turn on” the progression of dementia, and cause many other serious health problems too.

The good news is that you can avoid mental and physical disorders that poor sleep causes by following easy, at-home recommendations Dr. Breus will give you to cure sleep disorders and sleep peacefully all through the night.

Tony

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Music, meditation may improve early cognitive decline – MNT

Meditation and music listening programs have shown promise in improving measures of cognitive and memory in adults with subjective cognitive decline, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Emerging evidence indicates that subjective cognitive decline (SCD) could represent a pre-clinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, or unhealthy brain aging. Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million people in the United States.

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Dr. Kim Innes, associate professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University in Morgantown, and colleagues aimed to assess the effects of two mind-body practices – Kirtan Kriya meditation and music listening – on cognitive outcomes in people with SCD.

Kirtan Kriya is a form of yoga meditation that combines focused breathing practices, singing or chanting, finger movements, and visualization. Practitioners of yoga claim that this type of meditation stimulates all of a person’s senses and the associated brain areas.

Meditation and music listening programs have shown promise in improving measures of cognitive and memory in adults with subjective cognitive decline, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Listening to music or taking part in meditation could improve memory and cognitive function among people with SCD.

Continue reading

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Some possibly good news on Alzheimer’s Disease – TED talk

Regular readers know that I have lost three family members to Alzheimer’s Disease and/or dementia. So, anything having to do with those afflictions I find relevant.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Brain scientist Owen Carmichael is preparing for his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. And for his children’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. And he’s asking an important question: Can we use basic health tools to train our brain to resist the effects of the disease?

DR. OWEN CARMICHAEL has a Ph.D. in robotics and a passion for brain science. Owen is an associate professor and the Director of Biomedical Imaging at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. He uses technology not only to better understand how the wiring of your brain affects your ability to think, but also how your actions and your environment can affect the wiring of the brain. In other words: are we able to set ourselves up to be mentally healthy throughout our lives, or are we destined for our brains to turn our lives one way or another? Owen has been studying these questions for years.

Tony

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What about football and the athlete’s brain?

Regular readers know that I have lost three family members to dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease, so I am totally interested in any new information on the subject. I am also a passionate fan of the National Football League.

The following is from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Bulletin.

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Most fans will track first downs and touchdowns on Sept. 7, the opening game of the National Football League’s (NFL’s) 2017 season. If he tunes in, Robert Stern, PhD, no doubt will focus on any traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that occur during the game. These can range from mild TBI – as in a concussion – to severe TBI.

Dr. Stern also will watch for those more common head impacts that do not result in symptoms of concussion or draw the attention of the television cameras.  Called “subconcussive” trauma, those hits are associated with a brain disease that is the focus of Dr. Stern’s research.

Dr. Stern is the Director of Clinical Research for the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center and Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center Clinical Core, both at Boston University.

“Alzheimer’s disease is my primary focus professionally,” Dr. Stern said. “But some years ago, I started to learn more about another neurodegenerative disease called CTE. I soon realized that CTE had the potential to become a major public health issue. That’s when CTE research became a passion.”

CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease, similar to Alzheimer’s disease, found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma. That brain trauma could include concussions as well as those subconcussive hits to the head that do not have symptoms. The trauma can trigger a series of events in the brain that progressively destroy its tissue, resulting in CTE. The symptoms that accompany CTE are similar to Alzheimer’s disease: changes in memory and cognition as well as changes in mood and behavior. Eventually, it can lead to dementia.

TBI, CTE & Alzheimer’s: Are they Connected? 

Is there a connection between TBI, CTE and Alzheimer’s?

“I used to refer to TBI as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, because early research suggested that,” said Dr. Stern. “However, more recent research suggests that the relationship between the two is not very clear.”

That means people who experience TBI at any age – a hit on the football field as a youth or a fall on the stairs as an older adult – do not appear to increase their chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Concussion Controversies in Sports

Now let’s head back to the football field.

A 2016 Harris Poll showed pro football is continuing its reign as America’s favorite sport. Its popularity persists in spite of concern about the sport’s long-term impact on players’ brain health that began in the early 2000s. At that time, autopsies of deceased American football players revealed evidence of CTE. Years later, research from the BU center published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 110 out of 111 deceased former NFL players had CTE.

Dr. Stern estimates that in some contact sports like football, there can be 1,000 or more subconcussive hits per season of play. And these impacts can leave their mark on an athlete and eventually lead to CTE.

“There’s research that indicates even after one season of youth football, children ages 8-10 years old,  had structural changes to their brains that were directly associated with the number of hits to the head they received,” Dr. Stern said. “Research from my team at BU has shown a dose-response relationship between the total estimated number of those repetitive head impacts a football player receives through youth, high school, and college football, and later life cognitive impairments and problems with depression and behavior. We have to take these repetitive head impacts seriously.”

And thanks to Dr. Stern, that message is getting out.

Want to learn more about head injury and CTE? Join Dr. Robert A. Stern, PhD, Clinical Core Director of the BU Alzheimer’s Disease Center online as he discusses the role of head injury in developing dementia later in life. 

  • Thursday, August 24th, 2-3 PM Eastern (11 AM-12 PM Pacific / Arizona, 12-1 PM Mountain, 1-2 PM Central)
  • Can’t make it to the live webinar? Don’t worry! Just register as if you will attend and we will send you a recording that you can view at your convenience,
  • Sign up now.

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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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