Category Archives: dementia

Diet and Alzheimer’s – Tufts

Herewith another entry in our arsenal against that destroyer of lives – Alzheimer’s Disease, from the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities collectively known as dementia. There is no known food or diet that can prevent or cure Alzheimer’s dementia, but diet may help delay onset and slow progression.

What sets Alzheimer’s apart from other forms of dementia is the excessive buildup of beta-amyloid protein fragments into plaques, as well as defective tau proteins that form tangles in the brain. These changes lead to the death of the nerve cells responsible for everything from memory to movement. There are currently no known dietary factors that can impact the formation of these plaques and tangles, but diet may act in other ways to influence Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

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Does smoking increase your risk for dementia and cognitive decline?

Regular readers know that I have written repeatedly about the dangers of smoking as well as vaping. To read more check out my Page – How many ways does smoking harm you?

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Scientists from the Uniformed Services University (USU), Emory University and the University of Vermont have found that cigarette smoking is linked to increased lesions in the brain’s white matter, called white matter hyperintensities.  White matter hyperintensities, detected by MRI scan, are associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. These findings may help explain the link between smoking and increased rates of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.

The study, “Associations of cigarette smoking with gray and white matter in the UK Biobank” was published online in the journal, Neuropsychopharmacology.
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Understanding the brain/heart connection

Being a senior citizen with a family tree containing both Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, I read everything I can on the subject. Here is the latest from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH).

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Did you know that taking care of your heart can reduce your risk for memory and thinking problems? A review of medical research conducted by the Global Council on Brain Health recently showed a reduced risk of dementia with improved heart health. So, let’s review their major findings to learn how we can take better care of our hearts and brains. Continue reading

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Genetic variants cut Alzheimer’s disease risk – UCL

While there is no known ‘silver bullet’ for Alzheimer’s disease it appears that there may be some ‘luck of the draw’ genetic variants that help.

A DNA study of over 10,000 people by University College of London (UCL) scientists has identified a class of gene variants that appear to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings, published in Annals of Human Genetics, suggest these naturally occurring gene variants reduce the functioning of proteins called tyrosine phosphatases, which are known to impair the activity of a cell signalling pathway known as PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β. This pathway is important for cell survival.

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The research builds on previous studies in mice and rats, which suggested inhibiting the function of these proteins might be protective against Alzheimer’s disease, but this is the first time such an effect has been demonstrated in people.

Researchers believe the PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β signalling pathway could be a key target for therapeutic drugs and the findings also strengthen evidence that other genes could be linked to either elevated or reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“These results are quite encouraging. It looks as though when naturally-occurring genetic variants reduce the activity of tyrosine phosphatases then this makes Alzheimer’s disease less likely to develop, suggesting that drugs which have the same effect might also be protective,” said the study’s lead author, Professor David Curtis (UCL Genetics Institute).

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Proximity to major roads linked to increased risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS

As a senior citizen whose family has Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia on both sides, I take these studies very seriously

Living near major roads or highways is linked to higher incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS), suggests new research published this week in the journal Environmental Health.

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Researchers from the University of British Columbia analyzed data for 678,000 adults in Metro Vancouver. They found that living less than 50 meters from a major road or less than 150 meters from a highway is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS—likely due to increased exposure to air pollution.

The researchers also found that living near green spaces, like parks, has protective effects against developing these neurological disorders.

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Losing one night’s sleep may increase blood levels of Alzheimer’s biomarker – Study

I have written repeatedly about getting a good night’s sleep. You can check my page – How important is a good night’s sleep?  for more details. Regular readers also know about my concern about cognition and the vulnerability of an aging brain because of the Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia in my family.

A preliminary study by researchers at Uppsala University has found that when young, healthy men were deprived of just one night of sleep, they had higher levels of tau – a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease – in their blood than when they had a full, uninterrupted night of rest. The study is published in the medical journal Neurology.

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Tau is a protein found in neurons and the protein can form into tangles. These accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. This accumulation can start decades before symptoms of the disease appear. Previous studies of older adults have suggested that sleep deprivation can increase the level of tau in the cerebral spinal fluid. Trauma to the head can also increase circulating concentrations of tau in blood.

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What comes first, beta-amyloid plaques or cognition problems?

Because of the dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in my family, I have an appetite for information on impaired cognition. Following comes from a study by the VA San Diego Healthcare System. Subtle changes in thinking and memory may appear before, or in conjunction with, the development of amyloid plaques.

The scientific community has long believed that beta-amyloid, a protein that can clump together and form sticky plaques in the brain, is the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid then leads to other brain changes including neurodegeneration and eventually to thinking and memory problems. But a new study challenges that theory. The study suggests that subtle thinking and memory differences may come before, or happen alongside, the development of amyloid plaques that can be detected in the brain. The study is published in the December 30, 2019, online issue of Neurology.

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Participants had brain scans at the start of the study to determine levels of amyloid plaques in the brain, and then yearly scans for four years. Image is in the public domain.

“Our research was able to detect subtle thinking and memory differences in study participants and these participants had faster amyloid accumulation on brain scans over time, suggesting that amyloid may not necessarily come first in the Alzheimer’s disease process,” said study author Kelsey R. Thomas, PhD, of the VA San Diego Healthcare System in San Diego. “Much of the research exploring possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease has focused on targeting amyloid. But based on our findings, perhaps that focus needs to shift to other possible targets.” Continue reading

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Moving More in Old Age May Protect Brain from Dementia

Older adults who move more than average, either in the form of daily exercise or just routine physical activity such as housework, may maintain more of their memory and thinking skills than people who are less active than average, even if they have brain lesions or bio-markers linked to dementia, according to a study by Rush University Medical Center.adult man playing a musial instrument

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The study results were published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Continue reading

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Aging folks worried about dementia risk

Nearly half of Americans in their 50s and early 60s think they’re likely to develop dementia as they grow older, but only 5% of them have actually talked with a doctor about what they could do to reduce their risk, a new study finds. 

Meanwhile, a third or more say they’re trying to stave off dementia by taking supplements or doing crossword puzzles – despite the lack of proof that such tactics work. 

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The new findings suggest a need for better counseling for middle-aged Americans about the steps they can take to keep their brains healthy as they age.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies continue to work on potential dementia-preventing medications. But an over-estimation of future dementia risk by individuals may lead to costly over-use of such products, the researchers warn.

The new results appear in a research letter in the new edition of JAMA Neurology, and a presentation at the Gerontological Society of America’s annual meeting.

Both are by members of a team from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation who analyzed data from a nationally representative poll of 1,019 adults between the ages of 50 and 64.

Donovan Maust, M.D., M.S., a geriatric psychiatrist specializing in dementia-related care and lead author of the JAMA Neurology letter, notes that even among the oldest Americans, the risk of dementia is lower than one in three people over age 85.

Risk starts rising around age 65, and is higher among people of Latino or African-American heritage. Continue reading

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Walking patterns identify specific dementia type – Study

Walking may be a key clinical tool in helping medics accurately identify the specific type of dementia a patient has, pioneering research has revealed.

For the first time, scientists at Newcastle University have shown that people with Alzheimer’s disease or Lewy body dementia have unique walking patterns that signal subtle differences between the two conditions.

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Gait Lab photo

The research, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, shows that people with Lewy body dementia change their walking steps more – varying step time and length – and are asymmetric when they move, in comparison to those with Alzheimer’s disease.

It is a first significant step towards establishing gait as a clinical biomarker for various subtypes of the disease and could lead to improved treatment plans for patients.

Useful diagnostic tool

Dr Ríona McArdle, Post-Doctoral Researcher at Newcastle University’s Faculty of Medical Sciences, led the Alzheimer’s Society-funded research.

She said: “The way we walk can reflect changes in thinking and memory that highlight problems in our brain, such as dementia.

“Correctly identifying what type of dementia someone has is important for clinicians and researchers as it allows patients to be given the most appropriate treatment for their needs as soon as possible.

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Aging arteries weaken memory – Study

Regular readers know of my concern about aging and its effect on cognition as three of my direct family members suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. For that reason I try to keep my arteries flexible through my program of regular exercise. I know that there is no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s, but I am willing to take any physical measures that I can to reduce my chances. Check out my Page  – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more details on this subject.

Researchers in Umeå, Sweden, have presented a model that explains why memory deteriorates as the body ages. With age, the brain receives an increased load from the heart’s beating as the body’s large arteries stiffen over the years, causing damage to the smallest blood vessels in the brain.

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The fact that human memory is deteriorating with increasing age is something that most people experience sooner or later, even among those who avoid diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Similarly, a connection between the ageing of the brain and the body is well known. However, the exact nature of this association is not known.

“We suggest a chain of events on how the aging of the brain and vessels are related,” says Lars Nyberg, professor at Umeå University.

What Umeå researchers Lars Nyberg and Anders Wåhlin have created is an explanatory model that starts with the heartbeat, and carries through the largest arteries in the body all the way to the finest vessels in the brain. An important feature of the model is that it provides a rationale why some cognitive processes may be particularly at risk for the proposed mechanism.

As the human body ages, large arteries, such as the aorta, stiffen and lose a large portion of their ability to absorb the pressure increase generated as the heart ejects blood into the arteries. Such pressure pulsatility is instead transmitted to smaller blood vessels, for example those in the brain. The smallest blood vessels in the brain, the capillaries, are subjected to an increased stress that causes damage to cells within and surrounding the capillary walls. These cells are important in the regulation of the capillary blood flow. If the smallest blood vessels are damaged, this is detrimental to the ability to increase the blood supply to the brain when coping with demanding cognitive processes.

According to the researchers’ model, the hippocampus in the brain is particularly vulnerable. The structure in that part of the brain is important for the episodic memory, that is, the ability to remember events from the past. The vulnerability of the hippocampus relates to the fact that it is located close to the large vessels and thus is exposed to the increased load early in the chain. In a young and healthy person, the pulsations are soft, but in an ageing person the pulsations can be so powerful that they affect the brain tissue and can damage the blood supply to memory processes.

The Umeå researchers’ model is based on a number of previous studies from the last five years.

“We have laid the puzzle of current and verified research in different fields to a broader and more detailed picture of the course of events. It will form a starting point for future research to gain a better understanding and, in the long term, researchers may also find solutions to slow down the process,” says Anders Wåhlin.

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Some dementia patients show moments of clarity at end of life – Study

It happens unexpectedly: a person long thought lost to the ravages of dementia, unable to recall the events of their lives or even recognize those closest to them, will suddenly wake up and exhibit surprisingly normal behavior, only to pass away shortly thereafter. This phenomenon, which experts refer to as terminal or paradoxical lucidity, has been reported since antiquity, yet there have been very few scientific studies of it. That may be about to change.

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In an article published in the August issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia , an interdisciplinary workgroup convened by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Aging and led by Michigan Medicine’s George A. Mashour, M.D., Ph.D., outlines what is known and unknown about paradoxical lucidity, considers its potential mechanisms, and details how a thorough scientific analysis could help shed light on the pathophysiology of dementia. Continue reading

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Detection of early stage Alzheimer’s in blood – Study

Two major studies with promising antibodies have recently failed – possibly because they have been administered too late. A new very early-detection test gives rise to hope.

Using current techniques, Alzheimer’s disease, the most frequent cause of dementia, can only be detected once the typical plaques have formed in the brain. At this point, therapy seems no longer possible. However, the first changes caused by Alzheimer’s take place on the protein level up to 20 years sooner. A two-tier method developed at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) can help detect the disease at a much earlier stage. The researchers from Bochum published their report in the March 2019 edition of the journal “Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring”.

 

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“This has paved the way for early-stage therapy approaches, where the as yet inefficient drugs on which we had pinned our hopes may prove effective,” says Professor Klaus Gerwert from the Department of Biophysics at RUB.

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Lowering blood pressure could help prevent cognitive impairment – Study

Significant reductions in the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI)*, and the combination of MCI and dementia**, have been shown for the first time through aggressive lowering of systolic blood pressure in new research results from the federally-funded SPRINT MIND Study reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Chicago.

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“This is the first randomized clinical trial to demonstrate a reduction in new cases of MCI alone and the combined risk of MCI plus all-cause dementia,” said Jeff D. Williamson, MD, MHS, Professor of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology and Chief, Section on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Williamson reported these results at AAIC 2018.

The results of this large-scale, long-term clinical trial provide the strongest evidence to date about reducing risk of MCI and dementia through the treatment of high blood pressure, which is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease worldwide.

“This study shows more conclusively than ever before that there are things you can do — especially regarding cardiovascular disease risk factors — to reduce your risk of MCI and dementia,” said Maria C. Carrillo, PhD, Alzheimer’s Association Chief Science Officer. “To reduce new cases of MCI and dementia globally we must do everything we can — as professionals and individuals — to reduce blood pressure to the levels indicated in this study, which we know is beneficial to cardiovascular risk.”

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Calorie Restriction May Promote Cognitive Function – Tufts

Most people have heard or read about calorie restriction being a technique for living longer. This is the first I have heard of it affecting cognition.

Several studies have reported that actively cutting down on calories – not simply “watching your weight” – might also be an effective strategy against cognitive decline, according to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.

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One German study found a connection between a restricted-calorie diet and improved memory among participants divided into three groups: One aimed to reduce calorie intake by 30 percent, mostly by eating smaller portions; a second group kept calories the same while increasing intake of healthy fats by 20 percent; and a third, the control group, made no dietary changes. Continue reading

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Researchers Define Alzheimer’s-like Brain Disorder

As regular readers know, I have a history of Alzheimer’s Disease or some form of dementia on both sides of my family, so I entertain a strong interest in the subject, particularly since I am a senior citizen.

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A brain disorder that mimics symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease has been defined with recommended diagnostic criteria and guidelines for advancing future research on the condition. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center and scientists from several National Institutes of Health-funded institutions, in collaboration with international peers, described the newly named pathway to dementia, limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, or LATE, in a report published today in the journal Brain.

“We proposed a new name to increase recognition and research for this common cause of dementia, the symptoms of which mimic Alzheimer’s dementia but is not caused by plaques and tangles (the buildup of beta amyloid proteins that Alzheimer’s produces). Rather, LATE dementia is caused by deposits of a protein called TDP-43 in the brain,” said Dr. Julie Schneider, senior author of the Brain paper and associate director of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Continue reading

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