Category Archives: dementia

Dim light dims our brains – Study

Regular readers know I do a lot of work on the brain, my brain. Family members have suffered from both Alzheimer’s and dementia. At the age of 78, I want to continue enjoying my life and mental capacity.

Now comes Michigan State University with info on how light affects our mental functioning.

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Spending too much time in dimly lit rooms and offices may actually change the brain’s structure and hurt one’s ability to remember and learn, indicates groundbreaking research by Michigan State University neuroscientists.

The researchers studied the brains of Nile grass rats (which, like humans, are diurnal and sleep at night) after exposing them to dim and bright light for four weeks. The rodents exposed to dim light lost about 30 percent of capacity in the hippocampus, a critical brain region for learning and memory, and performed poorly on a spatial task they had trained on previously.

The rats exposed to bright light, on the other hand, showed significant improvement on the spatial task. Further, when the rodents that had been exposed to dim light were then exposed to bright light for four weeks (after a month-long break), their brain capacity – and performance on the task – recovered fully.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the first to show that changes in environmental light, in a range normally experienced by humans, leads to structural changes in the brain. Americans, on average, spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 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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Everyday habits can bolster your memory muscles – Harvard

Regular readers know that I have had several members of my family, or both sides, suffer from dementia in general or Alzheimer’s in particular. So, being a guy in his late 70’s I am particularly sensitive to any kind of cognitive kinks that I may be experiencing. I don’t know if it is my imagination or there are simply more people coming on board the cognitive improvement movement. Herewith, Harvard Healthbeat on tips for strengthening your memory.

Your daily habits and lifestyle — what you eat and drink, whether you exercise, how stressed you are, and more — affect your mental health every bit as much as your physical health. A growing body of research indicates that regular exercise and a healthful diet can help protect your memory from aging-related decline. (my emphasis)

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Exercise

Physical fitness and mental fitness go together. People who exercise regularly tend to stay mentally sharp into their 70s, 80s, and beyond. Although the precise “dose” of exercise isn’t known, research suggests that the exercise should be moderate to vigorous and regular. Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, stationary bicycling, water aerobics, and competitive table tennis. Vigorous activities include jogging, high-impact aerobic dancing, square dancing, and tennis.

Exercise helps memory in several ways. It reduces the risk of developing several potentially memory-robbing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Exercise is good for the lungs, and people who have good lung function send more oxygen to their brains. There is some evidence that exercise helps build new connections between brain cells and improves communication between them. Finally, exercise has been linked to increased production of neurotrophins, substances that nourish brain cells and help protect them against damage from stroke and other injuries.

 

Here are some ways to build physical activity into your daily routine:

Walk instead of driving when possible.

Set aside time each day for exercise. For extra motivation, ask your spouse or a friend to join you.

Use the stairs instead of the elevator.

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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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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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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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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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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Older brains benefit from all types of exercise

At the risk of being repetitious, I have had three family members suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and/or dementia. At the age of 77 I am really concerned about living a long life, but WITH my brain fully functional. That is only one of the reasons I ride my bike every day here in Chicago. I promote exercise in all its forms here and subscribe to the mantra: eat less; move more; live longer.

Brain

Brain

Many studies have told us exercise is good for the brain. But does it depend on the type of exercise? New research suggests not – at least for seniors. A study of older people found the brain benefits from many types of physical activities – and you don’t have to go to the gym to do them, according to Medical News Today.

The team, from the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, an institution affiliated with the University of Montreal in Canada, reports the findings in the journal AGE. 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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Healthy eating may reduce risk of dementia – AAIC Conference

Because of the Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia in my family, I have been an avid student of ways to protect myself as I age. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more. Regarding our general physical health I know that diet contributes about 70 percent and exercise 30 percent. It turns out that diet also provides important elements of brain health, too.

Results from four large population-based studies support a connection between good dietary practices and better cognition in old age. Study results were reported at the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC 2017) in London.

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A group of U.S. scientists found that, among nearly 6,000 older adults in the Health and Retirement Study, those who consistently followed diets long known to contribute to cardiovascular health were also more likely to maintain strong cognitive function in old age. They found that sticking to the specially designed MIND diet and Mediterranean diet was associated with 30 to 35 percent lower risk of cognitive impairment in healthy older adults. In fact, the investigators discovered that those with healthier diets exhibited meaningful preservation of cognitive function.

  • The Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets were originally developed or codified to help improve cardiovascular health.
  • A hybrid of these diets, called the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND diet, is gaining attention for its potential positive effects on preserving cognitive function and reducing dementia risk in older individuals. A 2015 study found that individuals adhering to this diet exhibited less cognitive decline as they aged (Morris et al. Alzheimer’s Dement. 2015; 11:1015-22).

Other diet-related studies reported at AAIC 2017 included:

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Cholesterol may affect brain functions – Study

Having lost three family members to Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, I was fascinated by this information from researchers in Berlin.

A study led by researchers at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and the Institute of Medical Physics and Biophysics at the Faculty of Medicine in Charité Hospital, Berlin, published in the journal Nature Communications, demonstrates that the cholesterol present in cell membranes can interfere with the function of an important brain membrane protein, through a previously unknown mode of interaction. Specifically, cholesterol is capable of regulating the activity of the adenosine receptor, by invading it and accessing the active site. This will allow new ways of interacting with these proteins to be devised that in the future could lead to drugs for treating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

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The adenosine receptor belongs to the GPCR family (G Protein-Coupled Receptors), a large group of proteins located in cell membranes, which are key in the transmission of signals and communication between cells. GPCRs are therefore involved in the majority of important physiological processes, including the interpretation of sensory stimuli such as vision, smell, and taste, the regulation of the immune and inflammatory system, and behavior modulation. Continue reading

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Tea drinking may help prevent dementia – Harvard

Good news for tea drinkers or all stripes. A study in the December 2016 Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging showed that drinking tea frequently is associated with a lower risk of dementia, especially for people who are genetically predisposed to the disease, Harvard Men’s Health Watch reported.

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Researchers followed 957 older adults, average age 65, who were part of the Singapore Longitudinal Aging Study. Of these, 69% drank tea on a frequent basis. After a five-year period, the researchers found that the tea drinkers had a 50% lower risk of dementia. This is consistent with earlier findings that showed tea consumers scored higher on various cognitive tests.

Continue reading

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