Category Archives: dementia

Music helps patients with dementia connect with loved ones – NW

People with dementia often lose their ability to communicate verbally with loved ones in later stages of the disease. But a Northwestern Medicine study, in collaboration with Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA), shows how that gap can be bridged with a new music intervention. 

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In the intervention — developed at ITA and called “Musical Bridges to Memory” — a live ensemble plays music from a patient’s youth such as songs from the musicals “Oklahoma” or “The Sound of Music.” This creates an emotional connection between a patient and their caregiver by allowing them to interact with the music together via singing, dancing and playing simple instruments, the study authors said. 

The program also enhanced patients’ social engagement and reduced neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, anxiety and depression in both patients and caregivers.

More than 6 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease. 

The study is unusual because it targeted patients with dementia and their caregivers, said lead study author Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour. Most prior studies using music for dementia patients have focused only on the patients. 

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Filed under Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's risk, dementia, music, music therapy

Which leisure activities are linked to lower risk of dementia?

Leisure activities, such as reading a book, doing yoga and spending time with family and friends, may help lower the risk of dementia, according to a new meta-analysis published in the August 10, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The meta-analysis reviewed available studies on the effects of cognitive activities, physical activities, and social activities and the risk of dementia.

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“Previous studies have shown that leisure activities were associated with various health benefits, such as a lower cancer risk, a reduction of atrial fibrillation, and a person’s perception of their own well-being,” said study author Lin Lu, PhD, of Peking University Sixth Hospital in Beijing, China. “However, there is conflicting evidence of the role of leisure activities in the prevention of dementia. Our research found that leisure activities like making crafts, playing sports or volunteering were linked to a reduced risk of dementia.”

The meta-analysis involved a review of 38 studies from around the world involving a total of more than 2 million people who did not have dementia. The participants were followed for at least three years.

Participants provided information on their leisure activities through questionnaires or interviews. Leisure activities were defined as those in which people engaged for enjoyment or well-being and were divided into mental, physical and social activities.

During the studies, 74,700 people developed dementia.

After adjusting for factors such as age, sex and education, researchers found that leisure activities overall were linked to a reduced risk of dementia. Those who engaged in leisure activities had a 17% lower risk of developing dementia than those who did not engage in leisure activities.

Mental activity mainly consisted of intellectual activities and included reading or writing for pleasure, watching television, listening to the radio, playing games or musical instruments, using a computer and making crafts. Researchers found that people who participated in these activities had a 23% lower risk of dementia.

Physical activities included walking, running, swimming, bicycling, using exercise machines, playing sports, yoga, and dancing. Researchers found that people who participated in these activities had a 17% lower risk of dementia.

Social activities mainly referred to activities that involved communication with others and included attending a class, joining a social club, volunteering, visiting with relatives or friends, or attending religious activities. Researchers found that people who participated in these activities had a 7% lower risk of dementia.

“This meta-analysis suggests that being active has benefits, and there are plenty of activities that are easy to incorporate into daily life that may be beneficial to the brain,” Lu said. “Our research found that leisure activities may reduce the risk of dementia. Future studies should include larger sample sizes and longer follow-up time to reveal more links between leisure activities and dementia.”

A limitation of the study was that people reported their own physical and mental activity, so they may not have remembered and reported the activities correctly.

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Filed under active leisure, cognition, cognitive decline, cognitive impairment, dementia, mild cognitive impairment

Higher antioxidant levels tied to lower dementia risk

People with higher levels of antioxidants in their blood may be less likely to develop dementia, according to a new study.

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People with higher levels of antioxidants in their blood may be less likely to develop dementia, according to a study published in the May 4, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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Risk Factors for Dementia May Vary with Age

Which vascular risk factors are associated with the risk of developing dementia may vary with age. A new study shows that among people around age 55, the risk of developing dementia over the next 10 years was increased in those with diabetes and high blood pressure.

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For people around 65 years old, the risk was higher in those with heart disease, and for those in their 70s, diabetes and stroke. For 80-year-olds, the risk of developing dementia was increased in those with diabetes and a history of stroke, while taking blood pressure medications decreased the risk.

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These Heart Risk Factors Are a Recipe for Dementia

The faster you pile up heart disease risk factors, the greater your odds of developing dementia, a new study suggests.

Previous research has linked heart health threats such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity with mental decline and dementia.

Amassing those risk factors at a faster pace boosts your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, according to findings published online April 20 in the journal Neurology.

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New research identifies blood biomarker for predicting dementia before symptoms develop

New research from NUI Galway and Boston University has identified a blood biomarker that could help identify people with the earliest signs of dementia, even before the onset of symptoms.

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

The researchers measured blood levels of P-tau181, a marker of neurodegeneration, in 52 cognitively healthy adults, from the US-based Framingham Heart Study, who later went on to have specialised brain PET scans. The blood samples were taken from people who had no cognitive symptoms and who had normal cognitive testing at the time of blood testing. 

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Quantum brains sensors could spot dementia

New highly sensitive quantum sensors for the brain may in the future be able to identify brain diseases such as dementia, ALS and Parkinson’s, by spotting a slowing in the speed at which signals travel across the brain. The research findings from a paper led by University of Sussex quantum physicists are published in Scientific Reports journal.

The quantum scanners being developed by the scientists can detect the magnetic fields generated when neurons fire.  Measuring moment-to-moment changes in the brain, they track the speed at which signals move across the brain.  This time-element is important because it means a patient could be scanned twice several months apart to check whether the activity in their brain is slowing down. Such slowing can be a sign of Alzheimer’s or other diseases of the brain.

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In this way, the technology introduces a new method to spot bio-markers of early health problems.

Aikaterini Gialopsou, a doctoral researcher in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex and Brighton and Sussex Medical School is the lead author on the paper. She says of the discovery:

 “We’ve shown for the first time that quantum sensors can produce highly accurate results in terms of both space and time. While other teams have shown the benefits in terms of locating signals in the brain, this is the first time that quantum sensors have proved to be so accurate in terms of the timing of signals too.

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Sing your way to better health – AHA

Not everyone can sing like a nightingale. When some of us try to carry a tune, we sound like Bob Dylan imitating Elmer Fudd.

Still, no matter the sound, experts say we should limber up our larynxes more often. According to a growing body of research, bursting into song is good for both your body and your brain.

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“Singing a song that we know by ourself or with others triggers the reward system in the brain and releases dopamine that makes us feel better,” said Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, who studies brain imaging and music at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

One great thing about singing is you can reap the benefits anytime, anywhere. When COVID-19 sent society into lockdown mode last year, people around the globe belted out songs from their balconies to relieve stress and anxiety.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re singing in a public group or you’re alone in the car singing (along) with Michael Jackson. It’s all beneficial,” said Kay Norton, a professor of musicology at Arizona State University who studies the healing power of music.

Nobody knows exactly when humans first started singing on a regular basis. But in recent decades, scientists have studied its benefits in a range of areas, from relieving pain to minimizing snoring and helping improve posture and muscle tension.

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Filed under dementia, stroke

People with dementia at higher risk for COVID-19 – Study

Patients with dementia were at a significantly increased risk for COVID-19 — and the risk was higher still for African Americans with dementia, according to a study led by Case Western Reserve University researchers.

Reviewing electronic health records of 61.9 million adults in the United States, researchers found the risk of contracting COVID-19 was twice as high for patients with dementia than for those without it — while among those with dementia, African Americans had close to three times the risk of being infected with COVID-19 as Caucasians did.

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In addition, patients with dementia who contracted COVID-19 had significantly worse outcomes in terms of hospitalizations and deaths than those who had COVID-19 but not dementia.

The study was published Feb. 9 by the peer-reviewed Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association and highlights the need to protect people with dementia — particularly African Americans — as part of the strategy to control the pandemic.

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Insights into Newly Characterized Form of Dementia

Working with their colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers at the University of Kentucky have found that they can differentiate between sub-types of dementia inducing brain disease.

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“For the first time we created criteria that could differentiate between frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and a common Alzheimer’s ‘mimic’ called LATE disease,” said Dr. Peter Nelson of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky. He says they validated the criteria rigorously. The study was recently published in BRAIN: A Journal of Neurology. The first author of the paper was John L. Robinson from the University of Pennsylvania and the corresponding author was Nelson.

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Genes, cardiovascular health factor into dementia risk

Genes and cardiovascular health each contribute in an additive way to a person’s risk of dementia, U.S. researchers including Sudha Seshadri, MD, and Claudia Satizabal, PhD, of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) reported July 20 in the journal Neurology.

Shiny brain in between thunder lightning on dark background

The study was conducted in 1,211 participants in the Framingham Heart Study and involved collaborators from Boston University.

Participants with a high genetic risk score based on common genetic variants, including having an allele called apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4, were at a 2.6-fold higher risk of developing dementia than subjects who had a low risk score and did not carry the APOE ε4 allele.

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Antibody designed to recognize pathogens of Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers have found a way to design an antibody that can identify the toxic particles that destroy healthy brain cells – a potential advance in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

Their method is able to recognize these toxic particles, known as amyloid-beta oligomers, which are the hallmark of the disease, leading to hope that new diagnostic methods can be developed for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The team, from the University of Cambridge, University College London and Lund University, designed an antibody which is highly accurate at detecting toxic oligomers and quantifying their numbers. Their results are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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Inflammation in the brain linked to several forms of dementia – Study

Inflammation in the brain may be more widely implicated in dementias than was previously thought, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge. The researchers say it offers hope for potential new treatments for several types of dementia.

Inflammation is usually the body’s response to injury and stress – such as the redness and swelling that accompanies an injury or infection. However, inflammation in the brain – known as neuroinflammation – has been recognized and linked to many disorders including depression, psychosis and multiple sclerosis. It has also recently been linked to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

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In a study published in the journal Brain, a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge set out to examine whether neuroinflammation also occurs in other forms of dementia, which would imply that it is common to many neurodegenerative diseases.

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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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