Tag Archives: aging brain

Air pollution may be related to heightened dementia risk – Study

British researchers found that people exposed to increased levels of air pollution had 40 percent higher chances of developing dementia.

Air pollution is an established risk factor for heart disease/stroke and respiratory disease, but its potential role in neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia, isn’t as clear.

The researchers used carefully calculated estimates of air and noise pollution across Greater London to assess potential links with new dementia diagnoses.

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They looked at patient data on 131,000 Londoners aged 50 to 79, and based on their residential postcodes, the researchers estimated their yearly exposure to air pollutants. These were specifically nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter and ozone, as well as proximity to heavy traffic and road noise, using modelling methods validated with recorded measurements. Continue reading

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About that aging brain …

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but new research shows you can teach an old rat new sounds, even if the lesson doesn’t stick very long.

For the record I wrote a post on that damaging cliche about teaching old dogs new tricks. You can read it here – Of cats and dogs and cliches ….

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to modify its connections and function in response to environmental demands, an important process in learning.

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Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. As we grow older, plasticity decreases to stabilize what we have already learned. This stabilization is partly controlled by a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuronal activity. This role of GABA was discovered by K.A.C. Elliot and Ernst Florey at The Neuro in 1956. Continue reading

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Blueberries could help fight Alzheimer’s – ACS

The living longer phrase in my Diet, Exercise and Living Longer title assumes that one has his mental faculties intact. Having seen first hand the scourge of dementia, I don’t want any part of that if I can help it. Exercise is super for combating cognitive problems. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits) to learn more.

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The blueberry, already labeled a ‘super fruit’ for its power to potentially lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, also could be another weapon in the war against Alzheimer’s disease. New research being presented today further bolsters this idea, which is being tested by many teams. The fruit is loaded with healthful antioxidants, and these substances could help prevent the devastating effects of this increasingly common form of dementia, scientists report.

The researchers presented their work at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS. It featured more than 12,500 presentations on a wide range of science topics. Continue reading

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10 Warning signs of dementia – Infographic

You don’t have to be a senior to suffer from cognitive impairment. Here are some hopefully helpful hints for self-assessment from the Alzheimer’s Association.

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Alzheimer’s symptoms may be predicted during eye exam

With three cases of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia in my family I have serious interest in all variations of cognitive impairment. Hence, this latest work from Washington University School of Medicine.

It may be possible in the future to screen patients for Alzheimer’s disease using an eye exam.

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Using technology similar to what is found in many eye doctors’ offices, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have detected evidence suggesting Alzheimer’s in older patients who had no symptoms of the disease.

Their study, involving 30 patients, is published Aug. 23 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology. Continue reading

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Largest brain study of 62,454 scans identifies drivers of brain aging

One of  my favorite (and most popular) posts is Exercise, Aging and the Brain. I wrote it in 2011 and more than 11,000 people have read it. Because of Alzheimer’s and dementia residing in my immediate family, I am very interested in the brain and anything that affects it. So, this study from Medical Express hit me right where I live.

In the largest known brain imaging study, scientists from Amen Clinics (Costa Mesa, CA), Google, John’s Hopkins University, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco evaluated 62,454 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans of more than 30,000 individuals from 9 months old to 105 years of age to investigate factors that accelerate brain aging. SPECT tomography) evaluates regional cerebral blood flow in the brain that is reduced in various disorders.

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Lead author, psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD, founder of Amen Clinics, commented, “Based on one of the largest brain imaging studies ever done, we can now track common disorders and behaviors that prematurely age the brain. Better treatment of these disorders can slow or even halt the process of brain aging. The cannabis abuse finding was especially important, as our culture is starting to see marijuana as an innocuous substance. This study should give us pause about it.” Continue reading

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Alzheimer’s Risk Impacted by Liver, Diet – Study

Reduced levels of plasmalogens—a class of lipids created in the liver that are integral to cell membranes in the brain—are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, according to new research presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2018 by Mitchel A. Kling, MD, an associate professor of Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

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Plasmalogens are created in the liver and are dispersed through the blood stream in the form of lipoproteins, which also transport cholesterol and other lipids to and from cells and tissues throughout the body, including the brain. Kling, and the multi-institutional Alzheimer’s Disease Metabolomics Consortium led by Rima F. Kaddurah-Daouk, PhD, at Duke University School of Medicine, developed three indices for measuring the amount of these lipids related to cognition, in order to identify whether reduced levels in the bloodstream are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), overall cognitive function, and/or other biomarkers of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease. The three indices measured: the ratios of plasmalogens to each other; the ratios of plasmalogens to their closely-related, more conventional lipid counterparts; and a combination of these two quantities. Continue reading

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Older People Less Apt to Recognize Their Mistakes – Study

The older you get, the less apt you may be to recognize that you’ve made an error. As a senior citizen I find that statement slightly annoying and also probably to a large extent true.

In a new study, University of Iowa researchers devised a simple, computerized test to gauge how readily young adults and older adults realize when they’ve made a mistake.

Older adults performed just as well as younger adults in tests involving looking away from an object appearing on the screen. But younger adults acknowledged more often than older adults when they failed to look away from the object. And, older adults were more likely to be adamant that they did not made a mistake.

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The research offers new insight how older people perceive their decisions, and especially how they view their performance–whether judging their own ability to drive or how regularly they believe they’ve taken medications.

“The good news is older adults perform the tasks we assigned them just as well as younger adults, albeit more slowly,” says Jan Wessel, assistant professor in the UI Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the study’s corresponding author. “But we find there is this impaired ability in older adults to recognize an error when they’ve made one.” Continue reading

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Exercise: Better starting later than never – Harvard

Eat less; move more; live longer. It’s never too late to start.

Exercising regularly throughout life is the best way to keep your heart healthy. But starting to exercise even in late middle age may lessen the risk of heart failure, according to a report in the May 15 issue of Circulation. Heart failure, a gradual decline in the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, affects about 6.5 million people in the United States.

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The study involved more than 11,000 people who were part of a long-running project begun in the late 1980s, the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Every six years, participants got medical testing and filled out questionnaires about their physical activity.

People who followed federal recommendations for physical activity (see How much physical activity do you need?) for the first 12 years of the study had the lowest risk of heart failure—31% lower than people who didn’t exercise at all. But people who increased their physical activity levels starting around age 60 over a period of just six years lowered their risk by 12%.

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Cognitive and motor training combined may slow progress of dementia or even reverse it – Study

I have written repeatedly about the benefits of exercise on the brain’s health. Now, it seems that you can combine exercise with cognitive training for positive results.

Researchers at York University’s Faculty of Health found that just 30 minutes of visually-guided movements per week can slow and even reverse the progress of dementia. Those in the early stages of dementia who were exposed to 30 minutes a week to a game which used rules to make visually-guided movements, were able to slow down the progress of dementia and for some, even reverse their cognitive function to healthy status.

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Previous approaches have used cognitive training alone or aerobic exercise training alone. This study published in Dementia and Geriatric Disorders, is the first to investigate the impact of combining both types of approaches on cognitive function in elderly people with various degrees of cognitive defects.

“We found cognitive-motor integration training slows down the progress of dementia, and for those just showing symptoms of dementia, this training can actually revert them back to healthy status, stabilizing them functionally,” says lead researcher, Lauren Sergio, professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science and Centre for Vision Research at York University. Continue reading

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The difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia – Mayo Clinic

I have talked a lot about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia over the past eight years, so when I ran across this explanation from the Mayo Clinic, I thought I would share it with  you.

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term, sometimes referred to as an umbrella term, which describes a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms impact a person’s ability to perform everyday activities independently. Common symptoms include:

A decline in memory
Changes in thinking skills
Poor judgment and reasoning skills
Decreased focus and attention
Changes in language and communication skills

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Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia, but it’s not the only one. There are many different types and causes of dementia, including:

Lewy body dementia
Frontotemporal dementia
Vascular dementia
Parkinson’s disease dementia
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Huntington’s disease
Mixed dementia

Alzheimer’s disease, however, is the most well-known and common form of dementia but not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s disease.

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Feeling young could mean your brain is aging more slowly

As a 78-year-old writing blog on diet, exercise and living past 100, I am keenly interested in everything that reflects on the brain and its part in aging, as well as the actual aging of the brain itself. Remember, I have three cases of dementia in my family including one certain one of Alzheimer’s.

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This is a shot of my dog and me riding on the Chicago Lakefront last year.

While everyone gets older, not everyone feels their age. A recent study finds that such feelings, called subjective age, may reflect brain aging. Using MRI brain scans, researchers found that elderly people who feel younger than their age show fewer signs of brain aging, compared with those who feel their age or older than their age. Published in open-access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, this study is the first to find a link between subjective age and brain aging. The results suggest that elderly people who feel older than their age should consider caring for their brain health.

We tend to think of aging as a fixed process, where our bodies and minds change steadily. However, the passing years affect everyone differently. How old we feel, which is called our subjective age, also varies between people—with many feeling older or younger than their actual age. Continue reading

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Obesity Plus Aging Linked to Alzheimer’s Markers in the Brain

A new study reports high sugar and fat based diets that lead to obesity, coupled with the normal aging process, may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. By my reckoning that means the older we get the more we need to pay attention to what we are eating and the amount we are exercising. Eat less; move more; live longer. For heaven’s sake, don’t wait till you are a senior to get on the exercise and good eating regime. Clearly, the earlier you start, the better of you are.

A new study suggests that when a high-fat, high-sugar diet that leads to obesity is paired with normal aging, it may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, researchers discovered that certain areas of the brain respond differently to risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s. The study is published in Physiological Reports.

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Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive brain disorder that leads to loss of cognitive skills and memory and causes significant changes in behavior. Aging is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Previous studies suggest that diet-related obesity is also associated with development of the disease. Continue reading

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How Much Exercise is Needed to Help Improve Thinking Skills?

Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. Herewith another example of the value of the move more element. We all want to live longer, but that has little meaning if we don’t have a fully functional brain to power us through. I talk about the value of exercise regularly here. Now we have a study that quantifies the amount of movement relevant to benefit our brain.

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We know that exercise may help improve thinking skills. But how much exercise? And for how long?

To find the answers, researchers led by Joyce Gomes-Osman, Ph.D., PT, assistant professor of clinical physical therapy and neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, reviewed all of the studies in which older adults were asked to exercise for at least four weeks and then take tests of thinking and memory skills. Their results were compared to those of people who did not start a new exercise routine. The review was published in the May 30 online issue of Neurology Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The researchers found that people who exercised an average of at least 52 hours over about six months for about an hour each session may improve their thinking skills. In contrast, people who exercised for an average of 34 hours over the same time period did not show any improvement in their thinking skills. Continue reading

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Researchers Reverse Cognitive Impairment in Mice with Dementia

If you have been reading this blog for a while you are aware that I have a particular focus on the brain afflictions – dementia and its move common manifestation, Alzheimer’s. Three members on both sides of my family suffered from a form of dementia. While there is no cure or preventative for Alzheimer’s, it seems that exercise is our best chance of possessing a functioning brain in our old age. Hence, my focus on movement of every kind. Now, it seems that we may be getting a new arrow in our quiver to fight mental illness.

Researchers report tau pathology can be reversed in Alzheimer’s patients with the help of a drug. Their study reveals reversing tau pathology in mouse models of dementia resulted in a reversal of cognitive deficits in spatial learning.

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Compared with untreated animals, tau mice that had received zileuton performed significantly better on the tests. Their superior performance suggested a successful reversal of memory deficiency. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Reversing memory deficits and impairments in spatial learning is a major goal in the field of dementia research. A lack of knowledge about cellular pathways critical to the development of dementia, however, has stood in the way of significant clinical advance. But now, researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) are breaking through that barrier. They show, for the first time in an animal model, that tau pathology – the second-most important lesion in the brain in patients with Alzheimer’s disease – can be reversed by a drug.

 “We show that we can intervene after disease is established and pharmacologically rescue mice that have tau-induced memory deficits,” explained senior investigator Domenico Praticò, MD, Scott Richards North Star Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology, and Director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple at LKSOM. The study, published online in the journal Molecular Neurobiology, raises new hope for human patients affected by dementia. Continue reading

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Active Social Life May Preserve Memory and Slow Brain Aging

Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. However, according to this latest study from Ohio State University – interact with friends more – might also be added.

A new study reveals a positive link between socializing, improved memory and a reduced rate of brain aging in mice. Mice who were housed in pairs showed less sings of inflammation and tissue erosion in the hippocampus, researchers report.

New research from The Ohio State University found that mice housed in groups had better memories and healthier brains than animals that lived in pairs.

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The discovery bolsters a body of research in humans and animals that supports the role of social connections in preserving the mind and improving quality of life, said lead researcher Elizabeth Kirby, an assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience and member of the Center for Chronic Brain Injury at Ohio State.

“Our research suggests that merely having a larger social network can positively influence the aging brain,” said Kirby, who is a member of the Neurological Institute at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. Her research appears in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

“We know that in humans there’s a strong correlation between cognitive health and social connections, but we don’t know if it’s having a group of friends that’s protecting people or if it’s that people with declining brain health withdraw from their human connections,” Kirby said.

This study was designed to answer that hard-to-crack question with an animal model.

Some mice lived in pairs, which Kirby refers to as the “old-couple model.” Others were housed for three months with six other roommates, a scenario that allows for “pretty complex interactions.”

The mice were 15 months to 18 months old during the experiment – a time of significant natural memory decline in the rodent lifespan.

“It’s like mouse post-retirement age. If they drove, they’d be forgetting where the keys are or where they parked the car more often,” Kirby said.

In tests of memory, the group-housed mice fared better.

One test challenged the mice to recognize that a toy, such as a plastic car, had moved to a new location. A mouse with good brain health will gravitate toward the novelty of something that has been relocated.

“With the pair-housed mice, they had no idea that the object had moved. The group-housed mice were much better at remembering what they’d seen before and went to the toy in a new location, ignoring another toy that had not moved,” Kirby said.

In another common maze-based memory test, mice are placed on a well-lit round table with holes, some of which lead to escape hatches. Their natural tendency is to look for the dark, unexposed and “safe” escape routes.

Both groups of mice improved their escape-route search strategies with practice – but the research team was struck by the differences in the groups’ response to repeated tests, Kirby said.

The “couples” mice didn’t get faster at the test when it was repeated over the course of a day.

“But over the course of many days, they developed a serial-searching strategy where they checked every hole as quickly as possible. It’d be like walking as quickly as possible through each row of a parking lot to look for your car rather than trying to remember where your car actually is and walk to that spot,” Kirby said.

The group-housed mice improved with each trial, though.

“They seemed to try to memorize where the escape hatches are and walk to them directly, which is the behavior we see in healthy young mice,” Kirby said. “And that tells us that they’re using the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is really important for good memory function.”

The serial searching employed by the pair-housed mice is simpler, easier and doesn’t use that part of the brain, she said.

In humans, mice and many other animals, brain function in the hippocampus markedly declines with age, even in the absence of dementia. Exercise and social ties are known to preserve memory in this region in people, Kirby said.

After the housing experiment, the researchers examined the brain tissue of the mice and found increased inflammation in the pair-housed mice – biological evidence of eroded cognitive health.

“The group-housed mice had fewer signs of this inflammation, meaning that their brains didn’t look as ‘old’ as those that lived in pairs,” Kirby said.

The researchers also looked for evidence of new neuron growth in the hippocampus and found no differences between the groups.

Previous research in this area has primarily focused on mice that have highly enriched environments with lots of toys and opportunities for exercise and compared them with mice without as much to do.

This study goes further by showcasing differences that appear to be due to socialization alone, Kirby said. Future research should explore the molecular explanations for the connection between socialization and improved memory and brain health, she said.

Kirby said that people who are aging would do well to consider how their choices about where to live might impact their ability to be social.

“Something as basic as how long it takes to drive or walk to a friend’s house can make a big difference as we get older,” she said.

“A lot of people end up isolated not by choice, but by circumstance. ‘Over the river and through the woods’ might be fun for the kids, but it’s probably not so great for Grandma,” Kirby said.

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