As a senior citizen one of my most serious concerns is my mental functioning. My mother and her sister were afflicted with forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Also, my father’s father suffered cognitive problems in the 1940’s. Finally, my father’s sister and her daughter, my cousin had forms of dementia. It runs in my family and judging by the number of cases reported, there is a chance it runs in yours, too.
Here is what Alzheimers.gov has to say on the subject:
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. People with Alzheimer’s also experience changes in behavior and personality.
More than 6 million Americans, many of them age 65 and older, are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease. That’s more individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease than the population of a large American city. Many more people experience Alzheimer’s in their lives as family members and friends of those with the disease.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease — changes in thinking, remembering, reasoning, and behavior — are known as dementia. That’s why Alzheimer’s is sometimes referred to as “dementia.” Other diseases and conditions can also cause dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common cause of dementia in older adults.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. It’s the result of complex changes in the brain that start years before symptoms appear and lead to the loss of brain cells and their connections.
What Causes Alzheimer’s?
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not yet fully understood, but probably include a combination of:
Age-related changes in the brain, like shrinking, inflammation, blood vessel damage, and breakdown of energy within cells, which may harm neurons and affect other brain cells.
Changes or differences in genes, which may be passed down by a family member. Both types of Alzheimer’s — the very rare early-onset type occurring between age 30 and mid-60s, and the most common late-onset type occurring after a person’s mid-60s — can be related to a person’s genes in some way. Many people with Down syndrome, a genetic condition, will develop Alzheimer’s as they age and may begin to show symptoms in their 40s.
Health, environmental, and lifestyle factors that may play a role, such as exposure to pollutants, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
An international research team led by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has developed a simple but robust blood test from Chinese patient data for early detection and screening of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) for the first time, with an accuracy level of over 96%.
Currently, doctors mainly rely on cognitive tests to diagnose a person with AD. Besides clinical assessment, brain imaging and lumbar puncture are the two most commonly used medical procedures to detect changes in the brain caused by AD. However, these methods are expensive, invasive, and frequently unavailable in many countries.
Now, a team led by Prof. Nancy IP, Vice-President for Research and Development at HKUST, has identified 19 out of the 429 plasma proteins associated with AD to form a biomarker panel representative of an “AD signature” in the blood. Based on this panel, the team has developed a scoring system that distinguishes AD patients from healthy people with more than 96% accuracy. This system can also differentiate among the early, intermediate, and late stages of AD, and can be used to monitor the progression of the disease over time. These exciting findings have led to the development of a high-performance, blood-based test for AD, and may also pave the way to novel therapeutic treatments for the disease.
No effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease exists, even though more than 5 million Americans have it, according to the Penn State Health News.
But what if there was a way to reduce the risk? Research suggests there may be methods to protect yourself.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
“Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia,” said Dr. Chen Zhao, a neurologist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “With Alzheimer’s, an abnormal protein builds up in the brain, and over time, that spreads to other parts of the brain and normal brain cells start to die.”
This progression can lead to problems that affect one’s day-to-day life, including short-term memory loss, getting lost, spatial and navigation issues and trouble making judgments. It can eventually lead to trouble speaking or recognizing people.
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect millions of older adults in the US—but not equally. Past research has identified risk factors including genes, education, racism, and air pollution, and a growing number of studies now point to noise as another influence on risk of dementia.
Now, a new study co-led by a School of Public Health researcher finds that 10 decibels more daytime neighborhood noise is associated with 36 percent higher odds of mild cognitive impairment and 30 percent higher odds of Alzheimer’s disease.
“We remain in early stages in researching noise and dementia, but the signals so far, including those from our study, suggest we should pay more attention to the possibility that noise affects cognitive risk as we age,” says study first author Jennifer Weuve, associate professor of epidemiology.
A new study from Lund University in Sweden shows that validated biomarkers can reveal an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Using a model that combines the levels of two specific proteins in the blood of those with mild memory impairment, the researchers are able to predict the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The researchers have also developed an app that doctors can use to give patients a risk assessment.
Oskar Hansson and his colleagues have been researching different biomarkers for a long time to produce better diagnostics at an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Over the past year, they have also developed accurate markers in blood tests for Alzheimer’s. The aim has been to identify the disease at an early stage of its progression, before the actual dementia stage, in order to begin treatment to ease symptoms, avoid unnecessary examinations and create a sense of security among patients.
By now I think everybody reading this blog knows about my family’s connection to Alzheimer’s and dementia. So,it should come as no surprise that I am thrilled to pass on this latest info from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry.
A promising new blood test for Alzheimer’s disease is now on the horizon. The newly reported test proved to be just as reliable as more invasive and costly tests at detecting Alzheimer’s and may even be able to detect the disease as long as 20 years prior to symptoms. This is an exciting new development that could make detecting the disease much easier and speed up enrollment in clinical trials.
A new blood test demonstrated remarkable promise in discriminating between persons with and without Alzheimer’s disease and in persons at known genetic risk may be able to detect the disease as early as 20 years before the onset of cognitive impairment, according to a large international study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and simultaneously presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
For many years, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s has been based on the characterization of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain, typically after a person dies. An inexpensive and widely available blood test for the presence of plaques and tangles would have a profound impact on Alzheimer’s research and care. According to the new study, measurements of phospho-tau217 (p-tau217), one of the tau proteins found in tangles, could provide a relatively sensitive and accurate indicator of both plaques and tangles — corresponding to the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s — in living people. Continue reading →
Cognitive decline is a major concern of the aging population. Already, Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5.4 million Americans and 30 million people globally. Without effective prevention and treatment, the prospects for the future are bleak. By 2050, it is estimated that 160 million people globally will have the disease, including 13 million Americans, leading to potential bankruptcy of the Medicare system. Unlike several other chronic illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise–recent estimates suggest that Alzheimer’s disease has become the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cardiovascular disease and cancer. Since its first description over 100 years ago, Alzheimer’s disease has been without effective treatment.
While researchers continue to seek out a cure, it is becoming clear that there are effective treatment options. More and more research supports the conclusion that Alzheimer’s disease is not a disease of only Beta Amyloid plaques and Tao tangles but a complex and systemic disease. In this study of patients with varying levels of cognitive decline, it is demonstrated how a precision and personalized approach results in either stabilization or improvement in memory.
Affirmativ Health sought to determine whether a comprehensive and personalized program, designed to mitigate risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease could improve cognitive and metabolic function in individuals experiencing cognitive decline. Findings provided evidence that this approach can improve risk factor scores and stabilize cognitive function.
Do you know that feeling you get in your gut? It turns out your gut may really be trying to tell you something. Our microbiome – the 100 trillion bacteria and organisms living in our gut – appears to have a profound influence on our health and risk of disease. And early scientific studies show there may be a link between the microbiome and the brain that could impact the risk of Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.
The microbiome is a collection of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live mostly in our intestinal system. They play an important role in digestion and the production of certain vitamins, and they support our immune system. Researchers around the world study the gut microbiome, especially those bacteria unique to individuals, to learn more about their influence on our overall health.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder in which the nerve cells (neurons) in a person’s brain and the connections among them degenerate slowly, causing severe memory loss, intellectual deficiencies, and deterioration in motor skills and communication. One of the main causes of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of a protein called amyloid β (Aβ) in clusters around neurons in the brain, which hampers their activity and triggers their degeneration.
Studies in animal models have found that increasing the aggregation of Aβ in the hippocampus–the brain’s main learning and memory center–causes a decline in the signal transmission potential of the neurons therein. This degeneration affects a specific trait of the neurons, called “synaptic plasticity,” which is the ability of synapses (the site of signal exchange between neurons) to adapt to an increase or decrease in signaling activity over time. Synaptic plasticity is crucial to the development of learning and cognitive functions in the hippocampus. Thus, Aβ and its role in causing cognitive memory and deficits have been the focus of most research aimed at finding treatments for Alzheimer’s.
Older adults who have surgery with general anesthesia may experience a modest acceleration of cognitive decline, even years later. But there’s no evidence of a link to Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research from Mayo Clinic.
The research, published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, examined brain scans from 585 patients, ages 70 to 91 ― 493 of whom had at least one surgery with general anesthesia. The analysis found cortical thinning in cerebral areas but no significant evidence of deposits of amyloid protein, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. The cortex is the outermost layer of the brain’s nerve cell tissue, and thinning of that tissue is associated with diminished cognitive functions. Continue reading →
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.
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.
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 →
As my family has had several cases of dementia, some in the form of Alzheimer’s, I am always captivated by tools for assessing risk as I am a senior citizen. This University of California San Diego School of Medicine study caught my eye.
Clinical trials to develop new therapeutic and preventive treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are costly, complicated and often preclude persons most at risk of developing the degenerative neurological condition: Older individuals with less mobility and significant medical issues, both making it more difficult for them to participate in traditional, clinic-based assessments with trained personnel.
In a new paper, published this month in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, a multi-institution team led by researchers at Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) at University of California San Diego School of Medicine published results of a novel four-year, randomized clinical trial evaluating different home-based methods to assess cognitive function and decline in participants over the age of 75.
Almost 600 persons participated in the home-based assessment (HBA) study; all had been previously diagnosed as either possessing normal cognitive abilities or suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment, a condition that often precedes AD. Continue reading →
As I have written here numerous times, both sides of my family have a history of Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia. As a guy in his late 70’s this is a critical subject for me. And I am not the only one. I live near Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a major Chicago health establishment. They have a Healthy Transitions program there for folks over 50 which provides programs explaining the changes we are experiencing and can expect to experience. The most popular are the ones dealing with cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s and dementia. We are all concerned.
That’s why I hope there is a special place in hell for companies who prey on the fears of seniors about their mental health and capacities. I found this item from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) most satisfying. Continue reading →
Studying DNA from more than 1.5 million people, an international team of researchers — led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California, San Francisco — has identified points of DNA that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and also heighten the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to an article in Neuroscience News.
Scientists have long been aware of connections between variations of the APOE gene, which is involved in cholesterol and lipid metabolism, and Alzheimer’s disease. That gene is known to double the risk for Alzheimer’s disease in some patients and increase risk by up to 12 times in others. But in the new study, the researchers identified other DNA points that also appear to be involved both in cardiovascular disease risk and the risk for Alzheimer’s. Continue reading →