Working in the paid labor workforce may have cognitive benefits later in life for U.S. women. For a study supported in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), researchers looked at the influence of social, employment, and gender-related factors on memory decline with implications for dementia risk. Their findings, recently published in Neurology, show that women in the workforce during early adulthood and midlife experienced slower rates of memory decline than those who had not worked for pay.
A team of University of California (UC), Los Angeles; UC San Francisco; Harvard; and Boston College researchers analyzed the employment patterns, family structure, and demographic characteristics of U.S. women. More than 6,000 women at least age 55 in the Health and Retirement Study reported their past work-family statuses of employment, marriage, and parenthood between ages 16 and 50. They also participated in word recall memory assessments every two years over an average of 12 years. The study team then evaluated rates of later-life memory decline, which is a measure associated with dementia.
The average rate of memory decline after age 60 was slower for women who had worked, regardless of marriage and parenthood status. Taking time off from work when their children were young did not seem to decrease the cognitive benefit in married working mothers. Among nonworking mothers, rates of memory decline were similar for single and married women. Demographic characteristics, such as race, childhood socioeconomic status, and level of education, did not explain the relationship between work-family status and memory decline.
This study adds to evidence that participation in the workforce may be a protective factor for cognitive health later in life. The researchers did not look at volunteer work, the types of paid labor among women, or possible differences among genders. Future research on effects of participating in the workforce, such as cognitive stimulation and social engagement, may help explain how employment can decrease the rate of memory loss.
Although exercise is known to enhance cognitive function and improve mental health, the neurological mechanisms of this link are unknown. Now, researchers from Japan have found evidence of the missing link between aerobic fitness and cognitive function.
In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers from the University of Tsukuba revealed that spontaneous eye blink rate (sEBR), which reflects activity of the dopamine system, could be used to understand the connection between cognitive function and aerobic fitness.
The dopaminergic system is known to be involved in physical activity and exercise, and previous researchers have proposed that exercise-induced changes in cognitive function might be mediated by activity in the dopaminergic system. However, a marker of activity in this system was needed to test this hypothesis, something the researchers at the University of Tsukuba aimed to address.
“The dopaminergic system is associated with both executive function and motivated behavior, including physical activity,” says first author of the study Ryuta Kuwamizu. “We used sEBR as a non-invasive measure of dopaminergic system function to test whether it could be the missing link between aerobic fitness and cognitive function.”
To do this, the researchers asked healthy participants to undergo a measure of sEBR, a test of cognitive function, and an aerobic fitness test. They also measured brain activity during the cognitive task using functional near-infrared spectroscopy.
“As expected, we found significant correlations between aerobic fitness, cognitive function, and sEBR,” explains Professor Hideaki Soya, senior author. “When we examined these relationships further, we found that the connection between higher aerobic fitness and enhanced cognitive function was mediated in part by dopaminergic regulation.”
Furthermore, activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (l-DLPFC) during the cognitive task was the same or lower in participants with higher sEBR compared with lower sEBR, even though those with higher sEBR appeared to have greater executive function, and thus higher neural efficiency.
“Although previous studies have indicated that aerobic fitness and cognitive function are correlated, this is the first to provide a neuromodulatory basis for this connection in humans. Our data indicate that dopamine has an essential role in linking aerobic fitness and cognition,” says first author Kuwamizu.
Given that neural efficiency in the l-DLPFC is a known characteristic of the dopaminergic system that has been observed in individuals with higher fitness and executive function, it is possible that neural efficiency in this region partially mediates the association between aerobic fitness and executive function. Furthermore, physical inactivity may be related to dopaminergic dysfunction. This information provides new directions for research regarding how fitness affects the brain, which may lead to improved exercise regimens. For instance, exercise that specifically focuses on improving dopaminergic function may particularly boost motivation, mood, and mental function.
Eat less; move more; live longer and keep cognition – words to live by.
New research from the University of Sheffield has found being overweight is an additional burden on brain health and it may exacerbate Alzheimer’s Disease.
The pioneering multi-modal neuro-imaging study revealed obesity may contribute toward neural tissue vulnerability, whilst maintaining a healthy weight in mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia could help to preserve brain structure.
The findings, published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports, also highlight the impact being overweight in mid-life could have on brain health in older age.
Lead author of the study, Professor Annalena Venneri from the University of Sheffield’s Neuroscience Institute and NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre, said: “More than 50 million people are thought to be living with Alzheimer’s disease and despite decades of ground breaking studies and a huge global research effort we still don’t have a cure for this cruel disease.
Eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has a positive impact on health, but little is known about the effects of including unhealthy foods in an otherwise healthy diet. Now researchers at Rush University Medical Center have reported diminished benefits of a Mediterranean diet among those with high frequency of eating unhealthy foods. The results of their study were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association on January 7.
“Eating a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains may positively affects a person’s health,” said Puja Agarwal, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College. “But when it is combined with fried food, sweets, refined grains, red meat and processed meat, we observed that the benefits of eating the Mediterranean part of the diet seems to be diminished.”
A Mediterranean diet is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults.
The observational study included 5,001 older adults living in Chicago who were part of the Chicago Health and Aging Project, an evaluation of cognitive health in adults over the age of 65 conducted from 1993 to 2012. Every three years, the study participants completed a cognitive assessment questionnaire that tested basic information processing skills and memory, and they filled out a questionnaire about the frequency with which they consumed 144 food items.
The researchers analyzed how closely each of the study participants adhered to a Mediterranean diet, which includes daily consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, fish, potatoes and unrefined cereals, plus moderate wine consumption. They also assessed how much each participant followed a Western diet, which included fried foods, refined grains, sweets, red and processed meats, full-fat dairy products and pizza. They assigned scores of zero to five for each food item to compile a total Mediterranean diet score for each participant along a range from zero to 55.
The researchers then examined the association between Mediterranean diet scores and changes in participants’ global cognitive function, episodic memory and perceptual speed. Participants with slower cognitive decline over the years of follow-up were those who adhered closest to the Mediterranean diet, along with limiting foods that are part of Western diet, whereas participants who ate more of the Western diet had no beneficial effect of healthy food components in slowing cognitive decline.
There was no significant interaction between age, sex, race or education and the association with cognitive decline in either high or low levels of Western diet foods. The study also included models for smoking status, body mass index and other potential variables such as cardiovascular conditions and findings remained the same.
“Western diets may adversely affect cognitive health,” Agarwal said. “Individuals who had a high Mediterranean diet score compared to those who had the lowest score were equivalent to being 5.8 years younger in age cognitively.”
Agarwal said that the results complement other studies showing that a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes and also support previous studies on Mediterranean diet and cognition. The study also notes that most of the dietary patterns that have shown improvement in cognitive function among older adults, including the Mediterranean, MIND, and DASH diets, have a unique scoring matrix based on the amount of servings consumed for each diet component.
“The more we can incorporate green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries, olive oil, and fish into our diets, the better it is for our aging brains and bodies. Other studies show that red and processed meat, fried food and low whole grains intake are associated with higher inflammation and faster cognitive decline in older ages,” Agarwal said. “To benefit from diets such as the Mediterranean diet, or MIND diet, we would have to limit our consumption of processed foods and other unhealthy foods such as fried foods and sweets.”
Today, cognitive impairment and ADRD are major global public health and social concerns as the population of older adults rises around the world. By 2050, more than 152 million people will be affected by these conditions. That’s why many countries, including the United States, see the prevention of ADRD as a key public health priority and are studying programs to help stem these diseases.
One way to prevent cognitive impairment and ADRD is to treat the problems that raise the risk for developing them. Two of these risk factors are hearing and vision loss. Currently, about 60 percent of people aged 70 years or older are affected by hearing loss, 40 percent are affected by vision loss, and 23 percent of older adults have both vision and hearing loss. Some studies have suggested that having both hearing and vision loss may be linked to poorer cognitive function or to a faster rate of cognitive decline.
The foods we eat may have a direct impact on our cognitive acuity in our later years. This is the key finding of an Iowa State University research study spotlighted in an article published in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The study was spearheaded by principal investigator, Auriel Willette, an assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Brandon Klinedinst, a Neuroscience PhD candidate working in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department at Iowa State. The study is a first-of-its-kind large scale analysis that connects specific foods to later-in-life cognitive acuity.
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.
Vitamin B12 plays many crucial roles in the body. It is involved in neurologic function, red blood cell production, DNA synthesis, and a number of important chemical reactions. Vitamin B12 deficiency, while not common, can cause megaloblastic anemia (a disorder of the red blood cells that can cause symptoms such as fatigue, pale skin, and lightheadedness) and neurological and cognitive disorders.
Consumption of animal products (like fish, meat, chicken, and dairy) and fortified foods (like breakfast cereals) generally provides plenty of B12 to meet our needs. Because plant foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains do not contain this vitamin, strict vegans should be conscious of their B12 intake. People who have had bariatric surgery or who have had part of their intestines removed, as well as those with absorptive disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, are also at increased risk for B12 deficiency. Additionally, the ability to digest and absorb B12 may decline with age. Now, long-term use of several common medications has been added to the list of reasons to monitor B12 status.
Can your eating habits and physical and mental activity lower your risk for developing dementia as you age? Obviously, it is important to learn all we can about how health habits affect the risks for developing dementia, a debilitating decline in memory and other mental abilities. Experts expect the number of people with dementia worldwide to rise to 82 million by 2030 and to over 152 million by 2050.
A team of researchers designed a study to learn more about whether adopting healthier lifestyle habits can help prevent or slow the onset of dementia. It was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The researchers suggest that prevention strategies should focus on lowering dementia risk for people who are starting to experience cognitive decline, specifically subjective cognitive decline (SCD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Subtle differences in cognition may help identify individuals at risk for becoming dependent years later upon others to complete daily activities, such as managing medications or finances and other essential activities.
Writing in the September 29, 2020 online issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues elsewhere, linked poorer cognitive performance in a single testing with subsequent greater risk for impaired daily life activities nearly a decade later.
The study involved a diverse but understudied cohort of Latinos living in the United States. Outcomes were most severe for individuals 70 years and older, but gender and ethnic background, such as Mexican or Puerto Rican, were not significant differentiators. The authors said the findings in sum highlight the need for early preventive care across Latinos and Latinas of various backgrounds.
A new analysis published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI), however, reveals that even though a more extensive formal education forestalls the more obvious signs of age-related cognitive deficits, it does not lessen the rate of aging-related cognitive declines. Instead, people who have gone further in school attain, on average, a higher level of cognitive function in early and middle adult adulthood, so the initial effects of cognitive aging are initially less obvious and the most severe impairments manifest later than they otherwise would have.
“The total amount of formal education that people receive is related to their average levels of cognitive functioning throughout adulthood,” said Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, a researcher with the University of Texas, Austin, and coauthor on the paper. “However, it is not appreciably related to their rates of aging-related cognitive declines.”Continue reading →
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.
With more than 30 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes, and another 87 million diagnosed with obesity, both conditions have become national epidemics.
The two diseases cause a number of complications, including neuropathy, which causes damage to the peripheral nerves. Neuropathy is characterized by numbness or tingling and can sometimes be accompanied by pain.
For the record, I have never had a drinking problem. At my worst, I would down a couple of beers at a meal and maybe an after dinner something. So, I don’t want to be giving an excuse to someone who is on the cusp of a drinking problem with this study.
Light to moderate drinking may preserve brain function in older age, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.
The study examined the link between alcohol consumption and changes in cognitive function over time among middle-aged and older adults in the U.S.
“We know there are some older people who believe that drinking a little wine everyday could maintain a good cognitive condition,” said lead author Ruiyuan Zhang, a doctoral student at UGA’s College of Public Health.