Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries in older adults, causing more than 800,000 hospitalizations and about 30,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Some risk factors are well-known — advanced age, problems with vision or balance, muscle weakness — but an under-recognized factor is early Alzheimer’s disease. Older people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, before cognitive problems arise, are more likely to suffer a fall than people who are not on track to develop dementia.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that, in older people without cognitive problems who experience a fall, the process of neuro-degeneration that leads to Alzheimer’s dementia already may have begun. The findings, available online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, suggest that older people who have experienced falls should be screened for Alzheimer’s and that new strategies may be needed to reduce the risk of falling for people in the disease’s early stages.
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.
Scientists have long believed that a single traumatic brain injury (TBI) earlier in life may contribute to problems with memory, thinking and depression later in life. In most previous studies, however, research failed to examine the possible role of having a history of exposure to repetitive head impacts, including those leading to “subconcussive” injuries, in these later-life problems. In the largest study of its kind, an association has been found in living patients exposed to repetitive head impacts and difficulties with cognitive functioning and depression years or decades later.
Scientists from the Boston University (BU) Alzheimer’s Disease and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Centers, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and San Francisco VA Healthcare System teamed up to analyze the records of 13,323 individuals age 40 and older (average age 62) who participate in the internet-based Brain Health Registry. Of those, 725 or 5 percent of participants reported exposure to previous repetitive head impacts through contact sports, abuse or military service. In addition to repetitive head impact history, the scientists also examined the effects of having a TBI with and without loss of consciousness.
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.
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.
As a senior citizen who has had family members suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, I want to know everything I can about aging and cognition, so this study from Florida Atlantic University piqued my interest.
The neighborhood environment may positively or negatively influence one’s ability to maintain cognitive function with age. Since older adults spend less time outside, the neighborhood environment increases in importance with age. Studies suggest physical aspects of the neighborhood such as the availability of sidewalks and parks, and more social and walking destinations, may be associated with better cognitive functioning. Beneficial neighborhood environments can provide spaces for exercise, mental stimulation, socializing and reducing stress. To date, few studies have examined how the neighborhood’s physical environment relates to cognition in older adults. Continue reading →
Older adults with a weaker hand grip were more likely to be cognitively impaired than those with a stronger grip, according to an NIA-funded study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The findings suggest that hand grip strength may be a potential low-cost, easy way to help detect cognitive impairment and, in combination with other measures, to identify people who may benefit from early interventions.
A team led by researchers from North Dakota State University looked at data over an eight-year period from almost 14,000 people, age 50 or older, in the NIA-supported Health and Retirement Study. A handheld instrument called a dynamometer was used to assess hand grip strength, and a modified screening tool from the Mini-Mental State Examination was used to measure cognitive function every two years. Of the 13,828 participants who were assessed, 1,309 had some degree of cognitive impairment. Continue reading →
I have written repeatedly about the benefits of exercise on both the body and brain. It turns out that there seems to be a link between loss of muscle mass, sarcopenia, and cognitive decline.
Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass, tends to happen naturally with age. So, in older people with sarcopenia, excess body fat may not be readily visible. But hidden fat, paired with muscle mass loss later in life, could predict Alzheimer’s risk, researchers warn.
A recent study — the results of which have been published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging — has found that sarcopenia and obesity (independently, but especially when occurring together) can heighten the risk of cognitive function impairments later in life.
The research was conducted by scientists at the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
“Sarcopenia,” explains senior study author Dr. James Galvin, “has been linked to global cognitive impairment and dysfunction in specific cognitive skills including memory, speed, and executive functions.” Continue reading →
Cognitive impairment without dementia (CIND), or mild cognitive impairment, is a condition that affects your memory and may put you at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. According to the U.S. National Library for Medicine, signs of mild cognitive impairment may include frequently losing things, forgetting to go to events and appointments, and having more trouble coming up with words than other people of your age.
My go-to exercise is biking. My dog comes along when the weather is willing. At 79, everything seems to be working …
Some experts believe that risk factors for heart disease also are risk factors for dementia and late-life cognitive decline and dementia. Recently, researchers examined two potential ways to slow the development of CIND based on what we know about preventing heart disease. They published the results of their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.Continue reading →
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with our penchant for carrying too much weight, researchers using MRI have found signs of damage that may be related to inflammation in the brains of obese adolescents, according to a study being presented next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
Obesity in young people has become a significant public health problem. In the U.S., the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data from the World Health Organization indicates that the number of overweight or obese infants and young children ages five years or younger increased from 32 million globally in 1990 to 41 million in 2016.
Reduction in fractional anisotropy (FA) in obese patients compared to the control group: At the intersection of the alignment vectors, a large cluster of FA decrease located in the corpus callosum on the left. In red: Reduction of FA in obese patients compared to controls, and FA skeleton (green), superimposed on the mean of FA images in sample. The image is credited to Study author and RSNA.
A recent two-year clinical trial in Finland (the FINGER Study) reported that a combination of physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities and management of heart health risk factors protected cognition in healthy older adults who were identified as being at increased risk of cognitive decline. Currently no pharmacological treatments are available that rival this effect.
“There is an urgent need to expand this work to test the generalizability, adaptability and sustainability of the FINGER study’s findings in geographically and culturally diverse populations in the U.S. and across the globe,” Morris said. “While there is no proven cure or prevention for dementia, current research shows that combining healthy lifestyle factors may counteract risk and help stave off dementia.” Continue reading →
Most people have heard or read about calorie restriction being a technique for living longer. This is the first I have heard of it affecting cognition.
Several studies have reported that actively cutting down on calories – not simply “watching your weight” – might also be an effective strategy against cognitive decline, according to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.
One German study found a connection between a restricted-calorie diet and improved memory among participants divided into three groups: One aimed to reduce calorie intake by 30 percent, mostly by eating smaller portions; a second group kept calories the same while increasing intake of healthy fats by 20 percent; and a third, the control group, made no dietary changes. 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 →