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.
I will repeat, yet again, my extreme interest in the brain aging stemming from the fact that my family has had three cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. My grandfather, my mother and her sister all had it.
Although it’s normal for brainpower to decline as people age, it’s not inevitable, studies show. Some people remain cognitively sharp into their 80s, 90s, and beyond, defying the common assumption that cognitive decline is a natural part of aging, according to the National Institute on Aging.
These lucky few, called cognitive super agers, perform demonstrably better on memory tests, such as remembering past events or recalling a list of words, compared with other adults their age. NIA-supported researchers are exploring the factors that set these people apart so the knowledge can be used to help others prevent or reverse age-related cognitive decline.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
In the study of people aged over 55, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, researchers found ‘repetitive negative thinking’ (RNT) is linked to subsequent cognitive decline as well as the deposition of harmful brain proteins linked to Alzheimer’s.
The researchers say RNT should now be further investigated as a potential risk factor for dementia, and psychological tools, such as mindfulness or meditation, should be studied to see if these could reduce dementia risk.
Lead author Dr Natalie Marchant (UCL Psychiatry) said: “Depression and anxiety in mid-life and old age are already known to be risk factors for dementia. Here, we found that certain thinking patterns implicated in depression and anxiety could be an underlying reason why people with those disorders are more likely to develop dementia.
As the old adage goes, an aspirin a day keeps the doctor away. However, new research shows that an aspirin a day will not keep dementia away.
The ASPREE study, Aspirin in Reducing Events in Elderly, evaluated the use of daily, low-dose aspirin in delaying cognitive decline for healthy older adults. Unfortunately, the study did not find that aspirin had any benefit on reducing memory and thinking problems.
“Aspirin is a commonly used drug known to reduce inflammation.,” explained Joanne Ryan, PhD, who collaborated with her colleagues on ASPREE study. “Since inflammation is a significant factor in Alzheimer’s disease, it formed the basis of the hypothesis that aspirin could be beneficial in helping to reduce the occurrence of cognitive decline.”
The ASPREE study involved more than 19,000 participants, mostly 70 years of age and older, who did not have heart disease or a diagnosis of dementia. Half the participants received 100mg of aspirin daily and half received a placebo. All participants received a series of memory & thinking tests throughout the study.
“At the end of the five year trial, we identified that aspirin had no effect on dementia regardless of ethnicity, age, gender or an individual’s current health.” said Dr. Ryan, head of the Biological Neuropsychiatry and Dementia Unit at Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine in Melbourne, Australia.
The question remains whether aspirin could be beneficial if begun in mid-life, long before Alzheimer’s disease starts to take hold in the brain. Dr. Ryan feels it is possible that the benefits of low-dose aspirin may not be seen for several more years. For that reason, the National Institute on Aging, which funded the ASPREE trial, has sponsored ongoing monitoring of cognitive function and other health measures for the trial’s participants. However, it will be some years before results are known.
“The ASPREE study provides strong evidence that low-dose aspirin will not reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Ryan. “While the results are disappointing, the findings are very relevant to older people and their physicians and indicate aspirin should not be prescribed solely on the basis of potential cognitive benefits.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 →
While there is no known ‘silver bullet’ for Alzheimer’s disease it appears that there may be some ‘luck of the draw’ genetic variants that help.
A DNA study of over 10,000 people by University College of London (UCL) scientists has identified a class of gene variants that appear to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings, published in Annals of Human Genetics, suggest these naturally occurring gene variants reduce the functioning of proteins called tyrosine phosphatases, which are known to impair the activity of a cell signalling pathway known as PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β. This pathway is important for cell survival.
The research builds on previous studies in mice and rats, which suggested inhibiting the function of these proteins might be protective against Alzheimer’s disease, but this is the first time such an effect has been demonstrated in people.
Researchers believe the PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β signalling pathway could be a key target for therapeutic drugs and the findings also strengthen evidence that other genes could be linked to either elevated or reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“These results are quite encouraging. It looks as though when naturally-occurring genetic variants reduce the activity of tyrosine phosphatases then this makes Alzheimer’s disease less likely to develop, suggesting that drugs which have the same effect might also be protective,” said the study’s lead author, Professor David Curtis (UCL Genetics Institute).
As a senior citizen whose family has Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia on both sides, I take these studies very seriously
Living near major roads or highways is linked to higher incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS), suggests new research published this week in the journal Environmental Health.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia analyzed data for 678,000 adults in Metro Vancouver. They found that living less than 50 meters from a major road or less than 150 meters from a highway is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS—likely due to increased exposure to air pollution.
The researchers also found that living near green spaces, like parks, has protective effects against developing these neurological disorders.
I have written repeatedly about getting a good night’s sleep. You can check my page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more details. Regular readers also know about my concern about cognition and the vulnerability of an aging brain because of the Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia in my family.
A preliminary study by researchers at Uppsala University has found that when young, healthy men were deprived of just one night of sleep, they had higher levels of tau – a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease – in their blood than when they had a full, uninterrupted night of rest. The study is published in the medical journal Neurology.
Tau is a protein found in neurons and the protein can form into tangles. These accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. This accumulation can start decades before symptoms of the disease appear. Previous studies of older adults have suggested that sleep deprivation can increase the level of tau in the cerebral spinal fluid. Trauma to the head can also increase circulating concentrations of tau in blood.
Because of the dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in my family, I have an appetite for information on impaired cognition. Following comes from a study by the VA San Diego Healthcare System. Subtle changes in thinking and memory may appear before, or in conjunction with, the development of amyloid plaques.
The scientific community has long believed that beta-amyloid, a protein that can clump together and form sticky plaques in the brain, is the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid then leads to other brain changes including neurodegeneration and eventually to thinking and memory problems. But a new study challenges that theory. The study suggests that subtle thinking and memory differences may come before, or happen alongside, the development of amyloid plaques that can be detected in the brain. The study is published in the December 30, 2019, online issue of Neurology.
Participants had brain scans at the start of the study to determine levels of amyloid plaques in the brain, and then yearly scans for four years. Image is in the public domain.
“Our research was able to detect subtle thinking and memory differences in study participants and these participants had faster amyloid accumulation on brain scans over time, suggesting that amyloid may not necessarily come first in the Alzheimer’s disease process,” said study author Kelsey R. Thomas, PhD, of the VA San Diego Healthcare System in San Diego. “Much of the research exploring possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease has focused on targeting amyloid. But based on our findings, perhaps that focus needs to shift to other possible targets.” Continue reading →
Older adults who move more than average, either in the form of daily exercise or just routine physical activity such as housework, may maintain more of their memory and thinking skills than people who are less active than average, even if they have brain lesions or bio-markers linked to dementia, according to a study by Rush University Medical Center.