Aging brings with it a host of life changes, from how our bodies work to how people interact with us. It’s typical to lose some mental sharpness over the years. In fact, some studies suggest that people’s mental skills can begin to dull in their late 20s, with a steeper decline in their 60s and beyond.
These mental skills are our most powerful tools for keeping our independence and having a satisfying life in our golden years. This may be especially important if we live alone or with diminished social interaction in an aging in place program.
Many of the challenges we face as we age are actually the same as we put effort into all of our lives. We sharpen up to react quickly in a crisis, and to come up with the right words when talking. We put effort into dividing attention between different tasks, and to perform tasks step by step, as well as placing awareness on listening and comprehension.
Memory is something we have to focus more on as we age and accumulate more memories, to remember past events and to commit something new to memory. We deal with problem-solving strategies, and use mathematical and technical skills. It’s only as we age that we have to think more deliberately about keeping all these faculties well tuned. So what should you be doing to keep these skills sharp?
Agile Minds Keep Moving
Physical activity, especially outside, is great for the body and mind. Even a brisk 15-minute stroll in the park flushes your brain with oxygen, lowers stress levels, and boosts your mood. People who exercise regularly can enjoy an improved memory and may think more clearly about novel problems.
Any activity will do, but aerobic workouts like dancing or jogging have the greatest benefit. Remember to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.
Healthy Diets, Healthy Brains
A balanced, nutrient-rich diet gives your brain the building blocks it needs to function at its best. Remember that water is part of your diet – between 17% and 28% of older adults experience dehydration. Some of the first symptoms are poor alertness and fuzzy thinking.
Try to maintain a healthy weight and healthy blood pressure as well. This will lower your chance of stroke and ischemic (mini) stroke, which are some of the biggest contributors to cognitive decline in seniors.
Do you need to follow a specific diet? Not really. A lot of studies have focused on the Mediterranean and DASH diets. However, if you’re eating produce, lean protein, and healthy fats and are going easy on the treats, you’re on the right track.
Build Brainpower with Friendships
Research suggests that people who socialize more have a lower risk of developing dementia. Why? Interpersonal relationships act like a brain workout. You stimulate your mind by meeting new people in new places. Communication skills are built as you talk and debate other points of view. Social activities like senior classes and volunteering increase self-sufficiency and instill purpose. Finally, a strong social net helps people bounce back from brain-draining depression.
Quality is more important than quantity here. You’ll see more benefits from a close circle of friends than a long address book of people you haven’t talked to in a year. If you’re like many Americans who are planning on aging in place in the final home that you buy, having a social life will be very important.
Ban Stress and Embrace Sleep
High stress and resulting poor sleep wreak havoc on the brain. In fact, people of all ages will experience short-term cognitive decline when they’re bombarded with long-term stress. Poor sleep causes your ability to remember, learn and function to plummet.
It’s productive to relax before bedtime with habits and routines, such as avoiding electronics for an hour before bed, spending that time reading or catching up with loved ones. Sipping a hot, caffeine-free beverage, taking a bath, meditation or prayer are all habits of lifestyle that prove valuable at any age. You can set your medical alert system or smart watch to give you reminders at the right time.
Physical routines are good too, with gentle stretches to work out the knots in your shoulders, cuddle time with a pet or person. Some people keep a gratitude journal of good things that happened today, or vent their stress into a worry journal, to be set aside deliberately before sleep.
Learn Something New
Learning new skills and hobbies challenges your brain on multiple levels, from processing information to memory building and beyond. Look for skills that require you to actively engage. Two of the most effective ones are learning languages and playing an instrument.
Picking up a second language isn’t the easiest task in the world, but it enhances your brain’s elasticity and helps you process information faster. Think you missed the boat because you didn’t learn as a kid? Think again! Even seniors can get the basics down. Some of the easiest languages for English speakers to pick up include Spanish, Italian, French and German – a European vacation may be in the cards.
Learning to play a musical instrument stimulates minds of any age, helping seniors ward off a decline in speech and listening skills. Dust off your old skills if you once played an instrument, or begin from scratch with one of the more easily learned instruments, such as harmonica, bongo drums, recorder, ukulele or tambourine.
Cognitive Training, Your Way
There is no one special habit or technique that keeps aging minds sharp. Research suggests that a combination of activities repeated over time will slow down cognitive decline and may even reverse it.
You have a buffet of fun hobbies and health-boosting lifestyle changes that can all add up to a sharper mind. As jogging becomes too arduous, donate your running shoes and take up yoga instead, or swap something else in. Load up your life’s plate with many helpings of what you like, investing in a richer, mentally sharper life in your golden years.
After founding AC/DC in 1973, the Young brothers were credited as co-writers on every song the band recorded by the band between their 1975 debut High Voltage through to 2014’s Rock or Bust.
Malcolm Young was born in 1953 in Glasgow before his family emigrated to Australia when he was 10. His family confirmed he was suffering from dementia in 2014.
The musician wrote much of the band’s the material that enabled AC/DC to become one of the biggest heavy rock bands, including Back In Black, Highway to Hell and You Shook Me All Night Long.
AC/DC is estimated to have sold more than 200 million records worldwide, including 71.5 million albums in the US.
A statement by the artist’s brother Angus on the AC/DC website praises Malcolm Young’s “enormous dedication and commitment” which made him “the driving force behind the band” who “always stuck to his guns and did and said exactly what he wanted”.
“As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special. He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever.
The final years of anyone’s life can be challenging. There can be physical health issues that result in a loss of mobility and this can severely limit how you can get about. If you have an elderly relative (perhaps a parent or grandparent) who is experiencing this at the moment it can be very distressing to witness. Eventually, these health issues may make it impossible for them to live safely in their own homes.
Other senior citizens suffer from mental health issues. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are both increasing in incidence and are most common in people aged over 70 years of age. Sufferers become confused and disorientated and it can be very frightening for them to live alone. You may have space in your home and the time to look after them yourself. This is a big decision and something that you as a family must decide. However, your work and family commitments, or the size of your house, may mean that you cannot do this.
This is when you have to make the difficult decision to move them into residential accommodation. Nearly 1.4 million people in the U.S. live in nursing homes so this is a common issue facing many families. There are many nursing homes to choose from and you will want to pick the best one for your relative. Here are some things that you should look out for when you visit a nursing home.
Check on the food
Food is one of the great pleasures of life and can become even more important as you get older. If you are not busy doing other things, your next meal becomes very important. It is vital that it is something that you can enjoy. There are two things that affect how enjoyable the meal is. They are where you eat it and what you eat.
Take a good look at the dining room. Is it a pleasant environment to enjoy a meal? Would you be allowed to visit your relative and enjoy a meal with them? It is also important that your relative has the option of eating in their own room sometimes if they don’t feel like venturing into the dining area. Is the seating pleasant and is the dining room light and airy?
The food itself is also vitally important. It needs to be both palatable and well presented. It also needs to be suitable for each resident. Some may have allergies, some may be on low-sodium diets and some may need pureed food. All needs and requirements must be catered for.
It is also important that a record is kept of what the resident has eaten. Anorexia is a real problem in some elderly people. They lose their appetite and simply stop eating. This needs to be detected early on and interventions put in place.
Listen carefully when you are in the nursing home
Use all your senses to make up your mind about the home. You may hear crying out and shrieks but you should not be alarmed as this is common for residents with dementia. However, it is important to listen to how the staff talk to the residents. They should be addressing them using their names and not using names such as ‘Pops’ or ‘Gramma’ as this indicates that they have not bothered to learn the resident’s names. They should enquire how your elderly relative wants to be addressed. They may prefer a more formal ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’ to begin with until they begin to feel more relaxed.
What does the nursing home smell like?
This is a delicate subject. There will inevitably be some incontinent residents and this can present a challenge to the nursing home owners and employees. There will always be the odd accident but, to retain the dignity of the resident and to make it more pleasant for other residents, this situation should be controlled. If the home strongly smells, it means that the monitoring and cleaning regimes are not up to scratch.
The staff should not look stressed
If the carers are rushing around and don’t have time to talk to you, it could indicate that the nursing home is understaffed and this is a problem. It could mean that they do not have time to attend to your relative’s basic needs. It also means that they will not have the time to chat and comfort your relative and this makes a lot of difference.
Can you see any of the employees stopping and talking to the residents? Are they sharing a joke with them or taking the time to walk with them out in the garden? There have been instances where poor staffing levels have led to residents being neglected and suffering psychological or physical harm. You are perfectly within your rights to consult a nursing home injury lawyer if you suspect that this has happened to a member of your family. Your lawyer can investigate your concerns and prepare a personal injury claim if the home has failed in their duty of care. If you win your case, you will get some compensation and it sends a message to the nursing home that they have to improve their procedures.
Signs that things are going wrong
There are several signs that the care provided in a home is not up to the required standards. If several residents have physical injuries this may mean that they are being abused. It can also mean that they are experiencing trips and falls. Measures should have been taken to prevent this. Residents should not have bed sores. There are strict protocols that should be followed to prevent this from happening.
They should also look happy and content. There should be a variety of activities, both inside and outside the home, and there should be evidence that these actually take place. It is not enough for them to be written in the brochure, ask if you can visit when they are actually happening.
With the correct care, your elderly relative can enjoy their final years in a well-run nursing home.
Ex-Partridge Family idol David Cassidy has confirmed he is diagnosed with dementia.
The revelation comes after performances in California in which David Cassidy, 66, forgot his words and appeared physically unstable.
David Cassidy, a teen idol in the 1970s with hits like How Can I Be Sure?, has told People magazine that he will stop touring as a musician to focus on his health.
Image source Wikimedia
He said: “I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming.”
His mother also suffered from the disease.
David Cassidy told the magazine: “I want to focus on what I am, who I am and how I’ve been, without any distractions… I want to love. I want to enjoy life.”
Videos on social media of David Cassidy’s performances over the weekend at Agoura, west of Los Angeles, raised concerns about his health.
David Cassidy, whose hits include I Think I Love You and Cherish, has struggled with drinking and financial troubles recently, in 2015, he filed for bankruptcy and between 2010 and 2014, he was arrested three times for drunken driving, and was ordered to rehab as part of his sentence in 2014.
A new study has found that symptoms of depression that steadily increase over time in older age could indicate early signs of dementia.
According to Dutch scientists, other patterns of symptoms, such as chronic depression, appear not to be linked.
Researchers looked at different ways depression in older adults progressed over time and how this related to any risk.
They concluded worsening depression may signal dementia is taking hold.
The research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, followed more than 3,000 adults aged 55 and over living in the Netherlands.
All had depression but no symptoms of dementia at the start of the study.
Dr. M. Arfan Ikram of the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam said depressive symptoms that gradually increase over time appear to be a better predictor of dementia later in life than other paths of depression.
“There are a number of potential explanations, including that depression and dementia may both be symptoms of a common underlying cause, or that increasing depressive symptoms are on the starting end of a dementia continuum in older adults,” he said.
Only the group whose symptoms of depression increased over time were found to be at increased risk of dementia – about one in five of people (55 out of 255) in this group developed dementia.
Others who had symptoms that waxed and waned or stayed the same were not at increased risk.
For example, in those who experienced low but stable levels of depression, around 10% went on to develop dementia.
However, the exact nature of depression on dementia risk remains unknown.
They often occur together, but the Dutch study is among the first to look at different patterns of depression symptoms.
The first details of how Eli Lilly’s solanezumab drug could slow the pace of brain decline for patients with early stage Alzheimer’s disease have emerged.
Data from pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly suggests its drug can cut the rate of the dementia’s progression by about a third.
The results, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in the US, are being met with cautious optimism.
A new trial is due to report next year and should provide definitive evidence.
The death of brain cells in Alzheimer’s is currently unstoppable. Solanezumab may be able to keep them alive.
Current medication, such as Aricept (Donepezil), can manage only the symptoms of dementia by helping the dying brain cells function.
But solanezumab attacks the deformed proteins, called amyloid, that build up in the brain during Alzheimer’s.
It is thought the formation of sticky plaques of amyloid between nerve cells leads to damage and eventually brain cell death.
Solanezumab has long been the great hope of dementia research, yet an 18-month trial of the drug seemingly ended in failure in 2012.
However, when Eli Lilly looked more closely at the data, there were hints it could be working for patients in the earliest stages of the disease.
It appeared to slow progression by around 34% during the study.
So the company asked just over 1,000 of the patients in the original trial with mild Alzheimer’s to take the drug for another two years.
Positive results from this extension of the original trial have now been presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
They show those taking the drugs the longest had the most benefit.
Eli Lilly also started a completely separate trial in mild patients in 2012, and these results could prove to be the definitive moment for the drug.
In the first stage of the original trial, which ended in failure, half of the patients with Alzheimer’s were given solanezumab and half were not.
A reanalysis of the cognition scores of the patients with mild Alzheimer’s suggested taking the drug had cut the rate of the disease’s progression by about 34%.
The implication is that the amount of cognitive decline normally seen in 18 months would take 24 months with the drug.
In the extension of the original trial, all of the 1,000-plus mild Alzheimer’s patients participating were given solanezumab.
At the end of the extension, half of them had been taking the drug for three and a half years while the other half had been taking it for two years.
The latest data shows those taking solanezumab for the longest time still had better scores of cognitive function.
This suggests the course of the disease was being slowed.
If the patients’ brains had continued to decline at the normal pace and the drug had been merely helping with symptoms, then all of the patients participating in the extension of the original trial – whether they had been taking solanezumab for three and a half or two years – would have had similar scores of cognitive function.
A new study shows that tweaking the brain’s immune system with an arginine supplement has prevented mice developing dementia.
The team at Duke University, in the US, showed immune cells which start attacking nutrients in the brain may be a trigger for the disease.
The researchers say their findings could open up new avenues of research for a field that has not developed a single drug to slow the progression of the disease.
Experts said the findings offered new hope of a treatment.
The researchers indentified microglia – normally the first line of defense against infection in the brain – as major players in the development of dementia.
They found some microglia changed to become exceptionally adept at breaking down a component of protein, an amino acid called arginine, in the early stages of the disease.
As arginine levels plummeted, the immune cells appeared to dampened the immune system in the brain.
In mouse experiments, a chemical was used to block the enzymes that break down arginine.
They showed fewer of the characteristics of dementia such as damaged proteins collecting in the brain and the animals performed better in memory tests.
One of the researchers, Dr. Matthew Kan, said: “All of this suggests to us that if you can block this local process of amino acid deprivation, then you can protect the mouse, at least from Alzheimer’s disease.
“We see this study opening the doors to thinking about Alzheimer’s in a completely different way, to break the stalemate of ideas in Alzheimer’s disease.”
However, the findings do not suggest that arginine supplements could combat dementia as the boosted levels would still be broken down.
According to a recent study, dementia is linked to commonly used medicines, including OTC treatments for conditions such as insomnia and hay-fever.
All of the types of medication in question are drugs that have an “anticholinergic” effect.
Experts say people should not panic or stop taking their medicines.
In the US study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, higher doses and prolonged use were linked to higher dementia risk in elderly people.
The researchers only looked at older people and found the increased risk appeared when people took drugs every day for three years or more.
All medicines can have side-effects and anticholinergic-type drugs that block a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine are no exception.
Patient information leaflets accompanying such drugs warn of the possibility of reduced attention span and memory problems as well as a dry mouth.
However, researchers say people should also be aware that they may be linked to a higher risk of developing dementia.
Dr. Shelly Gray and colleagues from the University of Washington followed the health of 3,434 people aged 65 and older who had no signs of dementia at the start of the study.
They looked at medical and pharmacy records to determine how many of the people had been given a drug with an anticholinergic effect, at what dose and how often and compared this data with subsequent dementia diagnoses over the next decade.
The study does not name specific brands, but does outline the types of treatments investigated, which include: tricyclic antidepressants for treating depression, antihistamines used to treat hay-fever and allergies and antimuscarinics for treating urinary incontinence.
Most of the drugs were given on prescription, rather than bought at the pharmacy over-the-counter.
The most commonly used anticholinergic-type drugs were medicines for treating depression, antihistamines for allergies such as hay-fever or to aid sleep/promote drowsiness, and drugs to treat urinary incontinence. Nearly a fifth were drugs that had been bought over the counter.
Over the course of the study, 797 of the participants developed dementia.
The study estimated that people taking at least 10 mg/day of doxepin (antidepressant), four mg/day of diphenhydramine (a sleep aid), or five mg/day of oxybutynin (a urinary incontinence drug) for more than three years would be at greater risk of developing dementia.
The researchers say doctors and pharmacists might want to take a precautionary approach and offer different treatments instead. And when there is no alternative, they could give the lowest dose for the shortest time possible.
Dr. Shelly Gray says some of the study participants have agreed to have an autopsy after their death.
“We will look at the brain pathology and see if we can find a biological mechanism that might explain our results.”
British researchers have identified a weak spot in the brain which is responsible for developing Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.
According to the scientists who have pinpointed the region using scans, the brain area involved develops late in adolescence and degenerates early during ageing.
At the moment, it is difficult for doctors to predict which people might develop either condition.
The findings, in the journal PNAS, hint at a potential way to diagnose those at risk earlier, experts say.
Although they caution that “much more research is needed into how to bring these exciting discoveries into the clinic”.
The Medical Research Council (MRC) team who carried out the study did MRI brain scans on 484 healthy volunteers aged between 8 and 85 years.
The researchers, led by Dr. Gwenaëlle Douaud of Oxford University, looked at how the brain naturally changes as people age.
The images revealed a common pattern – the parts of the brain that were the last to develop were also the first to show signs of age-related decline.
These brain regions – a network of nerve cells or grey matter – co-ordinate “high order” information coming from the different senses, such as sight and sound.
When the researchers looked at scans of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and scans of patients with schizophrenia they found the same brain regions were affected.
The findings fit with what other experts have suspected – that although distinct, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia are linked.
Prof. Hugh Perry of the MRC said: “Early doctors called schizophrenia <<premature dementia>> but until now we had no clear evidence that the same parts of the brain might be associated with two such different diseases. This large-scale and detailed study provides an important, and previously missing, link between development, ageing and disease processes in the brain.
“It raises important issues about possible genetic and environmental factors that may occur in early life and then have lifelong consequences. The more we can find out about these very difficult disorders, the closer we will come to helping sufferers and their families.”
According to Dutch researchers, taking vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements does not seem to cut the risk of developing dementia in healthy people.
In one of the largest studies to date, there was no difference in memory test scores between those who had taken the supplements for two years and those who were given a placebo.
The new research was published in the Neurology journal.
However, other researchers say longer trials were needed to be sure.
B vitamins have been linked to Alzheimer’s for some years, and scientists know that higher levels of a body chemical called homocysteine can raise the risk of both strokes and dementia.
Vitamin B12 and folic acid are both known to lower levels of homocysteine.
That, along with studies linking low vitamin B12 and folic acid intake with poor memory,has prompted scientists to view the supplements as a way to ward off dementia.
Yet in the study of almost 3,000 people – with an average age of 74 – who took 400 micrograms of folic acid and 500 micrograms of vitamin B12 or a placebo every day, researchers found no evidence of a protective effect.
All those taking part in the trial had high blood levels of homocysteine, which did drop more in those taking the supplements.
On four different tests of memory and thinking skills taken at the start and end of the study, there was no beneficial effect of the supplements on performance.
The researchers did note that the supplements might slightly slow the rate of decline but concluded the small difference they detected could just have been down to chance.
Study leader Dr. Rosalie Dhonukshe-Rutten, from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said: “Since homocysteine levels can be lowered with folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements, the hope has been that taking these vitamins could also reduce the risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
“While the homocysteine levels decreased by more in the group taking the B vitamins than in the group taking the placebo, unfortunately there was no difference between the two groups in the scores on the thinking and memory tests.”
The researchers stressed the research cannot be extrapolated to people who already had cognitive problems and earlier research had suggested they may benefit.
A new research suggests that middle-aged women with a neurotic personality style and prolonged stress may have a heightened risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The Swedish study on 800 women over nearly four decades found that those who were most anxious, jealous and moody – which they defined as neurotic – and experienced long-standing stress had double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s compared to women scoring lowest in these traits.
Study author Lena Johansson, a researcher at University of Gothenburg, said: Continue reading below…
“No other study has shown that [one style of] midlife personality increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease over a period of nearly 40 years.”
However, the study results don’t prove that neuroticism triggers Alzheimer’s, but they do suggest an association between the two.
The study was published this month in the journal Neurology.
The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease causes profound memory loss and impairments in language, focus, judgment and visual perception, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Middle-aged women with a neurotic personality style and prolonged stress may have a heightened risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease
About 5.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which is progressive, incurable and ultimately fatal.
Lena Johansson said she believes the results would also be true for men. But study data – pulled from research that began in the 1960s – happened to include only women in an era when few medical studies focused on females.
In the new study, participants with an average age of 46 were tracked for 38 years and given memory tests and personality tests measuring their levels of neuroticism and extraversion (defined as being outgoing) and introversion (defined as reserved or shy).
Study authors defined neuroticism as being easily distressed and exhibiting personality traits such as anxiety, jealousy or moodiness. People with this personality style are more likely, they said, to express guilt, anger, envy, worry and depression.
The women were also asked if they had experienced any period of prolonged stress lasting one month or longer and to rate their stress on a scale from zero to five, which represented constant stress during the previous five years. Stress responses included nervousness, sleep disturbances, fearfulness, irritability and tension.
Being introverted or extroverted alone didn’t seem to affect dementia risk, but women who were both easily distressed and withdrawn (introverted) had the highest risk of Alzheimer’s among all women analyzed. One-quarter of them developed the disease, compared to only 13% of those considered outgoing (extroverted) and not easily distressed.
Malcolm Young, who recently left AC/DC due to ill-health, is reportedly suffering from dementia.
61-year-old Malcolm Young, AC/DC guitarist and founder member, has been replaced in the band by his nephew, Stevie Young.
A family statement to People magazine said: “Malcolm is suffering from dementia and the family thanks you for respecting their privacy.”
AC/DC announced Malcolm Young’s departure last month but said they would go on without him and that their new album Rock Or Bust.
Rock or Bust will be released in December.
Malcolm Young formed AC/DC in 1973 with his younger brother Angus (photo PA)
Malcolm Young, who emigrated from Scotland to Australia at the age of 10 with his family, formed AC/DC in 1973 with his younger brother Angus, who has famously dressed as a schoolboy onstage for many years.
The band has previously survived the death of their singer when Bon Scott died in 1980 after a night of heavy drinking in London. He was replaced by Brian Johnson, who has remained as vocalist ever since.
They have been a huge draw on the rock circuit for decades, creating anthems such as Highway To Hell and Back In Black, although they have tended to have album rather than single success.
AC/DC’s songs were used as the soundtrack for the movie Iron Man2.
Their most recent release, 2008 chart-topper Black Ice, was only their third since 1990.
According to a recent research from the University of Cambridge, one in three cases of Alzheimer’s disease worldwide is preventable.
The main risk factors for the disease are a lack of exercise, smoking, depression and poor education, it says.
Previous research from 2011 put the estimate at one in two cases, but this new study takes into account overlapping risk factors.
According to the study, published in The Lancet Neurology, the Cambridge team analyzed population-based data to work out the main seven risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease main risks are:
Low educational attainment
The main risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are a lack of exercise, smoking, depression and poor education
The researchers worked out that a third of Alzheimer’s cases could be linked to lifestyle factors that could be modified, such as lack of exercise and smoking.
They then looked at how reducing these factors could affect the number of future Alzheimer’s cases.
They found that by reducing each risk factor by 10%, nearly nine million cases of the disease could be prevented by 2050.
Current estimates suggest that more than 106 million people worldwide will be living with Alzheimer’s by 2050 – more than three times the number affected in 2010.
Prof Carol Brayne, from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge, said: “Although there is no single way to treat dementia, we may be able to take steps to reduce our risk of developing dementia at older ages.
“We know what many of these factors are, and that they are often linked.
“Simply tackling physical inactivity, for example, will reduce levels of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and prevent some people from developing dementia.
“As well as being healthier in old age in general, it’s a win-win situation.”
Of the seven risk factors, the largest proportion of cases of Alzheimer’s in the US, UK and the rest of Europe can be attributed to physical inactivity.
The study says about a third of the adult population in these countries are physically inactive.
Physical inactivity is also linked to increased risks of other health problems, such as cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
A blood test to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is being under development.
Research in more than 1,000 people has identified a set of proteins in the blood which can predict the start of the dementia with 87% accuracy.
The findings, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, will be used to improve trials for new dementia drugs.
A blood test to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is being under development (photo Getty Images)
Experts warned that the test was not yet ready for doctors’ surgeries.
Research into treatments for Alzheimer’s disease has been plagued by failure. Between 2002 and 2012, 99.6% of trials aimed at preventing or reversing the disease flopped.
Doctors believe the failure is down to treating patients when it is already too late, since symptoms appear around a decade after the start of the disease.
Identifying patients earlier is one of the priorities for dementia research.
The British research group, which combines university and industry scientists, looked for differences in the blood of 452 healthy people, 220 with mild cognitive impairment and 476 with Alzheimer’s disease.
They were able to tell with 87% accuracy which patients with mild cognitive impairment would go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease in the next year.
US researchers have discovered that a blood test can accurately predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists at Georgetown University in Washington DC showed that testing levels of 10 fats in the blood could predict – with 90% accuracy – the risk of the disease coming on in the next three years.
Their findings, published in Nature Medicine, will now be tested in larger clinical trials.
Experts said the results needed to be confirmed, but such a test would be “a real step forward”.
The number of people living with dementia stands at 44 million around the globe and is expected to treble by 2050.
The disease silently attacks the brain for more than a decade before any symptoms emerge. Doctors think drug trials are failing because patients are simply being treated too late to make a difference.
Georgetown University researchers have discovered that a blood test can accurately predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease
This is why discovering a test that predicts the risk of dementia is a major priority for the field.
Researchers analysed blood samples from 525 people over the age of 70 as part of a five-year study.
They took 53 of them who developed Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment and compared their blood with 53 who stayed mentally agile.
They found differences in the levels of 10 lipids, or fats, between the two groups.
And when the research team looked in the other blood samples, those 10 markers of Alzheimer’s could predict who was likely to enter mental decline in the following years.
The full power of the test has not been investigated either. So far they know a diagnosis of dementia can be predicted three years ahead of time, but the researchers are now investigating whether the test works even earlier.
It is not clear exactly what is causing the change in fats in the blood, but it could be a residue of the early changes in the brain.
A new research suggests a daily dose of vitamin E could help people with dementia.
A study in the journal JAMA found people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease on high doses of vitamin E had a slower rate of decline than those given a dummy pill.
They were able to carry out everyday tasks for longer and needed less help from carers, say US researchers.
The Alzheimer’s Society said the dosage was very high and might not be safe.
In the study, 613 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease received either a daily dose of vitamin E, a dementia drug treatment known as memantine, a combination of vitamin E and memantine, or placebo.
A daily dose of vitamin E could help people with dementia
Changes in their ability to carry out everyday tasks – such as washing or dressing – were measured over an average of two years.
The study found participants receiving vitamin E had slower functional decline than those receiving placebo, with the annual rate of decline reduced by 19%.
Those on vitamin E (also known as alpha tocopherol) also needed less help from carers.
“These findings suggest that alpha tocopherol is beneficial in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease by slowing functional decline and decreasing caregiver burden,” said a team led by Dr. Maurice Dysken of Minneapolis VA Health Care System.
US scientists have found that a lifetime of too much copper in our diets may be contributing to Alzheimer’s disease.
However, research is divided, with other studies suggesting copper may actually protect the brain.
The latest study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed high levels of copper left the brain struggling to get rid of a protein thought to cause the dementia.
Copper is a vital part of our diet and necessary for a healthy body.
Tap water coming through copper pipes, red meat and shellfish as well as fruit and vegetables are all sources of dietary copper.
The study on mice, by a team at the University of Rochester in New York, suggested that copper interfered with the brain’s shielding – the blood brain barrier.
Mice that were fed more copper in their water had a greater build-up of the metal in the blood vessels in the brain.
A lifetime of too much copper in our diets may be contributing to Alzheimer’s disease
The team said this interfered with the way the barrier functioned and made it harder for the brain to get rid of a protein called beta amyloid.
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of plaques of amyloid in the dying brain.
Lead researcher Dr. Rashid Deane said: “It is clear that, over time, copper’s cumulative effect is to impair the systems by which amyloid beta is removed from the brain.”
He said that copper also led to more protein being produced: “It’s a double whammy of increased production and decreased clearance of amyloid protein.
“Copper is a very essential metal ion and you don’t want a deficiency and many nutritious foods also contain copper.”
However, he said taking supplements may be “going overboard a bit”.
Commenting on the latest findings, Chris Exley, professor of bioinorganic chemistry at Keele University in the UK, said there was “no true consensus” on the role of copper in Alzheimer’s disease.
His research on human brains reached the opposite conclusion: “In our most recent work we found evidence of lower total brain copper with ageing and Alzheimer’s. We also found that lower brain copper correlated with higher deposition of beta amyloid in brain tissue.
“He said at the moment we would expect copper to be protective and beneficial in neurodegeneration, not the instigator, but we don’t know.
“The exposure levels used mean that if copper is acting in the way they think it does in this study then it must be doing so in everyone.”
A new research suggests that drinking cocoa every day may help older people keep their brains healthy.
A study of 60 elderly people with no dementia found two cups of cocoa a day improved blood flow to the brain in those who had problems to start with.
Those participants whose blood flow improved also did better on memory tests at the end of the study, the journal Neurology reported.
Experts said more research was needed before conclusions could be drawn.
It is not the first time cocoa has been linked with vascular health and researchers believe that this is in part due to it being rich in flavanols, which are thought to have an important role.
In the latest study, researchers asked 60 people with an average age of 73 to drink two cups of cocoa a day – one group given high-flavanol cocoa and another a low-flavanol cocoa – and consume no other chocolate.
Drinking cocoa every day may help older people keep their brains healthy
Ultrasound tests at the start of the study showed 17 of them had impaired blood flow to the brain.
There was no difference between those who drank flavanol-rich cocoa and those who had flavanol-poor cocoa.
But whichever drink they were given, 88% of those with impaired blood flow at the start of the study saw improvements in blood flow and some cognitive tests, compared with 37% of people whose blood flow was normal at the beginning of the study.
MRI scans in 24 participants found that people with impaired blood flow were also more likely to have tiny areas of brain damage.
“We’re learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills,” said study author Dr. Farzaneh Sorond a neurologist at Harvard Medical School.
“As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
The researchers said the lack of difference between the flavanol-rich and flavanol-poor cocoa could be because another component of the drink was having an effect or because only small amounts were needed.
According to researchers at King’s College London, smoking “rots” the brain by damaging memory, learning and reasoning.
A study of 8,800 people over 50 showed high blood pressure and being overweight also seemed to affect the brain, but to a lesser extent.
Scientists involved said people needed to be aware that lifestyles could damage the mind as well as the body.
Their study was published in the journal Age and Ageing.
Researchers at King’s College London were investigating links between the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke and the state of the brain.
Data about the health and lifestyle of a group of over-50s was collected and brain tests, such as making participants learn new words or name as many animals as they could in a minute, were also performed.
They were all tested again after four and then eight years.
Researchers at the King’s College London found that smoking rots the brain by damaging memory, learning and reasoning
The results showed that the overall risk of a heart attack or stroke was “significantly associated with cognitive decline” with those at the highest risk showing the greatest decline.
It also said there was a “consistent association” between smoking and lower scores in the tests.
One of the researchers, Dr. Alex Dregan, said: “Cognitive decline becomes more common with ageing and for an increasing number of people interferes with daily functioning and well-being.
“We have identified a number of risk factors which could be associated with accelerated cognitive decline, all of which, could be modifiable.”
He added: “We need to make people aware of the need to do some lifestyle changes because of the risk of cognitive decline.”
The researchers do not know how such a decline could affect people going about their daily life. They are also unsure whether the early drop in brain function could lead to conditions such as dementia.
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