Public People: Brave Revelations

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Disease of most sorts has always carried a sense of shame, but dementia seems to carry an especially heavy stigma. This has lessened as more has been learned about the disease, including the fact that is indeed a disease! Moreover, this has been aided by the brave disclosures of dementia diagnoses from public figures. Here we’ve collected links to articles about a number of such figures, in no particular order.

Sandra Day O’Connor
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announces she has been diagnosed with dementia
Sandra Day O’Connor Says She Has Dementia, Withdraws From Public Life
As she faces dementia, Sandra Day O’Connor is a pioneer again

Ted Turner
Ted Turner reveals he has Lewy body dementia
Ted Turner reveals he’s battling Lewy body dementia in exclusive interview

Gene Wilder
Gene Wilder’s widow on what it’s like to care for someone with Alzheimer’s

Glenn Campbell
Glen Campbell: His Courageous Fight with Alzheimer’s Disease (see also Review: ‘I’ll Be Me’ Is Glen Campbell’s Farewell to His Fans and Himself

Ronald Regan
Read Ronald Reagan’s Letter to the American People About His Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Pat Summit
Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease

Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston has Alzheimer’s symptoms (also Charlton Heston’s Alzheimer’s Announcement and Goodbye)

Terry Pratchett
‘A butt of my own jokes’: Terry Pratchett on the disease that finally claimed him

Malcolm Young
AC/DC’s Malcolm Young has dementia, family says

Kathy Griffin’s Mother
Kathy Griffin reveals mother’s diagnosis
Kathy Griffin Reveals Mom Maggie Has Dementia In Heartbreaking Post

A related article:
Dementia Is Getting Some Very Public Faces

Exercise And Alzheimer’s

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In an earlier post, we pointed to work showing that one’s aerobic fitness level inversely correlates with one’s overall mortality risk: The higher one’s fitness level, the lower one’s risk of dying. And in another post, we pointed at work demonstrating the relationship between cardiac health and dementia, again an inverse relationship: The more you improve your cardiac health, the more you lower your risk of dementia. So it certainly follows that exercising to improve your heart health will lower your risk of dementia. And studies show that this is the case. One in particular showed strikingly that higher fitness levels correlate strongly with lower risk of dementia:
Dementia study links your risk with your fitness level
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Studies continue to show directly that performing physical exercise is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia. Almost certainly, part of the benefit is due to the positive effect of exercise on your heart health, and that in turn improves blood flow to your brain, reducing your dementia risk.

The studies have ranged from intense 7-10 minute aerobic interval training to 30-minute walks. Clearly interval training will have more of an effect on your body than 30-minute walks. However, even those walks will have an effect, including the likely effect of reducing mental/emotional stress. And one very important point is to maintain a regular exercise program. If you start ambitiously and fall off to nothing, you haven’t done yourself much good.
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For maintaining both mental and physical health and strength, it’s quite tempting to think that massive intense workouts are necessary, both physical and mental. However, regularity is easily as much or more important for both. We’ll explore this in future posts.

The new link above has been added to Health > Physical Exercise.

Practical Mental Exercise For Brain Fitness

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Studies about what affects the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias are thick on the ground, and new ones pop up regularly. The things that turn up consistently for protecting your brain are:

  • Regular physical exercise (moderate to strong)
  • Staying mentally active (see articles below)
  • Staying social (from outings with friends to volunteer activities)
  • Good diet (tending towards the Mediterranean, Japanese, or Nordic diets)
  • No smoking (quit if you haven’t already)
  • Manage alcohol intake (from none to low)
  • Weight control and heart health (keep weight moderate and lower high blood pressure)

Here are three articles about keeping your brain fit by keeping mentally active in everyday life, by a memory champion, by an MD who runs a university memory clinic, and by a brain researcher about brain fitness in everyday life:

Keeping your brain fit, by a USA Memory Champion
Mind games: a mental workout to help keep your brain sharp
A brain scientist who studies Alzheimer’s explains how she stays mentally fit

All links have been added to Mental Agility

Alzheimer’s Vaccine…For Mice, Monkeys, and Rabbits

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It’s of course widely accepted that potential drugs for human use must first successfully pass through animal testing. Unfortunately, that in no way guarantees that the candidate drug will be efficacious for the human animal. And this has be depressingly common for drugs directed at Alzheimer’s. Quite a few have done well when tested in the mice model, yet have fallen flat during human testing. (The disappointment of the researchers who have spent years of hard, hopeful work must be brutal.)

Last week a paper was published describing another possible vaccine against Alzheimer’s. It is the latest in about 10 years of work, in which the idea has been tested previously in monkeys and rabbits, and now reports the positive outcomes in mice. The researchers hope that human trials might begin within 3-5 years. Below are links to an institutional press release about the work, to a media article about the work, and to the research paper itself.

DNA Vaccine Reduces Both Toxic Proteins Linked to Alzheimer’s

DNA vaccine reduces both toxic proteins linked to Alzheimer’s

Research article:
Active full-length DNA Aβ42 immunization in 3xTg-AD mice reduces not only amyloid deposition but also tau pathology

All three links have been added to Alzheimers > Treatment > Drugs.

Promising Non-Invasive Tests For Predicting Possible Dementia

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Two promising non-invasive tests for predicting possible future dementia have been reported.

The first test used an ultrasound scanner to examine the pulses in the neck arteries of nearly 3200 people in 2002. The study then monitored their cognitive functions until 2016, and found that those people with the most intense pulses and irregular blood flow in the neck arteries were up to 50% more likely to experience cognitive decline, which is a strong sign of oncoming dementia. If the results can be replicated in larger studies, this test could become routine and widespread in doctors’ offices.

Here are links to two media articles on the work, together with a link to the abstract of the study:

Dementia risk: Five-minute scan ‘can predict cognitive decline’
Five-minute neck scan can spot dementia 10 years earlier, say scientists
Meeting-presented abstract:
Abstract 13364: Carotid Artery Wave Intensity Measured in Mid- to Late-Life Predicts Future Cognitive Decline: The Whitehall II Study

The second test can be carried out by an optician during routine annual examinations of patients’ eyes. During such routine annual exams, the optician examines the state of the patient’s retinas. This study showed that the thinness of the retina is correlated with the likelihood of cognitive decline: Healthy patients with the thinnest retinal layers were seen to be twice as likely to later experience cognitive decline. Such thinness of the retinal layer could be routinely checked by opticians.

Below are links to two media articles about the study, together with the study abstract:

Optician’s eye test ‘could spot early dementia signs’
Retinal Thinning Tied to Cognitive Decline
Research abstract:
Association of Retinal Nerve Fiber Layer Thinning With Current and Future Cognitive Decline

All links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Diagnosis & Tests

Zombie Mice Brain Cells: Clearance Stops Cognitive Decline

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Bodies, both mice and human, have a natural anti-cancer defense. Cells which have accumulated so many mutations that might lead to uncontrolled growth (i.e., cancer) move into senescent mode; they cease dividing and are eventually eliminated by the immune system.

Recently published research on mice has demonstrated the rather striking finding occurring when clearing or flushing all senescent cells from the brains of mice genetically bred to exhibit signs of dementia: “When senescent cells were removed, we found that the diseased animals retained the ability to form memories, eliminated signs of inflammation, did not develop [protein] tangles, and had maintained normal brain mass.”

Below are links to three media articles on the work, together with a link to the research article abstract.

Removing faulty brain cells staves off dementia in mice
Over-the-hill cells may cause trouble in the aging brain
Zombie cells found in brains of mice prior to cognitive loss
Research abstract:
Clearance of senescent glial cells prevents tau-dependent pathology and cognitive decline

All links have been added to
Alzheimer’s > Neurology & Neuroplasticity

Air Pollution: Shorter Life, More Dementia Risk, Worse Thinking

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Three recent studies have demonstrated that breathing polluted air has significant negative effects, including a shorter lifespan, greater risk of dementia, and diminished cognitive capacity.


Life Expectancy
Airborne PM(Particulate Matter)2.5 is material less than 2.5 micrometers, which can be seen only with electron microscopes. Being so small, they can travel deeply into our lungs with quite harmful effects. They are produced from car & truck exhausts, industrial plants include coal-fired powerplants, and also include dust produced by windstorms. Averaged across the globe, breathing them typically cuts up to a year off lifespans, and in areas of greater pollution, up to two years.

Here are three links to media articles on the work:
Air pollution reduces global life expectancy by more than one year
Air pollution is shaving a year off our average life expectancy
Lowering air pollution just a bit would increase life expectancy as much as eradicating lung and breast cancer

Here is the research publication:
Ambient PM2.5 Reduces Global and Regional Life Expectancy
These links have been added to Aging


Dementia Risk

This study involved a sample of 130,978 adults living in London between 2005 and 2013. The participants were between 50 and 79 years old. Broadly, even after making adjustments for factors such as smoking and social status/class, those from the most polluted areas of London were much more at risk of dementia (40% more) than those from the least polluted areas.

Here are two links to media articles on the research:
Is air pollution tied to higher dementia risk?
Air pollution linked to much greater risk of dementia

Here is the research publication:
Are noise and air pollution related to the incidence of dementia? A cohort study in London, England


Diminished Cognitive Capacity
Living with air pollution very likely reduces your intelligence, as measured by test scores for arithmetic and language. The effect can, on average, be as if one had lost a year of eduction. For people over 64, for men, and for those with lower education, the effect can be even greater.

An international research team carried out the research in China using 20,000 people, between 2010 and 2014. People who were exposed longer to polluted air had greater damage to their intelligence. Language ability was hurt more than mathematical ability, and men were harmed more than women.

Here are three links to media articles on the research work:

Air Pollution Exposure Harms Cognitive Performance, Study Finds
Study shows air pollution may be causing cognitive decline in people

Here is the research publication:
The impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance

The last two groups of links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors

Your Heart And Your Brain

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One is in your head, the other in your chest. But of course they’re deeply interconnected. Looking at it from your brain’s point of view, what’s good for your heart is also good for your head. A major French study reported in August quantifies that, using the American Heart Association (AHA)’s notion of Life’s Simple 7:

Blood pressure
Blood sugar
Cholesterol
Diet
Exercise
Smoking status
Weight management

The better one manages each of these, the lower one’s risk of dementia.

Here are links to media articles about heart health and dementia:
The more you do to promote your cardiovascular health, the lower your risk of dementia
Midlife heart health shows a link with future risk of dementia
Better heart health may mean lower dementia risk in older people
These 7 heart-healthy factors could cut your risk of dementia, a new study finds

Here are two health organization posts on heart health and dementia:
Dementia and Heart Health: Are They Related?
Risk factors for heart disease linked to dementia

Research article:
Association of Cardiovascular Health Level in Older Age With Cognitive Decline and Incident Dementia

All links have been added to Aging, Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention and Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors

Exercise Is Best For Survival

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A massive long-term study from Cleveland Clinic, published two days ago, shows that there is no such thing as too much exercise, and that too little exercise is a mortality risk factor greater than smoking or diabetes. The study followed 122,007 patients who underwent exercise treadmill testing at Cleveland Clinic between Jan. 1, 1991, and Dec. 31, 2014, to measure the association between aerobic fitness and mortality due to any cause.

The researchers found that there is a direct relationship between greater aerobic fitness and lower risk of mortality:

  • The higher a person’s level of fitness, the lower their risk of dying, with very high levels of fitness having very strong positive effects for people over 70, and
  • The lower a person’s level of fitness, the greater their risk of dying, with the most sedentary persons have a greater risk of mortality than the risks produced by coronary artery disease, smoking, or diabetes.

 
Here are links to three media articles about the study, together with a link to the original research publication:
Researchers show better cardiorespiratory fitness leads to longer life
Confirmed: Higher Cardiorespiratory Fitness Predicts Lower Mortality
New study says not exercising is pretty much the worst thing you can possibly do
Research article:
Association of Cardiorespiratory Fitness With Long-term Mortality Among Adults Undergoing Exercise Treadmill Testing

The links have been filed under Health > Physical Exercise and Aging

Your Brain On Alcohol

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No definitive smoking gun on alcohol use has yet been presented, but the evidence leans heavily against it. Two very large direct studies and one huge meta study have recently appeared, and they largely point to increased risk of dementia as well as of cardiometabolic disease (includes stroke, coronary heart disease, and diabetes).

Media articles:
No healthy level of alcohol consumption, says major study
There’s no risk-free amount of alcohol, population-level study finds
Study:
Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016

Media articles:
Heavy Drinking Tied to Early-Onset Dementia in French Study
Study:
Contribution of alcohol use disorders to the burden of dementia in France 2008–13: a nationwide retrospective cohort study.

Media article:
Both long term abstinence and heavy drinking may increase dementia risk
Editorial:
Relation between alcohol consumption in midlife and dementia in late life (Editorial)
Study:
Alcohol consumption and risk of dementia: 23 year follow-up of Whitehall II cohort study

All of the links have been added to Alzheimers > Risk Factors and Health > Diet