Bad Sleep Might Predict Alzheimer’s

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Disturbed sleep is widely regarded as one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease. So there is an obvious question: Are any forms of disturbed sleep occurring before the onset of Alzheimer’s predictive of the later onset of the disease? Four studies set out to examine the relationship between different aspects of sleep disturbance and the later onset of Alzheimer’s. All of the studies showed some correlation between the studied aspect of sleep disturbance and the latter occurrence of Alzheimer’s.

Below, we provide links to a media article on each of the studies, together with a link to the main research article (or an abstract):

A Change in Sleep Habits from Normal to Long: Harbinger of Dementia?
Prolonged sleep duration as a marker of early neurodegeneration predicting incident dementia.

Can poor sleep lead to Alzheimer’s?
Sleep architecture and the risk of incident dementia in the community

Poor Sleep Tied to Increased Alzheimer’s Risk
Poor sleep is associated with CSF biomarkers of amyloid pathology in cognitively normal adults

Poor quality sleep could increase Alzheimer’s risk, research suggests
Slow wave sleep disruption increases cerebrospinal fluid amyloid-β levels

All of the links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors.

Category: Risk Factors

The Eyes May Know About Alzheimer’s

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Finding inexpensive non-invasive tests to detect early Alzheimer’s is a major goal for many research groups. A very promising route is to use eye scans since the retina, exposed at the back of eye, is actually part of the central nervous system. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles have taken that route, and have developed a scanning mechanism, similar to standard ophthalmic instruments, which can examine the retina and determine the amount of retinal plaque — similar to brain plaque seemingly involved in Alzheimer’s — present in the retina. Promising trials correlating the amount of retinal plaque present with the amount of brain plaque present are underway, where the amount of brain plaque is estimated by means of (expensive and difficult) PET scans.

Here are links to three media articles about the work:

Can this eye scan detect Alzheimer’s years in advance?
Clinical study shows that retinal imaging may detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease
Cedars-Sinai Device May Provide Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease

And here is a link to the main research article:
Retinal amyloid pathology and proof-of-concept imaging trial in Alzheimer’s disease

It’s interesting to note that a similar approach has been developed for early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease:
Eye test may detect Parkinson’s before symptoms appear

All links are contained in Alzheimer’s > Diagnosis & Tests

Category: Diagnosis & Tests

Bad Air, Big Roads, & Dementia

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Can breathing lead to Alzheimer’s? Three studies of the link between air pollution and dementia suggest that it could. Exceedingly small polluting particles — 200 times smaller than the width of a human hair — of ammonium, black carbon, nitrate, sulfate, and heavy metal are known to cause or exacerbate asthma, lung cancer, heart disease — and now — dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

Here is a link to a Science Magazine article discussing two of the studies and the general broad problem:
THE POLLUTED BRAIN: Evidence builds that dirty air causes Alzheimer’s, dementia

Below are links to groups of media articles discussing each study, each together with a link to the research article.

Can Air Pollution Heighten Alzheimer’s Risk?
Air pollution may lead to dementia in older women
Research article:
Particulate air pollutants, APOE alleles and their contributions to cognitive impairment in older women and to amyloidogenesis in experimental models

Living near heavy traffic increases risk of dementia, say scientists
Living close to a major roadway could increase dementia risk, study says
Research article:
Living near major roads and the incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis: a population-based cohort study

Culprit hidden in plain sight in Alzheimer disease development
Research article:
Markers associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are present in Mexico City children chronically exposed to concentrations of fine particulate matter PM2.5 above the current EPA USA standards

All of the links can be found in Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors.

Category: Risk Factors

Alzheimer’s Coping Stories Update

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Greg O’Brien was diagnosed in 2009 with early-onset Alzheimer’s. He has written a book about his experiences (On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s), appeared in a short documentary film (see Learning to Live and Progress with Alzheimer’s ) and wrote the following short piece in Nautilis:
     A Look Through the Eyes of Alzheimer’s
The piece Alzheimer’s Bring Other Health Problems With It, from NPR in June of 2017, is an extended interview with Greg describing some of the difficult personality side-effects of O’Brien’s (and most sufferer’s) struggle with Alzheimer’s.

Sandy Bem was a 65 year-old Cornell psychology professor when she learned that she was suffering the onset of Alzheimer’s. This article, The Last Day of Her Life recounts the several year process of arriving at the day she ended her life with a glass of pentobarbital, with all of her family surrounding her.

In 2012, 69 year-old Geri Taylor saw the beginnings of the onset of early Alzheimer’s in herself. This piece,
Fraying at the Edges: Her Fight to Live With Alzheimer’s, follows her for the next 3 years as she finds ways to hold on to pieces of herself and to construct a new way to live.

Steve Goodwin was a gifted pianist and improvisational composer who never wrote down or recorded his compositions. Early onset Alzheimer’s began robbing him and his family of his music. This piece,
Family struggles to save pianist’s music before Alzheimer’s can steal it, describes the ensuing years and how his family and a professional musician friend of his daughter worked to save his music. The effort culminated in a packed public concert of the music.

Sandy’s Story tells the story of Sandy Halperin and the first four years of his early onset Alzheimer’s. After Alzheimer’s diagnosis, ‘there’s still a good life’ updates that story to the present.

AC/DC’s Malcolm Young has dementia, family says announced that Young was suffering from dementia. Sadly,
AC/DC co-founder and guitarist Malcolm Young dies at 64
announced that he has died.

All the links can be found in Alzheimer’s > Coping and Caregivers > Coping Stories

Adherence To A Diet — What Does It Mean?

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Hard on the heels of studies showing that following the Mediterranean diet (MD) or MIND diet can have significant effects on the likelihood of dementia as one ages, comes a very large-scale study showing that the fine-grain details of following the MD can significantly affect the cardiovascular outcomes for an individual as he/she ages, and so, presumably, also the brain health outcomes. At the simplest, “MD is associated with lower CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk but this relationship is confined to higher socioeconomic groups.” Since the MIND diet is quite similar to the the MD diet, presumably these results will also apply to it.

It has been informally obvious for some time that healthy eating focusing on quality vegetables is seriously sensitive to the price of those vegetables: Just perform a search on “health effects of the cost of fresh vegetables” and browse the results. However, the study in question, High adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with cardiovascular protection in higher but not in lower socioeconomic groups… set out to scientifically study the issue and quantify the relationship.

The Background statement for the study is:

It is uncertain whether the cardiovascular benefits associated with Mediterranean diet (MD) may differ across socioeconomic groups.

The study, conducted in Italy, enrolled 18,991 men and women aged 35 years and older from the Molise region and ran for 4.3 years. The degree of adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was was determined by the (self-reported) Mediterranean diet score (9-question version; see also 14-question version). Socioeconomic status (group) was determined by the household income (euros/year) combined with educational level. The individual cardiovascular hazard ratios (risk of heart attack) were calculated by standard statistical techniques).

This study reconfirmed earlier work that the Mediterranean diet (MD) is associated with lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. However, it showed that amount of protection provided is sensitive to the socioeconomic status (group) of an individual. Specifically, for higher socioeconomic groups, an increase in the MD score was associated with an increase in protection from CVD risk, but that association was notably weaker for lower socioeconomic groups. Examination of the details of the study inputs showed that for each given MD score group, the socioeconomic subgroups of that score group showed many diet-related disparities such as dietary diversity and different intakes of antioxidants and polyphenols, organic vegetables and whole grain bread consumption.

To a certain extent, this shows that the Mediterranean diet score (MD score) is a blunt instrument. People attaining the same MD score can have such different dietary details that the associated CVD risk protection is significantly different. Since this effect appears independently for education and for income, it is not totally a matter of money, but also education and point of view.

This Moli-sani Project study focused on the MD and protection from CVD. However, the accumulation of findings culminating in Mediterranean/MIND Diet Seriously Fights Alzheimer’s/Dementia showed that the MD diet can provide protections against dementia. It would seem likely that the finds of the present study would also apply to dementia. Hopefully, the Moli-sani Project will have data available to explore this question too.

Several media articles about the study are given below. Unfortunately, they have taken a sensationalistic approach to their headlines, which imply that the MD won’t/cannot benefit someone who isn’t upper class. Clearly someone who is not upper class, but who devotes the same level of attention to diet (and a greater proportion of income) will statistically see similar benefits.

Here are two of the media article links together with a link to the study:

The Mediterranean diet doesn’t benefit everyone, study says

Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are confirmed, but just for the upper class

Published research:
High adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with cardiovascular protection in higher but not in lower socioeconomic groups…

All the links have been added to Health > Diet.

Category: Diet

Mediterranean/MIND Diet Seriously Fights Alzheimer’s/Dementia

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Striking findings from two large-scale studies and two smaller studies show that following the Mediterranean diet or the related MIND diet can reduce the risk of dementia by one-third! The studies were reported at the recent 2017 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.

The first study (Neuroprotective Diets …. abstract, full text) looked at the eating habits of almost 6,000 older adults (average age of 68) enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Aging. The study is representative of the total US population, and as such, the results are widely applicable to the general public. Specifically, following the Mediterranean or MIND diet in general leads to 30%–35% lower risk of cognitive impairment during aging. Especially notable is the fact that the benefits appear to be a ‘sliding scale:’ “The more people stayed on those diets, the better they functioned cognitively,” said lead researcher Claire McEvoy.

The second study (The Mind Diet and Incident Dementia, Findings from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study; sponsored by National Institutes on Aging) examined the MIND diet’s effectiveness for more than 7,000 women. Similar to the first study, women closely following the MIND guidelines were 34% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, while those moderately following the guidelines were 21%–24% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

An important observation is that these diets were originally developed to help improve cardiovascular health. Thus, following these diets will provide potential protection for both brain and heart health.

The third study (from Sweden: Which Dietary Index May Predict Preserved Cognitive Function in Nordic Older Adults?) enrolled more than 2,000 people and found that those eating a healthy diet called the Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern (a diet related to the Mediterranean and MIND diets) for more than six years experienced better brain health.

The fourth study looked at the problem in the opposite direction. It looked at 330 people (average age 80) who followed a dietary pattern encouraging inflammation (so a diet “opposite” to the Mediterranean/MIND diets). These people performed poorly on brain games, and MRI scans showed that they also had a smaller total volume of brain gray matter. So this study negatively corroborates the outcomes of the first 3 studies.

Here is the Alzheimer’s Association Press Release about the four studies:
Healthy Eating Habits May Preserve Cognitive Function And Reduce The Risk Of Dementia

And here are several media stories about the presentations:
Mediterranean style diet may prevent dementia
Mediterranean-style diet linked to lower risk of dementia
Fight Dementia With Food: Following A Mediterranean Diet May Improve Brain Health, Studies Suggest
A Healthy Diet May Help Ward Off Dementia
Could the Mediterranean Diet Help Fight Dementia? Here’s What We Know

All the links have been added to Health > Diet

3 Good Things To Do For Your Brain: Exercise, Manage Blood Pressure, Brain Training

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The National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to create an expert panel to review the evidence for interventions to prevent age-related cognitive decline and dementia. The panel found promising evidence that cognitive training, managing your blood pressure if you have hypertension, and increasing your physical activity can do much to reduce the risk of decline or dementia, even though they could not call for a widespread public campaign yet — more evidence will need to be accumulated. The panel’s report was published June 22, 2017.

Here are links to three articles about the report:
Expert Panel: Three Things May Save Your Brain

These few things may help stave off dementia, scientists say

Cognitive decline may be prevented using interventions but may be inadequate says report

And here are links to the abstract of the report together with the full report:
Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward (Report At A Glance)

Published research (the complete report as pdf — upper right corner of page):
Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward

All five links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention

Alzheimer’s Mice Recovering

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A new drug, originally developed as a treatment for schizophrenia, appears to restore memories and neural connections in mice with models of Alzheimer’s disease, erasing evidence of Alzheimer’s synapse damage and memory loss. Of course, it’s a long way from repairing mouse models of Alzheimer’s to successfully handling human Alzheimer’s patients. But it’s a hopeful beginning.

Below is a link to an article about the study, as well as a link to the study itself:

Drug Restores Cells and Memories in Alzheimer’s: Mouse Study

Published research:
Silent Allosteric Modulation of mGluR5 Maintains Glutamate Signaling while Rescuing Alzheimer’s Mouse Phenotypes

Both links have been added to Alzheimers > Drugs

Category: Announcements, Drugs

Active Sex Life Strengthens Brain Power For Older Adults

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Now that is welcome news! A pair of studies has shown that certain cognitive functions are strengthened by a more frequent sex life for both men and women. Both studies found significant relationships, after adjusting for age, education, wealth, physical activity, depression, cohabiting, self-rated health, loneliness and quality of life.

The earlier (2016) study (Sex on the brain! Associations between sexual activity and cognitive function in older age) utilized 6,833 participants aged 50–89 (3,060 men and 3,773 women) from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. This research studied the relationship between certain cognitive functions and whether or not the participants had been sexually active at all in the previous 12 months, where sexual activity was defined as including intercourse, masturbation, petting or fondling. There were two cognitive tests: recall and number sequencing. For the recall task, respondents heard a list of 10 everyday words and were asked to recall them immediately and after a short delay. The number sequencing task required completion of a number sequence such as 1, 2, __, 4, where the correct answer would be ‘3’.

This study found that there were significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing and recall in men, but that in women there was a significant association between sexual activity and recall, but not with number sequencing.

The later (2017) study (Frequent Sexual Activity Predicts Specific Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults) built on the earlier study. The goals of this research were to extend the earlier findings to a range of cognitive domains, and to determine whether increasing frequency of sexual activity is associated with increasing scores on a variety of cognitive tasks. As with the first study, sexual activity was defined as including intercourse, masturbation, petting or fondling. The study utilized 73 participants (28 males, 45 females) aged 50–83 years old, and demonstrated that overall cognitive scores were consistently higher in those who are sexually active compared to those than those who are not. Moreover, it shows increasing scores on two specific cognitive domains (fluency and visuospatial ability with increasing frequency of sexual activity (from never to monthly to weekly).

Here are two articles about the latest study, together with the study itself:

An active sex life improves brain power in older adults

Frequent Sexual Activity Can Boost Brain Power in Older Adults

Published research:
Frequent Sexual Activity Predicts Specific Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults

And here are two articles about the first (earliest) study, together with the study itself:

Sex on the brain! Associations between sexual activity and cognitive function in older age.

Sex linked to better brain power in older age

Published research:
Sex on the brain! Associations between sexual activity and cognitive function in older age

All the links have been added to Aging.

New Chemo Brain Links Added

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We’ve added two new links on Chemo Brain:

Cancer and Careers | Working with Chemo Brain

Chemo Brain – CancerConnect News