I am frequently asked what the difference is between memory changes associated with normal aging and that related to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). First, the memory changes associated with normal aging are not a disease. The typical pattern of memory change with advanced age is a deficit in retrieval. A healthy older brain can encode information because the hippocampus is relatively healthy. This permits new information to be encoded. The older adult has some difficulty retrieving that new information, but with cues and prompts they retrieve the information as well as those in their thirties.
In contrast, a brain with AD has a damaged hippocampus that prevents new information from being encoded. This means that new learning does not take place and that cures and prompts do not help because the information is not there to be prompted.
In general, a healthy older adult encodes new information, but needs some help in retrieving what has been encoded. A brain with AD does not encode new information and therefore cues and prompts will not help with retrieval.
Fore more information about Alzheimer’s Disease
The Alzheimer’s Association just released a report indicating an estimated 5.1 million Americans over age 65 now have AD. The cases of this progressive dementia are expected to rise to 7.7 million by 2030 and to an even more overwhelming 11-16 million by 2050. This is of course presuming a medical breakthrough for stopping the disease does not occur by then.
Health care costs for those suffering AD and other forms of dementia are nearly three times higher than costs for older adults not affected with dementia. Nearly every 70 seconds someone new in the US develops AD which destroys a person’s cognitive and functional abilities.
At present, nearly 2.7 million Americans over age 85 have the disease. However, it is estimated that with the first wave of baby boomers reaching 85 in 2031 3.5 million will have AD. It is presently the sixth leading cause of death for citizens of the US and the fifth leading cause in those over age 85. Indeed, death attributed to AD has increased by 47% between 2000 and 2006.
This is an enormous social issue as we must secure more funding for the treatment and care of those with AD. Lifestyle factors must be taken more seriously and financial and other incentives should be used to promote proactive brain health lifestyles. At present, the United States is not prepared to manage the disease given the demographic shift.
..more about Brain Nutrition/Lifestyle
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found people with a high family risk of developing depression had less matter on the right side of their brains. The finding was similar to that found in brains with Alzheimer’s disease according to the researchers.
Brain scans revealed a 28% thinning in the right cortex in people who had a family history of depression compared with people who did not. Findings were based on scans of 131 people aged 6 to 54 with and without a family history of depression.
The thinning on the right side of the brain was only related to a family predisposition to depression. People who were actually depressed also had thinning on the left side of the cortex.
The authors suggest that having a thinner cortex may increase the risk of depression by disrupting a person’s ability to decode and recall social and emotional cues from other people. Subjects who had a thinner right cortex did less well on tests of memory and attention.
Findings suggest that a thinning right cortex relates to a predisposition to depression and to cognitive impairment.
You probably don’t think about a diary as evidence for how healthy your brain might be. This is especially true if the diary is kept when one is in his or her teens. Interestingly, however, it turns out that the type of writing we do in our teens or early life may actually predict neuropathologic markers in our brains many decades later!
The Nun Study (see David Snowden) reported that young women prior to taking their vows to become nuns kept diaries. The content of these diaries were rated for grammar complexity and idea density defined as the number of ideas in each sentence. Results indicated that the number of ideas in each sentence at the age of 22 or so correlated with the number of neurofibrillary tangles (marker of Alzheimer’s disease) in the brain at autopsy some 50 or 60 years later.
This is another study in a long line of research indicating early life environments are critical to shaping our brains for health well into late life
60 Minutes ran a segment about the health benefits of red wine, specifically the apparent powers of resveratrol, a polyphenol that is found in the skin of grapes and is thought to prevent illness and promote longevity (the Brain Fitness Blog reported on this a few months ago). Resveratrol is said to have a role in preventing clots and is believed to inhibit the production of LDL cholesterol. The 60 Minutes episode highlighted the work of Dr. Christoph Westphal and Harvard biochemist David Sinclair, whose research suggests that resveratrol can delay the aging process and prevent many gerontological diseases. A few years ago, scientists reported that resveratrol may discourage the onset of one such illness, Alzheimer’s. It is also claimed that this antioxidant can boost stamina, reduce lung inflammation stemming from chronic pulmonary disease, and help stave off cancer. Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, also say that they’ve isolated the chemical and given it to mice. The mice given high doses of Resveratrol were able to run farther, didn’t gain as much weight, and lived 20% longer.
Wine Consumption and Health
A recent report indicates aspirin and non-steroidal antinflammatory drugs seem to have the positive and perhaps unexpected benefit, of cutting a person’s risk of developing AD.
Researchers at John’s Hopkins reviewed data from 13,499 cases to measure the protective effect from these commonly used drugs on AD risk. Over the course of the studies 820 people developed AD. However, those who used the non-steroidal drugs including aspirin, Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and other brands) and Naproxen together had a 23% lower risk for AD than those who did not use such medications.
Researchers stated that while the different types of medications have different properties, they seemed to deliver the same level of protection. This study and others in the past underscore the probable contribution of an inflammatory process related to AD.
This study and the others do not suggest everyone should start taking these medications, but it might be a good topic to discuss with your doctor.
German scientists have found success in reversing the plaque buildup in brains of mice. The plaque deposits are one of the hallmark features of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and this finding may lead to viable treatments for humans.
The compound reportedly effectively blocks an enzyme responsible for development of the plaque. The compound attaches itself at the precise site on the cell wall where the toxic action occurs.
When injected directly into the brains of mice, scientists indicate the compound works well. The next step is to determine if the compound can cross the blood brain barrier, the protective shield around the brain. Animal tests have begun to determine if medicines given by mouth or injection have the high rate of efficacy as direct injection into the brain where there was a 50% reduction in plaque formation within four hours. Scientists believe that if the testing on animals goes well a human version could be available in five to ten years.
A leading cause of brain disease in the United States is Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Named after Dr. Alzheimer who published a paper in 1907 describing the cognitive and functional decline of a female patient, this disease now affects nearly 5 million people. It is estimated that those affected by AD will triple by 2050.
AD is the leading cause of progressive dementia. The disease typically erodes memory, spatial functions, language, personality and functional ability. The course of the disease approximates 10-12 years and those over the age of 85 are most at risk. Additional risk factors include female gender, family history of dementia, mood disorder, diabetes, and stroke. The cause is not known and there are no known cures or prevention.
Treatments exist to help reduce the impact of particular symptoms and early detection has advanced significantly. New treatments are being researched and these should be to market in the near future. Lifestyle for brain health has also generated new attention and interest. One aspect of a brain health lifestyle is mental stimulation, a primary function of FitBrains.
If your loved one is experiencing memory loss and there is some concern about this change it is advised that he or she receive a comprehensive dementia examination. This will help to discern if the memory and other cognitive changes fall outside the range of normal and if dementia is present. Early detection is important because existing treatments can be started.
Dementia is a clinical term used to describe loss of general intelligence, forgetfulness, language or other cognitive disturbance, personality change, and functional decline. There are nearly 70 or more causes of dementia, with the most common cause attributed to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Other common causes of dementia include Vascular dementia (VaD), Lewy Body Dementia, Alcohol and substance based dementia, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, head injury, seizure disorder and many others.
Most causes of dementia are irreversible meaning the dementia will not be cured or get better. Only 3-5% of dementias are considered reversible. Examples of reversible dementia include B-12 deficiency, depression, and thyroid disorder. Alzheimer’s disease, the leading type of irreversible dementia affects those primarily over the age of 65. There is no know cause of AD nor is there any cure at this time.
Medications exist to treat the symptoms of dementia without actually stopping the underlying disease process. Often persons with dementia can become depressed, anxious, or even psychotic. These co-morbid conditions can be effectively treated with psychotropic medication, structure and a supervised environment.
Dementia extracts an enormous emotional toll and financial toll on families. Caregiving is fast becoming a major issue for baby boomers. Primary caregivers often suffer fatigue, depression, and physical illness as they wear down with the new role. Unfortunately dementia will become a bigger problem as the number of older persons on the planet increases.