Evaluating The Latest Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Research
A recent review of research looked carefully at the evidence on ways to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s dementia or age-related cognitive decline. Led by a committee of experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine , the review found “encouraging but inconclusive” evidence for three types of interventions:
The evidence for other interventions, such as medications and diet, was not as strong. However, scientists are continuing to explore these and other possible preventions.
Cultivate A Supportive Network Of Friends
Social isolation can impair immune function and increase inflammation. These changes may contribute to the development or worsening of numerous health issues.
Research has found that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of dementia in older adults. A lack of social support is also associated with poor sleep habits, increased risk of depression, and other damaging effects on cognitive and psychological functions.
Having a supportive network of friends and meaningful social connections is crucial for a healthy, balanced life and brain. Be truly present with loved ones and make an effort to deepen your connections. Schedule quality time with friends to engage in activities you enjoy. Practice doing things for and with people you love, as well as random acts of kindness. Communicate consciously and compassionately to build healthier relationships.
What Are Some Complications Of Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is an irreversible form of dementia. The rate of progression differs between people: some people have it only in the last 5 years of their life, while others may have it for as long as 20 years. Alzheimers disease eventually leads to complete dependence and increasing frailty. This means a secondary illness, such as pneumonia, may eventually cause death.
Other complications of Alzheimers disease may include:
- an inability to complete daily tasks such as planning meals and managing money
- a tendency to wander from home
- personality changes such as anxiety, depression and irritability that make relationships more difficult
- delusions and hallucinations in advanced stages of the disease
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Alzheimers Disease Is Costly
With more than 6.5 million people in the United States living with Alzheimers disease, the cost of treating the condition continues to rise. In 2016 the annual cost was about $236 billion. In 2022, this number was projected to rise to $321 billion.
The number of people with the disease is expected to increase in the years ahead. Its estimated that Alzheimers disease may cost the United States just under $1 trillion by 2050.
What Is The Cause Of Alzheimers Disease
While the exact cause of Alzheimers disease is not completely understood, it appears to result from an alteration of proteins in the brain that become toxic and disrupt normal neuronal signaling.
Alzheimers disease pathology interferes with the formation of memories at both the biochemical level and at the structural level, through interference with the physical integrity of neural networks. The patterns of impaired memory functions observed relate to changes in the structure and function of the brain.
An association between head injury and Alzheimers disease has been suggested. Head injury can result in over-expression of the -amyloid precursor protein, leading to the accumulation of -amyloid deposits in the brain, one of the hallmark proteins seen in brains of Alzheimers disease patients.
A recent study demonstrated that increased vascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, in subjects affected by mild cognitive impairment resulted in an increased risk of developing Alzheimers disease. These results suggest that treatment of vascular damage can reduce the incidence of Alzheimers disease.
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Glia And Glymphatic Pathway
The glial-lymphoid pathway, or glymphoid pathway, is required for fluid homeostasis within the CNS . This pathway comprises a periarterial CSF inflow channel, and a perivenous ISF outflow channel. These two channels are connected by Aquaporin-4 on astrocytes , whereby CSF flows into the cerebral stroma from the periarterial space and mediates fluid exchange with ISF. Metabolites and tissue fluid enter the perivenous space during exchange, ultimately feeding into cerebrospinal fluid circulation, cervical lymphatic vessels, or meningeal lymphatics . Exchange between CSF and ISF in the glymphatic system removes metabolic waste and maintains the normal physiological function in neurons and synapses . Studies have demonstrated a close relationship between the glymphatic system and AD. AD patients show altered CSF dynamics, thereby inducing impairments in CSF-dependent A clearance and consequent pathological A accumulation . Moreover, inhibition of glymphatic transport leads to a significant accumulation of A in APP/PS1 mouse brain . On the other hand, A accumulation hinders glymphatic circulation to aggravate parenchymal A deposition and neuronal death. Although mechanisms have yet to be fully defined, A deposition may impair low-resistance fluidity in the perivascular space within the glymphatic circulation system .
About Dr Verna Porter
Dr. Verna Porter is Director of Programs for Alzheimers Disease, Dementia and Neurocognitive Disorders at the Pacific Brain Health Center, Pacific Neuroscience Institute, Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica. She provides comprehensive, compassionate, clinical consultations and continuity of care for patients with mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimers disease and other dementias.
Leela Basu is a scientific writer with a background in biological research and education.
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Manage And Reduce Stress
Chronic stress is a major cause of inflammation in the brain and body. Relentless emotional, physical, and psychological stress promotes unchecked inflammation and contributes to cognitive dysfunction. High levels of prolonged chronic stress are associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment.
Stress management techniqueslike mindfulness and meditationare crucial for decreasing inflammation and supporting brain health and healthy aging. In fact, mindfulness and meditation offer many benefits for physical and mental health.
A regular meditation practice can help you to improve your ability to focus, positively shift your mood, and improve overall health. The brain-protective benefits of meditation might be related to neuroplastic changes in the structure and function of brain regions involved in the regulation of attention, emotion, and self-awareness, which occur in regular meditators.
Pillar #: Social Engagement
Human beings are highly social creatures. We dont thrive in isolation, and neither do our brains. Staying socially engaged may even protect against symptoms of Alzheimers disease and dementia in later life, so make developing and maintaining a strong network of friends a priority.
You dont need to be a social butterfly or the life of the party, but you do need to regularly connect face-to-face with someone who cares about you and makes you feel heard. While many of us become more isolated as we get older, its never too late to meet others and develop new friendships:
- Join a club or social group.
- Visit your local community center or senior center.
- Take group classes .
- Get to know your neighbors.
- Make a weekly date with friends.
- Get out .
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Improve Your Lifestyle For Alzheimers Prevention
Healthy habits may help ward off Alzheimer’s. Consider the following steps to help prevent Alzheimers.
Exercise. “The most convincing evidence is that physical exercise helps prevent the development of Alzheimer’s or slow the progression in people who have symptoms,” says Dr. Marshall. “The recommendation is 30 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise, three to four days per week.”
Eat a Mediterranean diet. “This has been shown to help thwart Alzheimer’s or slow its progression. A recent study showed that even partial adherence to such a diet is better than nothing, which is relevant to people who may find it difficult to fully adhere to a new diet,” says Dr. Marshall. The diet includes fresh vegetables and fruits whole grains olive oil nuts legumes fish moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, and dairy moderate amounts of red wine and red meat only sparingly.
Get enough sleep. “Growing evidence suggests that improved sleep can help prevent Alzheimer’s and is linked to greater amyloid clearance from the brain,” says Dr. Marshall. Aim for seven to eight hours per night.
Seven Healthy Habits Linked To Lower Risk Of Dementia In Those With Genetic Risk
- American Academy of Neurology
- Seven healthy habits and lifestyle factors may play a role in lowering the risk of dementia in people with the highest genetic risk, according to new research.
Seven healthy habits and lifestyle factors may play a role in lowering the risk of dementia in people with the highest genetic risk, according to research published in the May 25, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The seven cardiovascular and brain health factors, known as the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7, are: being active, eating better, losing weight, not smoking, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, and reducing blood sugar.
“These healthy habits in the Life’s Simple 7 have been linked to a lower risk of dementia overall, but it is uncertain whether the same applies to people with a high genetic risk,” said study author Adrienne Tin, PhD, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. “The good news is that even for people who are at the highest genetic risk, living by this same healthier lifestyle are likely to have a lower risk of dementia.”
The study looked at 8,823 people with European ancestry and 2,738 people with African ancestry who were followed for 30 years. People had an average age of 54 at the beginning of the study.
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Vascular Issues May Also Play A Role In Alzheimers Disease
Vascular problems those related to blood vessels, such as beta-amyloid deposits in brain arteries, ministrokes, and hardening of the arteries may be a cause of Alzheimers disease as well as a result of it.
Damaged arteries harm the brain by reducing the flow of blood, depriving brain cells of oxygen and essential nutrients like glucose preventing the elimination of toxic beta-amyloid and tau proteins and leading to damaging inflammation.
Researchers are working to identify exactly how and why this happens with the goal of interfering with this cycle.
A study published in 2017 in the JAMA, following 322 subjects for over 20 years, found a relationship between vascular risk factors in middle age obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol and amyloid plaques in the brain.
The researchers found that subjects who had one risk factor had an 88 percent increased risk for elevated levels of amyloid plaques. People with two or more risk factors had almost triple the risk.
What Is The Difference Between Normal Memory Loss Due To Aging And Memory Loss Associated With Alzheimers Disease
Normal, age-related memory changes are very different from memory loss experienced from forms of dementia, such as with Alzheimers disease. In normal aging, forgetfulness does not interfere with the ability to carry on with normal daily activities and is not necessarily a cause for concern.
Examples of common memory complaints that may occasionally occur during normal aging include misplacing objects around the house, forgetting the names of less familiar acquaintances, forgetting ones intent upon entering a room, or having some difficulty remembering lesser details of what you have read or of prior conversations.
Occasional word finding difficulty and feeling that a word is on the tip of the tongue, is also not uncommon. In contrast, dementia is characterized by a marked, persistent, and disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment or abstract reasoning, that significantly interfere with, and disrupt, normal daily activities.
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Hearing Aids Can Help Prevent Dementia
Numerous studies show that hearing aids not only improve a persons hearingthey also help preserve a persons independence, mental abilities, emotional and physical health, and work, home, and social lives. A full, happy life keeps your brain active.
Early identification and treatment of a potential hearing loss helps minimize risks later in life.
Pillar #: Healthy Diet
In Alzheimers disease, inflammation and insulin resistance injure neurons and inhibit communication between brain cells. Alzheimers is sometimes described as diabetes of the brain, and a growing body of research suggests a strong link between metabolic disorders and the signal processing systems. By adjusting your eating habits, however, you can help reduce inflammation and protect your brain.
Manage your weight. Extra pounds are a risk factor for Alzheimers disease and other types of dementia. A major study found that people who were overweight in midlife were twice as likely to develop Alzheimers down the line, and those who were obese had three times the risk. Losing weight can go a long way to protecting your brain.
Cut down on sugar.Sugary foods and refined carbs such as white flour, white rice, and pasta can lead to dramatic spikes in blood sugar which inflame your brain. Watch out for hidden sugar in all kinds of packaged foods from cereals and bread to pasta sauce and low or no-fat products.
Enjoy a Mediterranean diet. Several epidemiological studies show that eating a Mediterranean diet dramatically reduces the risk of decline from cognitive impairment and Alzheimers disease. That means plenty of vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and olive oiland limited processed food.
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Learn New Skills And Engage In Cognitive Stimulation
Your brain consists of hundreds of billions of nerve cells , which make hundreds of trillions of connections throughout the brain and nervous system. These compose your neural network, or nervous system. The nervous system and brain have a remarkable capacity to continue to grow, evolve, and heal even as you age.
Research shows that engaging in physically and mentally stimulating activities is an important element in strengthening cognitive reserve, which is the brains resilience and capacity to function even when there is damage to brain cells. Learning new skills and stimulating the brain on a regular basis boosts cognitive pathways between neurons and builds resiliency in brain function.
The resulting benefits of cognitive stimulation seem to offer protection against brain damage caused by insults such as exposure to air pollution and noise pollution, which have been linked to a higher risk of Alzheimers disease.
Healthy Living Can Help
A greater awareness of living healthy may have an impact on Alzheimers disease, Dr. Appleby says.
As with most diseases, eating right and getting exercise can reduce your likelihood of getting Alzheimers, he says. At the same time, there remains much unknown about the disease.
There are factors that predispose some people to get Alzheimers,” he says. “Sometimes it can be prevented or delayed by addressing those factors, but sometimes it seems to be the luck of the draw.
Overall, the number of people with the disease is increasing, but that may be because the average age of our population is rising, he says.
The actual number of new cases per age group is going down, which may be due to managing of controllable risk factors.
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What Is Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is the most common type of irreversible dementia . Nearly 7 out of 10 people with dementia have the Alzheimers type.
While Alzheimers disease affects up to 1 in 10 Australians over 65 years of age, and up to 3 in 10 Australians over 85, it is not a normal part of ageing.
The brain contains millions of brain cells that organise how the brain stores memories, learns habits and shapes our personality. Signals pass along the connections between brain cells in the form of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Alzheimers disease affects these cells and chemicals, disturbing memory, impairing thinking and causing behaviour changes over time. People with Alzheimers disease eventually need long-term care and support.
There are 2 main types of Alzheimers disease:
- Sporadic Alzheimers is the most common form and usually occurs after age 65. Its cause is not fully understood.
- Familial Alzheimers is caused by a very rare genetic condition and results in dementia, usually in people in their 40s and 50s. This is known as younger onset dementia.
Is Alzheimers Linked To Diet
According to research, Alzheimers disease is strongly linked to inflammation throughout the body. Consuming an inflammatory dietone thats full of fried foods, refined starches, sugars, saturated or trans fats, and red or processed meatsmay increase your chances of developing the disease as well as many other serious health conditions.
On the flip side, eating certain foods may decrease your risk of cognitive decline, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institute on Aging. One study found that eating a Mediterranean diet consisting of foods like salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, and dark and green leafy vegetables may decrease a persons risk of developing Alzheimers disease.
Although diet can be protective against Alzheimers, it cannot reverse the disease, says
Kristian Morey, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian with the Nutrition and Diabetes Education program at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
However, a recent Temple University School of Medicine study of mice showed that switching to a healthier diet reversed the cognitive impairment that was associated with their previous diet. While this cannot be considered a therapy or cure, it may demonstrate that dietary changes can improve some cognitive impairment, Morey says.
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A And Mitochondrial Dysfunction
Multiple lines of evidence suggest that mitochondrial dysfunction is involved in AD pathogenesis . A accumulates in mitochondria in AD brain, which is accompanied by altered mitochondrial structure, decreased mitochondrial respiratory function and ATP production, impaired mitochondrial dynamics, and elevated mitochondria-associated oxidative stress. A has been observed in mitochondria in the brain of AD patients and AD mouse models. Mitochondrial A levels correlate with abnormalities in mitochondrial structure and function. For instance, decreased mitochondria associated-energy metabolism was observed in brain regions associated with amyloid plaques. A also triggers abnormalities in mitochondrial dynamics aberrant changes are also observed with mitochondrial dynamics as a result of reduced energy production. A-exposure also leads to the enrichment of proteins associated with increased mitochondrial fission and decreased mitochondrial fusion .