Archive for December, 2009

ICAD conferenceAs we come to the end of 2009, I think it’s fair to say that there’s hope and progress in the field of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research. Each year, the Alzheimer’s Association sponsors the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease (ICAD). The 2009 conference was held in Vienna, Austria and drew close to 3,800 international attendees. The purpose of the conference was to share the latest ideas, thoughts, and theories in dementia science. Next year’s meeting will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Alzheimer’s Association reported the following highlights from ICAD 2009:

DHA Drug Trial

An 18-month study in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s did not support the routine use of DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid. Meanwhile, a six-month study was conducted in healthy older people to see DHA’s effect on “age related cognitive decline.” This trial showed a positive result on one test of memory and learning.

These two studies — and other recent Alzheimer therapy trials — raise the possibility that treatments must be given early in the Alzheimer’s process for them to be truly effective.

Phase III Alzheimer’s Drug Raises Level of a Toxic Protein

Recent evidence suggests that the drug Dimebon may improve cognitive function in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. However, researchers found that treatment with Dimebon cause an increase in beta amyloid in mouse models of Alzheimer’s. Beta amyloid is a protein that is the main constituent of plaques found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

This result is highly unexpected as most Alzheimer drugs are tested for how much they can lower beta amyloid levels.

Heart Healthy May Reduce Risk of Cognitive Decline

Scientists at ICAD 2009 reported that following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet — or DASH diet — was associated with higher scores for cognitive functioning. The researchers found that four food categories from the diet plan — whole grains, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, and nuts and beans — may offer benefits for cognition in late life. We cannot yet confidently say how much of these foods to include in one’s diet to experience some benefit.

To all of my readers, thank you for stopping by and may you all have a safe and very healthy and Happy New Year! Together we will continue the journey to learn about and conquer Alzheimer’s disease!

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Alzheimer’s Disease and Sudoku

Sudoku logo-108x108Earlier this year in my other blog, I wrote about ways to boost your brain power. It was a simple list of seven things that might help counteract age-related changes in the brain and perhaps stave off Alzheimer’s disease (AD). One was to play Sudoku. You may be a pro at Sudoku or you may be a beginner like me or somewhere in-between. In any case, Web Sudoku is an amazing Web site where you can find Sukoku for every level from easy to evil. You can download the puzzles as well. The best part? They have a cool button that says, “How Am I Doing?” so if you really need to find out if you’re on the right track, you could, let’s say, cheat, no, I meant get some assistance. Click here.

According to Wikipedia, Sudoku was popularized in 1986 by the Japanese puzzle company Nikoli, under the name Sudoku, meaning single number. It became an international hit in 2005.

With this being the week of Christmas and all the hustle and bustle, it would be refreshing to stop for a few minutes and work on a puzzle. Interested in playing with someone else? Check out the two-player Sudoku Combat.

From AboutAlz.com, Happy Holidays! Although many of you are facing the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, know someone who is, or is a caretaker, I ask you to take care of yourself as your health is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and to those you love. I leave you with this question: If health were your top priority, what would you be doing differently today? If your answer is, “I have no time,” what one tiny change can you make?

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Alzheimer’s Family Day Center

Alz_FamDayCareLocated in Fairfax, Virginia, the Alzheimer’s Family Day Center (AFDC) is the only adult day health center in the Washington, DC metro area for adults with Alzheimer’s disease in the mid to late stages of Alzheimer’s and other related dementia. For those in the early stages, the Social Club meets for a half-day once a week. Founded in 1984 by visionary Dr. Lin Noyes Simon, AFDC just celebrated its 25th anniversary. As a founding director of the first and only dementia-specific day-care center in Northern Virginia, Dr. Simon turned a concept of care into a viable nonprofit business that increases the quality of life for people with dementia and their families.

Alzheimer's Family Day Center

Alzheimer's Family Day Center

Part of the mission of this organization is education. They offer training programs for caregivers and they practice and improve the skills and techniques in their programs. They also offer classes for caregivers on many aspects including medical, legal, financial, community resources, how to build coping skills.

The Alzheimer’s Family Day Center is a full care facility providing breakfast, lunch, and two snacks each day. Additionally medical services and transportation are provided. They can accommodate up to 34 participants with a 1:4 staff ratio. Fees cover 40% of their budget; fund raising and grants cover the rest. Scholarships are provided for those that cannot afford the fees. Level II care for the middle stages of Alzheimer’s and runs from $730 to $1533 per month, depending on the number of days the client attends. Level III care for late stage dementia ranges from $830 to $1743 per month.

On the day I visited, the group was actively engaged in a game. One aide was seated right outside of the restrooms ready to assist while another sat right outside of the game room also ready to assist. Another staff member was cleaning the bright dining room. It’s a very pleasant facility with an upbeat staff.

Nancy Dezan, Executive Director, said day care is not for everyone. People think that their loved ones won’t like it, but once they attend, they think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. She asked me why I thought my family never sent my father to day care. Well, they tried it, but my mother (as my father’s primary caretaker) felt it was so much work to prepare him to go out. Furthermore, they had to be ready when their transportation arrived. Nancy said this was a typical answer for many families.

To see how you can help, visit the AFDC Web site.

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Alzheimer’s Disease Educator: Nancy Dezan

Nancy Dezan at Positive Aging Fair

Nancy Dezan at Positive Aging Fair

I first heard Nancy Dezan speak about Alzheimer’s disease at the Positive Aging Fair in early fall. Her topic was “The Mind, Body & Spirit of Brain Health.” I heard her again speak on “Reducing Your Loss of Memory” at the Aging and Wellness Conference and Expo in McLean, Va, about a month later. Nancy is the dynamic Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Family Day Center, the only adult day center in Northern Virginia devoted completely to the care of Alzheimer’s clients. She is an Alzheimer’s disease educator with an extensive background in Alzheimer’s and an excellent public speaker.

In her speeches, she assured us that forgetting a person’s name soon after being introduced is not a “senior” problem; it’s a problem of not concentrating. In normal aging, everything slows down; cognitive ability slows down around 40.

If you lost your keys every day, that is not necessarily a red flag. But if you don’t know what to do with the keys, that’s a red flag. Everyone with Alzheimer’s knows something is wrong and they feel vulnerable. Hence, they put keys in odd places like the freezer because they know that the keys are valuable, but since there’s no short-term memory, they can’t remember where or why they put it in the freezer.

She referred to the Nun Study which showed that nuns who were always exercising their brain fared the best, not necessarily those that were the most intelligent, because it sparked new neurons. She offered many tips on how to keep the brain healthy as well as the body. What is good for the normal person is good for one with Alzheimer’s as well. She mentioned four risk factors — blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes. High levels of stress can affect the brain and it is especially important for caregivers to reach out and ask for help.

In my next post, I will introduce you to the Alzheimer’s Family Day Care Center.

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Mount Sinai Sch of MedFrom the Mount Sinai School of Medicine on the Upper East Side of New York City comes exciting news that it is one of 12 sites nationwide participating in the first Phase 2 clinical trial to test gene therapy treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The study is the first multicenter neurosurgical intervention in Alzheimer’s research in the U.S. The Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) is sponsoring the study through a grant from the National Institute on Aging (a part of the National Institutes of Health [NIH]) in association with Ceregene, Inc., which developed and will provide the active agent (CERE-110).

According to Mount Sinai’s press release:

The experimental treatment utilizes a viral-based gene transfer system, CERE-110, that makes Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), a naturally occurring protein that helps maintain nerve cell survival in the brain. CERE-110 has been previously studied in animals, where it reversed brain degeneration in aged monkeys and rats. For this study, CERE-110, will be injected by a neurosurgeon directly into the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM) of the brain, an area where neuronal death occurs in Alzheimer’s patients.

Mount Sinai Medical Center

Mount Sinai Medical Center

In animal studies, NGF has been shown to support the survival and function of the neurons that deteriorate in Alzheimer’s patients. These neurons produce the chemical acetylcholine, which is important in memory and cognitive function. The hope is that improvement of this system’s function may lead to better memory performance in Alzheimer’s patients.

Participants in the Phase 2 study will be randomly placed into one of two treatment groups, with half receiving CERE-110 via neurosurgery and half receiving placebo surgery without any cranial injections. Once the study is completed, and if the results are promising, participants in the placebo group will be eligible to be treated with CERE-110. All participants will receive a thorough medical examination and cognitive testing. In addition, participants will be closely monitored by a team of physicians for the duration of the two-year study. Participants will also be encouraged to participate in long-term follow-up.

The Phase 1 study in Alzheimer’s patients was conducted at Rush University in Chicago and the University of California San Diego. Researchers observed increases in brain metabolism in several cortical regions of the brain at 6- and 12-month follow-up in some of the participants. With follow-up ranging from six months to more than four years post-treatment, there have been no side effects thought to be caused by CERE-110.

For more information from ADCS, click here. More information is also available at National Institute on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR). Click here.