Archive for December, 2010

Hope for Alzheimer’s Disease

I know it’s difficult for families with an Alzheimer’s disease patient. What looks like so much promise for those of us who are candidates down the road, will not be a solution for those currently experiencing this dreadful disease. What’s available today are only five medications discussed previously here. These may slow down the progression of the disease, but they also have side effects (like most prescription medications) and are not permanent solutions. There are also many clinical trials going on. The Alzheimer’s Association is an excellent place to start your research.

This year there has also been a greater focus on caregivers because of organizations like the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and celebrity involvement. Earlier this month, Al Roker of the Today show, hosted the first telethon, Together for Care, for the foundation. See video below.

Occasionally, we hear good news such as “New Piece of Alzheimer’s Puzzle Identified” which is very encouraging. Sometimes encouraging news turns out to be disappointing, but there’s always hope. In this new study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota found that endothelial dysfunction increases production of proteins that provide the raw material for the amyloid plaques seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Simply put, endothelial dysfunction is a problem with the lining of the blood vessels. Read the full news release here.

So, as we turn the page to a new calendar year, let us keep the hope in our hearts. I wish all of you and your families a heart-warming new year.

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Alzheimer’s Disease Risk and Hormone Therapy

This should be of interest to women — Science Daily reports that, “Compared to women never on hormone therapy (HT), those taking hormone therapy only at midlife had a 26 percent decreased risk of dementia; while women taking HT only in late life had a 48 percent increased risk of dementia.” This was a study conducted by Kaiser Permanente.

It is recommended that women speak with their doctors. According to  lead author Rachel Whitmer, PhD, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, if you start HT late in life, you have a 50 percent increased risk of dementia, which is consistent with other studies.” Women who were on HT only in midlife had a modest protection against dementia.

Data for midlife was taken from a survey in 1964 from women 40 to 55 years of age with the mean age being 48.7 years. The mean age for late life was 76 and pharmacy databases were used  from 1994 to 1998. A total of 1,524 women were diagnosed with dementia during the follow-up period. It was suggested that women who took hormone therapy in midlife and then again in late life counteracted the benefit from taking HT in midlife.

According to the article, this study is is part of an ongoing body of research at Kaiser Permaenete. The data was collected in the 1960s and 1970s. This multiphasic data has revealed the following:

  • Heavy smoking in midlife is associated with a 157 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and a 172 percent increased risk of developing vascular dementia.
  • A larger abdomen in midlife increases risk of late-life dementia.
  • Elevated cholesterol levels in midlife significantly increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia later in life.
  • Low blood sugar events in elderly patients with type 2 diabetes increase their risk for dementia.
  • Having a strong social network of friends and family appears to decrease the risk of dementia.

To read the full article, click here.

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, what should be a joyous time for all can be an especially challenging for a person with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and their families. According to Dr. Stephen Moelter, associate professor of psychology at University of the Sciences, family members may not know how to react to a person who often repeats the same thing, is confused, or does not recognize the family member.

In order to engage a person with Alzheimer’s disease, he makes the following suggestions:

  1. Family members need to educate themselves about AD and the importance of supporting their loved ones and keeping them safe. There are many resources at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Web site,
  2. Engaging the person in conversation and keeping them involved in activities is paramount to their health. It should be at their level and it is preferable to let them lead. Keep your tone positive and it is preferable not to challenge a person with AD. That my lead to increased anxiety and confusion. A memory test will not help the situation.
  3. Ask questions about the distant past such as how they spent their holidays as a child  rather than how they spent their holidays as an adult. Encourage reminiscing.
  4. Parents can help their children by giving suggestions to their children of topics to talk about such as hobbies, jobs, or family events. Younger children should be given permission to keep the conversations brief. It is very difficult for children to comprehend Alzheimer’s disease.

You can read the entire article at Medical News Today. Click here. Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a memorable holiday season.

Neuroscience 2010 and Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the Society for Neuroscience, Neuroscience 2010 is the premier venue for neuroscientists from around the world to debut cutting-edge research on the brain and nervous system. At their annual meeting held last month in San Diego, California, more than 31,500 attended the meeting.

Summarizing the findings for the Society for Neuroscience, Kat Snodgrass posted the following:

  • People with Alzheimer’s disease show structural changes in the caudate nucleus, a brain structure typically associated with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, suggesting that the disease produces broader damage in the brain than previously thought (Sarah Madsen).
  • People at risk for Alzheimer’s disease exhibit a structural change in portions of the cerebral cortex, which is largely responsible for reasoning, memory and other “higher function” tasks. The findings may help identify those who would most benefit from early intervention (Sarah George, abstract 756.9).
  • A new vaccine, which was tested in mice, could protect against memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease without potentially dangerous side effects. The vaccine targeted a non-human protein that may make it a safer alternative to previous vaccine approaches that caused inflammation in human clinical trials (Charles Glabe, PhD, abstract 725.6).
  • Too many small aggregates of a protein called tau in the brain can directly interfere with memory, according to new animal research. The findings are important because they suggest that tau may be a good target for developing therapies against Alzheimer’s and related diseases (Ottavio Arancio, MD, PhD, abstract 527.8,).

According to press conference moderator Sam Sisodia, PhD, of the University of Chicago, an expert on the cellular biology of proteins implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, “Identifying those at risk for Alzheimer’s and developing new treatments for nervous system disorders is a social imperative. These studies are evidence that we’re making real progress to overcome this tragic epidemic.”

It’s always nice to hear encouraging words from scientists, but we know that “close” can still mean many years. Next year’s meeting will be held in Washington, DC.