Exercise and Alzheimer’s Disease

As revealed in the Journal of Biological Chemistry “Paper of the Week,” Ayae Kinoshita, a researcher at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, exercise is of great significance in fighting against Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease mostly occurs in individuals who are above 65 years of age and is one of the common causes of dementia. This disease is attributed to a number of factors that include the lack of regular exercise as well as an unhealthy diet that includes excess fats.

The research done by Kinoshita included a comparative analysis of voluntary exercise, diet control, and a combination of exercise and diet control in a mouse model with Alzheimer’s disease. Results indicated that regular exercise was of more benefit in reducing formation of β-amyloid—typical characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease — compared to diet control. In addition, exercise triumphed over diet control in restoration of memory loss induced by a fat-rich diet in the mice models. On the basis of this research, the Kyoto University expert recommends that the first priority should be given to exercise in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.


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Statins for Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a disease of the brain and the most common form of dementia that causes problems with daily living, memory, thinking, and behavior.  While statistics vary, as many as 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s.  This estimate counts for as many as 70 percent of dementia cases in adults 60 or older.  While there are several recommendations for AD prevention, including reducing cholesterol, researchers have yet to find a cure for this form of dementia.  Although cholesterol lowering drugs such as statins can slow down the process of Alzheimer’s development, there is a large debate on whether these drugs are effective for reducing damage in patients with Alzheimer’s. How do statins work and how are they used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease?

Statins are prescription drugs that are used to lower blood cholesterol levels by blocking chemicals in the liver that produce cholesterol.  While many may ask how a cholesterol lowering medication could treat Alzheimer’s, many studies have proven that statins have a positive effect in the body for those who suffer from the disease.  High cholesterol levels are recognized as one of the common risk factors that leads to the development of Alzheimer’s.  By lowering these levels early, Alzheimer’s development can be slowed.

In addition to eliminating one of the most common risk factors, statins are known to protect nerve cells against damage in the brain.  The nerve cell damage that is caused by Alzheimer’s is what leads to memory loss and difficulty comprehending.  By reducing cell damage in the brain, studies published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, have proven that Lovastatin prevents the death of cells in the brain to keep the brain responsive.  Laboratory studies at the University of Groningen have shown that the neuroprotective mechanism slows the progression of the disease.

While there is skepticism relating to Alzheimer’s and statins, studies have shown that if statins are administered in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, patients will not advance through the disease as quickly.  While statins are not a cure or a way to prevent the disease entirely, they are a protective measure that could have a beneficial effect.

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We already know that in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) there is amyloid plaque that builds up in the brain which causes the AD. Now, scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California report that the same nerve cell-damaging plaque also builds up in the retinas of the eyes. Moreover, it shows up in the retinas earlier than in the brain and this could lead to earlier diagnosis using non-invasive optical imaging.

Amyloid plaque was discovered in the retinas of deceased Alzheimer’s disease patients and further tested on live laboratory mice genetically modified to model the human disease. The research was conducted by a team of scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in collaboration with colleagues from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and the University of Southern California. The results will be presented on July 13, 2010 at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In an earlier study published last year, University of California – Irvine neuroscientists found that retinas in genetically altered mice with Alzheimer’s undergo changes similar to those that occur in the brain — most notably the accumulation of amyloid plaque lesions. In addition, the scientists discovered that when Alzheimer’s disease therapies are tested in such mice, retinal changes that result might predict how the treatments will work in humans better than changes in mouse brain tissue.

Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more prevalent world-wide and is tragic for the whole family. The retina is readily accessible and since it is considered part of the central nervous system, it has many similarities with the brain. This discovery is non-invasive and if it proves to be conclusive as well, we can start to prepare for the difficult future much sooner than previously.

You can read about this most recent study at several Web sites. Click here.

Alzheimer’s Disease and the Best Pancakes

Like many people, we sometimes have pancakes for breakfast. I grew up with Bisquick and when I started my own household, pancakes made with Bisquick was a tradition I followed. Now I know there’s sodium aluminum phosphate in a box of Bisquick and now I also know that there’s a possible link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. What an Alzheimer’s brain looks like, ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease research and many more subjects will be topics for future discussion. But in this post I decided to to see if I could find a substitute for Bisquick.

I looked for recipes where I could make a large amount of pancake mix and store it for future use. I have two to share. Enjoy!

Homemade Pancake Mix from Women’s World
9 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Store in airtight container at room temperature until ready to use. Before using, stir mixture and lightly spoon into measuring cups, then level off by sweeping top with straight-edged spatula. Makes about 10 2/3 cups, enough to prepare 4 batches of pancakes

Fluffiest-Ever Pancakes from Women’s World
2 2/3 cups Homemade Pancake Mix
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups seltzer or club soda
Preheat oven to lowest setting. Lightly grease large nonstick skillet or griddle; heat over medium heat. Place Pancake Mix in large bbowl, making well in center. In small bowl, whist together eggs, butter, and vanilla; pour into well. Whist egg mixture in Pancake Mix until slightly moistened. Add seltzer; whisk until blended and smooth. Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls into pan; cook until bubbles start to rise through top of pancakes and bottoms are browned, 1-2 minutes. Flip pancakes over; cook until lightly browned on bottoms, 1 minute. Transfer to baking sheet; keep warm in oven while cooking remaining pancakes. Makes 12 pancakes.

To make Maple-Blueberry Pancakes, stir 1 tablespoon maple extract and 2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries into batter. If desired, serve with butter, syrup, and additional blueberries. Makes 16 pancakes. (You can save money by using frozen blueberries, but don’t mix them into the batter — they’ll turn gray. Just drop them on top of each pancake after spoon the batter into the pan.

Homemade Pancake Mix from cooks.com
10 cups all-purpose flour (3 lbs.)
2 1/2 cups instant nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking power
2 tablespoons salt
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir together to blend well. Put in a large airtight container. Label. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6 to 8 months. Makes about 13 cups of pancake mix. This mix works for both waffles and pancakes.

Pancakes or Waffles from cooks.com
2 cups homemade pancake mix
1 cup water
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil (waffles – 3 tbsp.)
Beat smooth with a wire whisk or fork. This makes eight (4-inch) pancakes or four large waffles.

Syrup (better than “store bought”)
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil gently until sugar is completely dissolved. Store in tightly covered container in the cupboard. Keeps indefinitely.

To make pecan waffles, sprinkle chopped pecans on the batter just before closing the waffle iron. For strawberry waffles, top hot waffle with fresh or thawed frozen strawberries and whipped cream.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about the different stages of Alzheimer’s and some of the signs of Alzheimer’s at each of the Alzheimer stages. I’ve also mentioned dementia vs. Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia. Once our brain memory is lost and we begin exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s, currently there is no known guaranteed way of getting it back. For that reason, even one small step of eliminating aluminum from the diet may be helpful. Watch for future posts on aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease.

How is dementia different from Alzheimer’s disease? According to ezinearticles.com author Molly Shomer, she says that the term dementia seems to be preferred over Alzheimer’s disease possibly because of the less frightening connotation and that many are using the word interchangeably, but that is not correct. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are different.

Shomer says dementia is a symptom, just as pain is a symptom for something causing the pain. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, memory loss by itself does not mean you have dementia. People with dementia have serious problems with two or more brain functions, such as memory and language. Many different diseases can cause dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Drugs are available to treat some of these diseases. For a list of other dementias from the Fischer Center for Alzheimer’s Foundation, click here.

So the actual cause of dementia could be one of a myriad of things where cognitive abilities have been impaired. With dementia, it could simply be a temporary thing if the cause is treated. On the other hand, Alzheimer’s is an actual disease and the disease causes dementia. Many different diseases can cause dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Drugs are available to treat some of these diseases.

What we know about Alzheimer’s disease today, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, is that:

  1. Alzheimer’s is a progressive and fatal brain disease.
  2. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.
  3. Alzheimer’s has no current cure.

In our next post next week, we will specifically look at how Alzheimer’s disease is defined. In the meantime, challenge your brain to something new as was discussed here.

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