Better tactics for detecting, preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease depend on a clearer understanding of cellular-level changes in the minds of patients, and a new study has uncovered novel details about the vulnerability of one type of brain cell.
Researchers found that excitatory neurons — those that are more likely to trigger an action (as opposed to inhibitory neurons, which are less likely to prompt neural activity) — are more vulnerable to accumulations of abnormal tau protein, which is increasingly being implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
The study also uncovered some possible genetic explanations for the vulnerability of those cells, work that has the potential to one day lead to targeted treatment. The study, co-led by Hongjun “Harry” Fu of The Ohio State University, appears today (Dec. 17, 2018) in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Fu, who recently came to Ohio State from Columbia University, co-led the research with Karen Duff of Columbia and Michele Vendruscolo of the University of Cambridge.
Dr. Oanh Le Meyer had recently started studying health disparities in Vietnamese Americans with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers when she first noticed symptoms in her own mother about five years ago.
First Meyer’s mom started asking the same questions over and over. Then the complex meals she would cook became simpler. By the time Meyer published her first study on support programs for those caring for Vietnamese Americans with dementia in 2015, she was one of her mom’s primary caregivers.
“There’s a grieving process to it that continues,” Meyer said. “But I think, being a scientist, I approached it more this is just an illness taking over her brain.”
Once, turning 65 typically meant retirement, Medicare and the inevitable onset of physical decline. It also often signaled the need to search for a geriatrician, a doctor who specializes in caring for the complex medical problems of the elderly.
But many of today’s older Americans are healthy, vigorous and mentally sound, with no urgent need to change doctors. They aren’t afflicted with age-related diseases or functional impairments. This raises interesting questions about when — and whether — those 65 and older need to make that switch.
Seeing a geriatrician “should never be age specific,” says Nir Barzilai, a longevity researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Biological age and chronological age are not the same. Asking what age to start seeing a geriatrician is not the right question. The right questions are: What conditions do you have? Are you mobile? Are you starting to get frail? Are you losing weight, or not walking well? Can you shop? Can you get to your apartment? Can you live by yourself?”
The cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins have demonstrated substantial benefits in reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by blood clots (ischemic strokes) in at-risk patients. Since statins are associated with a low risk of side effects, the benefits of taking them outweigh the risks, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association that reviewed multiple studies evaluating the safety and potential side effects of these drugs. It is published in the Association’s journal Circulation: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
According to the statement, one in four Americans over the age of 40 takes a statin drug, but up to 10 percent of people in the United States stop taking them because they experience symptoms that they may assume are due to the drug, but may not be.
“In most cases, you should not stop taking your statin medication if you think you are having side effects from the drug — instead, talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. Stopping a statin can significantly increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke caused by a blocked artery,” said Mark Creager, M.D., former president of the American Heart Association and director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
New research looks to brain lipids to identify a new therapeutic target for Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that affects about half a million people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.
One of the main characteristics of this condition is the buildup of alpha-synuclein, a type of protein that forms into toxic plaques, in the brain.
Earlier this year, a study that featured in the journal Neurobiology of Aging suggested that there may be a link between the levels of certain brain lipids, or fat molecules, and the development of Parkinson’s disease.
WHEN IT COMES TIME TO find the right assisted living community or nursing home for your loved one, there are a lot of things to consider in finding the right fit, such as the quality of the medical care, fees and location. But in the scramble to find a good place for your loved one, it’s also important to consider the quality of life they’ll find in that community and whether they’ll be supported in living their best life possible.
Finding and engaging in appropriate activities for seniors – and these can run the gamut from hobbies and physical exercise to social events and outings – is a major component of a high quality of life for older adults in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. That’s because socialization and eliminating loneliness and isolation among older adults is a crucial component of staying healthy in our later years. “It’s a critical part of well-being to be able to interact with others and to have those social connections,” says Dr. Tanya Gure, section chief of geriatrics and associate clinical professor in internal medicine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
The federal government has taken a new step to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions of nursing home patients by lowering a year’s worth of payments to nearly 11,000 nursing homes. It gave bonuses to nearly 4,000 others.
These financial incentives, determined by each home’s readmission rates, significantly expand Medicare’s effort to pay medical providers based on the quality of care instead of just the number or condition of their patients. Until now, Medicare limited these kinds of incentives mostly to hospitals, which have gotten used to facing financial repercussions if too many of their patients are readmitted, suffer infections or other injuries, or die.
“To some nursing homes, it could mean a significant amount of money,” said Thomas Martin, director of post-acute care analytics at CarePort Health, which works for both hospitals and nursing homes. “A lot are operating on very small margins.”
We hear repeatedly that without family caregivers, our long-term services system would be stretched to the breaking point. Family caregivers make it possible for so many of our nation’s citizens to remain independent, living in the settings of their choice.
Supporting families and family caregivers in their efforts to assist their friends and loved ones is at the very core of the mission of the Administration for Community Living. That gives us a tremendous opportunity to advance how we think about supporting families that include older adults who need assistance in their later years, people with disabilities at every stage of their lives, or both. We also have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of real people, through programs that provide support to families and caregivers.
Every November, we stop to recognize and thank family caregivers for all they do on behalf of their loved ones. This year, I think we have even more reason to be thankful, to celebrate family caregivers, and to be optimistic for the future of family caregiver support.
In a new study involving people over 70 who have exercised regularly for years, scientists discovered that the participants’ hearts, lungs, and muscles were in equivalent shape to those of people in their 40s.
Researchers from the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie, IN recently assessed the physical condition of people in their 70s who have been exercising regularly for decades.
The team compared the health measurements of these participants with those of their more sedentary peers and with the measurements of healthy people in their 20s.