What helps prevent dementia? Try exercise, not vitamin pills

If you want to save your brain, focus on keeping the rest of your body well with exercise and healthy habits rather than popping vitamin pills, new guidelines for preventing dementia advise.

About 50 million people currently have dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. Each year brings 10 million new cases, says the report released Tuesday by the World Health Organization.

Although age is the top risk factor, “dementia is not a natural or inevitable consequence of aging,” it says.

Many health conditions and behaviors affect the odds of developing it, and research suggests that a third of cases are preventable, said Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, which has published similar advice.

Full story at NBC News

Could a cell phone game detect who is at risk of Alzheimer’s?

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis often relies on signs of memory problems. However, these issues usually do not appear until years after the disease has taken hold. A new smartphone game is using spatial navigation to detect Alzheimer’s before it is too late.

Another person develops Alzheimer’s diseas eevery 3 seconds, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International. The number of people living with this most common form of dementia currently stands at around 50 million. By 2050, experts expect this figure to have tripled.

The last “significant breakthrough” in Alzheimer’s research happened 4 decades ago, states the latest World Alzheimer’s Report. However, a recently developed smartphone game may alter that statistic.

Full story at Medical News Today

Understanding of atrial fibrillation-related dementia

University of Minnesota Medical School researchers have determined that atrial fibrillation (Afib) is independently associated with changes that occur with aging and dementia.

“Atrial Fibrillation and Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging Abnormalities” published in Stroke advances researchers’ understanding of the mechanisms underlying atrial fibrillation-related dementia. Jeremy Berman, a University of Minnesota cardiology fellow is the first author of this paper. It had already been determined that Afib is associated with dementia independent of clinical stroke but the mechanisms surrounding the association were still unclear.

“Until this point, most studies which looked into this association were cross-sectional, which have limitations,” said Lin Yee Chen, MD, MS, Associate Professor with tenure, Cardiovascular Division, in the Department of Medicine with the University of Minnesota Medical School. “In our study, brain MRI scans were performed at two different times within ten years.”

Full story at Science Daily

‘My dad died at their hands’: WWII vet fatally injured in VA nursing home

Jim Ferguson wanted answers.

How was his 91-year-old father, who served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, fatally injured in a Veterans Affairs nursing home, the institution Ferguson had entrusted to care for him?

Huddled around a computer monitor with managers at the VA in Des Moines, Iowa, Ferguson watched a hallway surveillance video that depicted a chilling blow to his father’s head.

“I lost it,” Ferguson told USA TODAY. “I broke down.”

In the video, James “Milt” Ferguson Sr., who had dementia and was legally blind, appears confused. He opens a hallway door, rolls his wheelchair into another resident’s room, then wheels back out. No staff members are visible. He circles around and heads back into the room.

Full story at USA Today

Drugs to prevent stroke and dementia show promise in early trial

Treatments that prevent recurrence of types of stroke and dementia caused by damage to small blood vessels in the brain have moved a step closer, following a small study.

The drugs — called cilostazol and isosorbide mononitrate — are already used to treat other conditions, such as heart disease and angina.

This is the first time they have been tested in the UK for the treatment of stroke or vascular dementia.

A study involving more than 50 stroke patients found that patients tolerated the drugs, with no serious side effects, even when the drugs were given in full dose or in combination with other medicines.

Full story at Science Daily

Should I Get Involved in Helping a Neighbor With Dementia?

I live in a large co-op apartment building in Manhattan. Our staff is lovely and caring. A staff member told me that a resident is getting very forgetful and that she likes to spend her time in the lobby. I asked if she had family and was told she had only one brother in Japan. I was probably chosen as a confidante because I cared for my husband who had Alzheimer’s at home. Despite that experience, I was at a loss to give advice.

One day, I got on the elevator with this lovely, forgetful neighbor. She could not remember the number of the floor on which she lived. I offered to accompany her downstairs to learn her apartment number. She thanked me but was naturally embarrassed at the need for help and declined. She acknowledged that she was getting forgetful, and I told her my husband had the same problem and I understood.

I now find myself very worried about what will happen to this nice lady who has no one to help her. The thought has also crossed my mind that she may be a danger not only to herself but also to others living in the building. I am aware of the right of an individual to age in place versus the need for assistance, but this can’t be a unique problem. Is there a protocol for managing agents of buildings to follow? Linda, New York

Full story at The New York Times

Dementia looks different in brains of Hispanics

A major new study from the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Center has uncovered dramatic differences in the brains of Hispanics with a dementia diagnosis compared with those of non-Hispanic whites and of African Americans.

The first-of-its-kind study, based on extensive analyses of autopsied brains, found that Hispanics diagnosed with dementia were much more likely to have cerebrovascular disease than either non-Hispanic whites or African Americans. Researchers also found that Hispanics and African Americans were more likely to have mixed pathologies, that is, a combination of Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease, than non-Hispanic whites. And non-Hispanic whites were shown to have more pure Alzheimer’s disease than either Hispanics or African Americans.

Published today in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the findings may help explain the higher rates of dementia among blacks and Hispanics, and point to the importance of treating each patient based on their individual risk factors.

Full story at Science Daily

Report finds few seniors are getting routine memory checkups

Few seniors get their thinking and memory abilities regularly tested during check-ups, according to a new report from the Alzheimer’s Association that raises questions about how best to find out if a problem is brewing.

Medicare pays for an annual “wellness visit” that is supposed to include what’s called a cognitive assessment — a brief check for some early warning signs of dementia, so people who need a more thorough exam can get one.

But doctors aren’t required to conduct a specific test, and there’s little data on how often they perform these cognitive snapshots.

About half of seniors say they’ve ever discussed thinking or memory with a health care provider, and less than a third say they’ve ever been assessed for possible cognitive problems, according to an Alzheimer’s Association survey being released Tuesday.

Full story at NBC News

‘Young blood’ company Ambrosia halts patient treatments after FDA warning

A company that charged patients thousands of dollars for infusions of blood plasma from younger donors said Tuesday that it had stopped treating patients after the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers against such treatments, purported to prevent aging and memory loss.

The company, Ambrosia, said on its website that it had “ceased patient treatments.” The announcement came hours after the FDA issued a statement saying there is no proof that plasma from young donors can be used as a treatment for dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease or post-traumatic stress disorder, as some companies have claimed.

The plasma infusions can also be dangerous, the agency added, because they are associated with infectious, allergic, respiratory and cardiovascular risks.

Full story at NBC News

Are Hearing Loss, Mental Decline Related?

Dementia is hard to predict, but hearing loss might signal a higher risk, a new study suggests.

The eight-year study adds to growing evidence of a link between hearing loss and mental decline.

But don’t panic if you no longer can hear the doorbell. The study only points to an association, not cause and effect.

“Our findings show that hearing loss is associated with new onset of subjective cognitive concerns which may be indicative of early stage changes in [mental function],” said lead author Dr. Sharon Curhan. She’s a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.

Full story at US News