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

Higher education won’t prevent mental decline, study finds

Education has long been thought to protect against the ravages of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Numerous studies seemed to suggest that the more educated were less likely to develop dementia.

But a large new study finds little difference between people with a high school diploma and those with a Ph.D. when it comes to staving off the damage to brain cells caused by dementing diseases or the rate at which mental decline progresses, once it starts.

“It’s been a longstanding idea that education might be one of those things that allows a person to tolerate these kinds of brain pathologies,” said the study’s lead author, Robert S. Wilson, a professor of neurological and behavioral sciences at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “We found that the more pathology you find in the brain, the faster the cognitive decline was.”

Full story at NBC News

Hearing loss and cognitive decline: Study probes link

Recent research adds to a growing body of knowledge that links hearing loss with cognitive decline, which is a hallmark of dementia and often precedes the disease.

After analyzing 8 years of data from a health study of more than 10,000 men, scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, MA, found that hearing loss is tied to an appreciably higher risk of subjective cognitive decline.

In addition, the analysis revealed that the size of the risk went up in line with the severity of hearing loss.

Full story at Medical News Today

‘Bugs’ in the gut might predict dementia in the brain

The makeup of bacteria and other microbes in the gut may have a direct association with dementia risk, according to preliminary research to be presented in Honolulu at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2019, a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science and treatment of cerebrovascular disease.

Researchers studying the population of bacteria and microbes in the intestines, known as gut microbiota, have found these “bugs” impact risks for diseases of the heart and more. Japanese researchers studied 128 (dementia and non-dementia) patients’ fecal samples and found differences in the components of gut microbiota in patients with the memory disorder suggesting that what’s in the gut influences dementia risk much like other risk factors.

The analysis revealed that fecal concentrations of ammonia, indole, skatole and phenol were higher in dementia patients compared to those without dementia. But levels of Bacteroides — organisms that normally live in the intestines and can be beneficial — were lower in dementia patients.

Full story at Science Daily

Meet Zora, the Robot Caregiver

This is Zora.

It may not look like much — more cute toy than futuristic marvel — but this robot is at the center of an experiment in France to change care for elderly patients.

When Zora arrived at this nursing facility an hour outside Paris, a strange thing began happening: Many patients developed an emotional attachment, treating it like a baby, holding and cooing, giving it kisses on the head.

Zora, which can cost up to $18,000, offered companionship in a place where life can be lonely. Families can visit only so much, and staff members are stretched.

Patients at the hospital, called Jouarre, have dementia and other conditions that require round-the-clock care.

Full story at the New York Times

Eye scan may detect Alzheimer’s disease in seconds

Two new studies now suggest that a noninvasive eye scan could soon be used to catch Alzheimer’s disease early.

The world’s population is aging rapidly and the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise.

For this reason, the need for efficient dementia screening methods that can be applied to millions of people is dire.

Current diagnostic practices are either invasive or ineffective.

For instance, brain scans are costly, and spinal taps — or lumbar punctures — are invasive and potentially harmful.

Full story at Medical News Today

Questions to Ask When a Loved One Is Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

IT STARTS OUT SLOWLY, almost imperceptibly. The misplaced keys. The forgotten birthday or anniversary. Using the wrong word or losing the thread in mid-conversation. These are often dismissed as typical signs of aging, but in some people, they may be the earliest signs that something bigger is at work – the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. When a doctor diagnoses dementia or Alzheimer’s in your loved one, you should be sure to ask a lot of questions to make sure you understand your loved one’s current state of being and so you can appropriately prepare for how this progressive disease could change over time.

1. Is it Alzheimer’s or another kind of dementia?

There are several types of cognitive decline people may experience. “Dementia is simply an umbrella term,” says Dr. Susann Varano, a geriatrician at Maplewood Senior Living, a Westport, Connecticut–based senior living residence company. “If a physician says, ‘you have dementia,’ it’s the same thing as saying, ‘you have cancer.'” She says it’s critical to pinpoint exactly which type of dementia it is. “Is it Lewy body dementia? Is it vascular? Is it a frontotemporal disorder? Is it mixed dementia? Is it Alzheimer’s disease?” Although all dementias affect the brain and cognitive function, “each of those types of dementias have a different path. Some accelerate more than others and some have different presenting symptoms, so it’s very important to get the actual diagnosis of dementia.”

Full story at US News