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

Chronic inflammation in middle age may lead to thinking and memory problems later

People who have chronic inflammation in middle-age may develop problems with thinking and memory in the decades leading up to old age, according to a new study published in the February 13, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

There are two kinds of inflammation. Acute inflammation happens when the body’s immune response jumps into action to fight off infection or an injury. It is localized, short-term and part of a healthy immune system. Chronic inflammation is not considered healthy. It is a low-grade inflammation that lingers for months or even years throughout the body. It can be caused by autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis, physical stress or other causes. Symptoms of chronic inflammation include joint pain or stiffness, digestive problems and fatigue.

Ways to reduce chronic inflammation include getting regular exercise, following an anti-inflammatory heart healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.

Full story at Science Daily

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

Women’s Brains May Be More ‘Age-Resistant’ Than Men’s

“Boys will be boys” goes the old saying, but girls might have the last laugh.

It turns out that female brains tend to age more slowly, researchers report.

On average, women’s brains appear to be about three years younger than those of men at the same chronological age. This could provide one clue to why women tend to stay mentally sharp longer than men, the authors noted.

“Women tend to score better on cognitive tests than men as they age,” said lead researcher Dr. Manu Goyal, an assistant professor at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “It’s possible the finding we’re seeing helps to explain some of that.”

Full story at US News

‘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

Targeting ‘hidden pocket’ for treatment of stroke and seizure

The ideal drug is one that only affects the exact cells and neurons it is designed to treat, without unwanted side effects. This concept is especially important when treating the delicate and complex human brain. Now, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have revealed a mechanism that could lead to this kind of long-sought specificity for treatments of strokes and seizures.

According to Professor Hiro Furukawa, the senior scientist who oversaw this work, “it really comes down to chemistry.”

When the human brain is injured, such as during a stroke, parts of the brain begin to acidify. This acidification leads to the rampant release of glutamate.

“We suddenly get more glutamate all over the place that hits the NMDA receptor and that causes the NMDA receptor to start firing quite a lot,” explains Furukawa.

Full story at Science Daily

Sleep Patterns May Offer Clues to Alzheimer’s

Poor sleep is common among Alzheimer’s patients, and researchers say they’re beginning to understand why.

Scientists studied 119 people aged 60 and older. Eighty percent had no thinking or memory problems, while the rest had only mild problems.

The researchers found that participants with less slow-wave sleep — deep sleep that’s needed to preserve memories and to wake up feeling refreshed — had higher levels of the brain protein tau.

Elevated tau levels are a possible sign of Alzheimer’s disease and have been linked to brain damage and mental decline, the scientists said.

Full story at US News

Turned down for federal disability payments, thousands die waiting for appeals to be heard

MILWAUKEE – It isn’t easy to be patient when you can’t work and you’re in pain, as Christine Morgan knows all too well.

Her chronic pain comes from fibromyalgia. Morgan, 60, also has spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces within the spine that pinches the nerves, most often in the lower back and neck. To top it off, she is diabetic, has kidney disease, high blood pressure and depression.

Yet Morgan has been turned down for Social Security Disability Insurance –  twice. “They sent me a letter that said I wasn’t disabled,” she said.

Full story at Science Daily

One type of brain cell may invite Alzheimer’s

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.

Full story at Science Daily

Sudoku, Puzzles, Won’t Slow Mental Decline

DOING “BRAIN exercises,” such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles later in life won’t protect against mental decline, according to a new study.

Brain games, such as number or word challenges, have been widely promoted as ways for people to keep their brains sharp into old age. However, a study published Monday in The BMJ suggests that may not be so.

Instead, the study found that people who did mental activities regularly throughout their life had superior cognitive abilities to those who didn’t do such activities. Still, this regular exercise will not cause people’s mental capabilities to decline any more slowly later in life.

Instead, people who participate in brain stimulating activities will begin their late-life mental decline from a higher point than people who do not exercise their brain.

Full story at US News