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

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

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