Dec 29, 2007
By: Alvaro Fernandez
Roundup of several insightful articles and recent research:
Fish Oil May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s (Washington Post)
– “The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil might play an important role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a research team at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).”– “Publishing in the Dec. 26 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, the scientists demonstrated that the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) increases the production of LR11, a protein that is found at reduced levels in Alzheimer’s patients. LR11 is known to destroy the protein that forms the plaques associated with the disease, the researchers explained.”
– “Alzheimer’s is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease that causes memory loss, dementia, personality change and ultimately death. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.1 million Americans are currently afflicted with the disease. The association predicts that may increase to between 11 million and 16 million people by 2050.”
‘Finding Alzheimer’s Before a Mind Fails’ (New York Times)
– “Ms. Kerley is part of an ambitious new scientific effort to find ways to detect Alzheimer’s disease at the earliest possible moment. Although the disease may seem like a calamity that strikes suddenly in old age, scientists now think it begins long before the mind fails.”
– “Many scientists believe the best hope of progress, maybe the only hope, lies in detecting the disease early and devising treatments to stop it before brain damage becomes extensive. Better still, they would like to intervene even sooner, by identifying risk factors and treating people preventively the same strategy that has markedly lowered death rates from heart disease, stroke and some cancers.”
– “Some forgetfulness is normal. Distraction, stress, fatigue and medications can contribute. A joking rule of thumb about Alzheimer’s is actually close to the truth: it’s O.K. to forget where you put your car keys, as long as you remember what a key is for. But worsening forgetfulness is a cause for concern.”
Finding Alzheimer’s (MindHacks)
– “Researchers are increasingly talking about ‘cognitive reserve‘, a measure of ‘wear and tear’ or ‘fitness’ of the brain, with the idea that the disease happens where various factors tip the brain ‘over the threshold’ into physical decline.”
Build Your Cognitive Reserve-Yaakov Stern (our interview with a leading Cognitive Reserve researcher)
– “The concept of a Cognitive Reserve has been around since 1989, when a post mortem analysis of 137 people with Alzheimer’s Disease showed that some patients exhibited fewer clinical symptoms than their actual pathology suggested. These patients also showed higher brain weights and greater number of neurons when compared to age-matched controls. The investigators hypothesized that the patients had a larger “reserve” of neurons and abilities that enable them to offset the losses caused by Alzheimer’s. Since then, the concept of Cognitive Reserve has been defined as the ability of an individual to tolerate progressive brain pathology without demonstrating clinical cognitive symptoms.”
– AF (Alvaro Fernandez): …let’s now fast forward, say, 60 years from our high-school years, and suppose that persons A and B both technically have Alzheimer’s (plaques and tangles appear in the brain), but only A is showing the disease symptoms. What may explain this discrepancy?
– YS (Yaakov Stern): Individuals who lead mentally stimulating lives, through education, occupation and leisure activities, have reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Studies suggest that they have 35-40% less risk of manifesting the disease. The pathology will still occur, but they are able to cope with it better. Some won’t ever be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s because they don’t present any symptoms. In studies that follow healthy elders over time and then get autopsies, up to 20% of people who did not present any significant problem in the daily lives have full blown Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains.
Food for thought for our New Year Resolutions: we can only expect better tests in the future to detect Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s. We will also see good drugs to help delay or perhaps fully prevent the disease. Now, the good news TODAY is that there is no need to wait for tomorrow to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s symptoms. We can do so via our very own, side-effect free, lifestyle options regarding nutrition, physical and mental exercise, and stress management.