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Alzheimer’s Prevention and Diagnostic Tests

Brain Health NewsRoundup 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.

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