When It Comes to Aging Well, It’s Mind Over Matter

mindoverStory at-a-glance 

Older people who view aging in a positive light score better on memory tests, can walk faster, and have greater mobility Continue reading

How Sugar Harms Your Brain Health and Drives Alzheimer’s Epidemic

thinkerStory at-a-glance 

One in nine seniors over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s, and the disease is now thought to be the third leading cause of death in the US, right behind heart disease and cancer

A growing body Continue reading

Could Your Sense of Smell Help with Alzheimer’s Prevention?

Improve Your Sense of Smell and Prevent Alzheimer’s

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is often the first stage of Alzheimer’s development and a primary symptom is the inability to differentiate between scents. Continue reading

About Face

Q: About a week ago, one side of my mother’s face began to droop and she has had no control over it since. We initially thought she had a stroke, but her doctor diagnosed her with Bell’s palsy. He said it would go away on its own, but that it could take six months or longer for her to make a full recovery. Can you give us any suggestions for minimizing the effects of this disease in the meantime?

Dr. Wright: For those readers who aren’t familiar with it, Bell’s palsy is a weakening or paralysis of the muscles of the face and is due to trauma to the facial nerve. Because it usually affects Continue reading

Improve Your Health by Eating Olive Oil

Another new study has confirmed what we’ve known for quite some time – Olive oil contributes to better health.

According to researchers who followed about 7,000 people aged 65 and older in three French cities for five years, olive oil can help greatly reduce the incidence of stroke.

Scientists conducting the study said they found that people who used a lot of olive oil either in their cooking or as a dip for bread and other foods had lower rates of stroke than people who never use it.

The scientists, who published their results in the medical journal Neurology, say people should be given new advice about their diets to include wider use of olive oil, based on the study’s results. Continue reading

Study Predicts Risk of Memory Loss in Healthy, Older Adults

The combined results of a genetic blood test and a five-minute functional MRI successfully classified more than three-quarters of healthy older adults, many of whom were destined to develop cognitive decline within 18 months of testing.

John Woodard, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University, is lead author of “Predicting Cognitive Decline in Healthy Older Adults Using fMRI” published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (vol. 21, no. 3).

“No one had studied these combinations of tests in such a large sample,” Woodard said. The results have strong implications for determining who is most likely to benefit from preventive Alzheimer’s disease treatments.

Woodard and his colleagues performed five tests on 78 healthy elders: a structural MRI (sMRI) that measures the size of the hippocampus region of the brain; a functional MRI (fMRI) that shows how the brain is activated during mental tasks; a blood test that identifies the APOE ε4 allele (a known genetic marker for Alzheimer’s disease); and two standard neuropsychological tests that measure mood and ability.

The most effective combination of tests to predict near-term cognitive decline was the fMRI and the APOE ε4 test. The APOE ε4 allele alone correctly classified 61.5 percent of participants, but the combination of the ε4 allele and low activity on the fMRI test correctly classified 78.9 percent of participants, including 35 percent who showed significant cognitive decline 18 months post-testing.

Age, years of education, gender and family history of dementia were not accurate predictors of future cognitive decline. Dr. Woodard and his colleagues also found that persons with larger hippocampus volume, greater functional brain activity and no APOE ε4 allele were less likely to demonstrate cognitive decline over the following 18 months.

The APOE and fMRI tests that combined as the best predictors are readily available, not time-consuming, and don’t require special skills or effort on the part of the participant.

“Use of these tests could play a major role in development of medications for prevention of Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” Woodard said. “If we can intervene before people become symptomatic, we might be able to slow the progression of the disease or eliminate it altogether.”

Alzheimer’s is age-correlated; the older the person, the greater the likelihood the person will display symptoms.

“If we could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by five years, we could cut the number of new cases in half,” Dr. Woodard said. “If we could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by 10 years, we could potentially eliminate the disease completely.”

Longer Life for Active Elders

JERUSALEM – Older adults who exercise seem to live longer and have a lower risk of disability, says a new study.

Jochanan Stessman and colleagues at Hebrew University Medical Centre and its Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, studied 1,861 individuals born in 1920 and 1921.

Participants underwent assessments in their homes at ages 70, 78 and 85 years during which they were asked about their physical activity levels.

Those who performed less than four hours per week of physical activity were considered sedentary.

Those who exercised about four hours weekly, performed vigorous activities such as jogging or swimming at least twice weekly or who engaged in regular physical activity (walking at least an hour daily) were considered physically active.

The proportion of participants who were physically active was 53.4 percent at age 70, 76.9 percent at age 77 and 64 percent at age 85.

Compared to sedentary individuals, those who were physically active were 12 percent less likely to die between ages 70 and 78, 15 percent less likely to die between ages 78 and 85.

Seventeen percent were less likely to die between ages 85 and 88. They were more likely to remain independent and experienced fewer declines in their ability to perform daily tasks.

The benefits associated with physical activity were observed not only in those who maintained an existing level of physical activity, but also in those who began exercising between ages of 70 and 85.

“Although the mechanism of the survival benefit is most likely multifactorial, one important finding was the sustained protective effect of physical activity against functional decline,” the study authors write.

Physical activity arrested the decline by improving cardiovascular fitness, slowing loss of muscle mass, reducing fat, improving immunity and suppressing inflammation, says a Hebrew University release.

These findings appeared in the current issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Blueberry Juice Improves Memory In Older People

Researchers from the US and Canada have for the first time found evidence that a few glasses of blueberry juice a day improved memory in older adults; the findings come from a small study of 70-year olds showing early signs of memory loss, and the researchers suggest the findings establish a basis for comprehensive human clinical trials to test whether blueberries really deserve their growing reputation as a memory enhancer.

The study was the work of Dr Robert Krikorian, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center in Cincinnati, Ohio and colleagues, and a report about it appears in the 4 January ASAP issue of the American Chemical Society’s bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The authors wrote there is an urgent need to develop preventive approaches to dementia which is on the rise as our population ages and there is no effective therapy for it.

Blueberries contain polyphenols, comprising mostly anthocyanins, which are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, combating oxidative stress, which contributes to some neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.

A paper in a February 2008 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, that presented the findings of the 2007 International Berry Health Benefits Symposium, suggested that these compounds have beneficial effects on cancer, aging, neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes and bacterial infections.

The authors also wrote that animal studies have found they contribute to increased neuron-to-neuron communication, improved use of glucose in the brain, and are involved in memory function.

It would be reasonable to expect, therefore, that such compounds might delay neurodegeneration in humans, hence the motive for this work.

For the study, Krikorian and colleagues recruited 9 people in their 70s showing early signs of memory changes, got them to complete memory and cognition tests, then asked them them to drink two to two and a half cups of commercially available blueberry juice a day.

12 weeks later, the volunteers underwent the same memory and cognition tests. When they compared the before and after results, the researchers found the volunteers who had drunk blueberry juice had improved paired associate learning (p = 0.009) and word list (p = 0.04) recall. The results also showed a trend toward reduced depressive symptoms (p = 0.08) and lower glucose levels (p = 0.10), said the researchers.

These results were then compared with the results of another trial of the same design involving a demographically matched group of people in their 70s who also had early signs of memory changes, but this time they were given a placebo that they thought was blueberry juice.

The researchers said that the improved performance of the blueberry group over the placebo group on the paired associated memory test was similar to the difference in the before and after results observed in the blueberry group in the earlier trial.

They concluded that:

“The findings of this preliminary study suggest that moderate-term blueberry supplementation can confer neurocognitive benefit and establish a basis for more comprehensive human trials to study preventive potential and neuronal mechanisms.”

“These preliminary memory findings are encouraging and suggest that consistent supplementation with blueberries may offer an approach to forestall or mitigate neurodegeneration,” they wrote.

Source: American Chemical Society.