Category Archives: Alzheimer’s Disease

How to Save Your Brain

A report published yesterday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) cites promising evidence indicating that active cognitive training, blood pressure management, and physical activity may collectively help stave off age-related cognitive decline and dementia.

In 2015, the Alzheimer’s Association released similar findings that identified two critical activities that could minimize the risk of cognitive decline: increasing physical activity, and improving cardiovascular health. Dan G. Blazer, a member of the NASEM committee that conducted the study and the J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus at Duke University Medical Center, states: “What is good for the heart is good for the brain. Therefore, exercise and controlling high blood pressure are good for the brain.” While controlling blood pressure is good preventive practice to combat heart disease, it may also reduce memory less and dementia—likely because high blood pressure damages delicate blood vessels in the brain.

In terms of diet, a study released earlier this week by Temple University found that extra-virgin olive helped fend off Alzheimer’s in mice. The mice fed a diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil showed better learning and memory skills than those who did not receive the diet. While the evidence surrounding diet is not as conclusive and plentiful as the research regarding exercise, the panel singled out diets that emphasized whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lower levels of salts.

Cognitive training has been receiving more attention recently, referring to tools and tactics engineered to improve reasoning, problem-solving, memory retention, and processing speed. In a randomized control trial reviewed by the committee titled “Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly,” participants who received cognitive training in processing speed and reasoning deduction demonstrated less decline than those who did not, over a time span of ten years.

More than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, and the number is only expected to increase as the population ages. Statistics show that by 2050, numbers could reach up to 16 million. There is no cure, and few effective treatments. Yet the evidence suggests that these lifestyle changes may actively reduce risk, or at least delay the onset of dementia. Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, advised people to “Try and avoid the tendency to sit down, watch television for endless hours at night. Get out there, do something.”

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Alzheimer’s & Glucose: Reducing Sugar Intake

While scientists have long known that excess glucose—or sugar—and its breakdown products have the potential to damage proteins and cells through a reaction called ‘glycation,’ the specific molecular link between sugar and Alzheimer’s disease was neither confirmed nor fully understood.

Yet scientists have recently confirmed a ‘tipping point’ molecular link between the blood sugar glucose and Alzheimer’s disease, as a study published in the journal Scientific Reports has demonstrated that excess glucose irreparably damages a critical enzyme is involved with inflammation response to the early stages ofAlzheimer’s.

Unusually high blood sugar levels, also called hyperglycemia, is a familiar characteristic of diabetes and obesity; indeed, patients with diabetes have been shown to have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to healthy individuals. In the early stages of the disease, abnormal proteins aggregate to form ‘plaques and tangles’ in the brain, which progressively lead to severe cognitive decline.

By utilizing a sensitive technique to detect glycation through brain samples of people both with and without Alzheimer’s, a team of scientists discovered that—in the early stages of Alzheimer’s—glycation damages an enzyme called MIF (macropage migration inhibitory factor), which ultimately plays a role in immune response and insulin regulation. This enzyme is involved in the response of brain cells to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain during Alzheimer’s, and researchers believe that inhibition and reduction of MIF activity—caused by glycation—could be the proverbial ‘tipping point’ in disease progression. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, so too does glycation of these enzymes increase.

Researchers articulate that this knowledge will be vital in developing a chronological trajectory of the progression of Alzheimer’s, and will assist in identifying those at risk, in addition to new preventive techniques and treatments. Moreover, this potential link with Alzheimer’s serves as another reason to curb and lower sugar intake.

Mark Rosenberg, MD, FMNM, a physician who has extensively studied the mechanisms of cancer treatment failure, and developed new preventive therapies, states: “Glucose or sugar, is a source of fuel for normal cells and malignant cells. The more resistant and aggressive cancer cells tend to rely on the metabolism of glucose through a process called glycolysis. These cells over-express GLUT-1 transporters, as well as insulin, to pull in as much sugar, as quickly as they can, so they can meet their energy requirements. There are multiple studies correlating elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance, and diabetes with the risk, as well as survival, for many cancers. Bottom line, from a cancer perspective: minimize sugar intake.”

Around 50 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a statistical figure predicted to rise to more than 125 million by2050. Researchers believe that the global cost of the disease will likely escalate into the hundreds of billions of dollars, as medical patients require further social and palliative care, due to the debilitating cognitive effects of the disease.

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Combatting Alzheimer’s: Continued

At A4M, our mission is to spread awareness regarding the need for research, funding, and further education in order to prevent age-related diseases. This will not be the last you hear from us concerning Alzheimer’s, as it is a topic that both deserves and requires a significant amount of attention.

Alzheimer’s disease currently affects more than five million Americans, a number that could potentially skyrocket to 16 million in the next three decades. Not only is Alzheimer’s the sixth-leading cause of death in the country, but it also leads to tremendous financial and emotional instabilities, in addition to extensive family strain and stress.

The cognitive losses that accompany Alzheimer’s disease are, at first blush, signs of normal aging: forgetfulness, disorientation, and impairments in functioning that lead to one’s inability to perform basic, rudimentary tasks. Yet these symptoms are merely the tip of the iceberg: depression, anxiety, aggression, and a detachment from reality are some of the emotional and behavioral problems that stem from Alzheimer’s.

Within the past week, the first drug designed to acutely treat Alzheimer’s failed to show significant benefit for those with mild forms of the disease. The drug, Solanezumab, is among the first of a new array of treatments designed to address and diagnose the disorder at its root cause, rather than merely alleviating symptoms. Had the pharmaceutical been successful, it would have been the first form of therapy that slowed the disease’s progression.

While the past two decades have incontrovertibly seen significant advances in our understanding of the disease, there is still no cure. Continued and increased funding in research is critically necessary, as most scientists and doctors believe that early detection is the primary way in which to stop the disease’s progression—or even ultimately cure it.

To become further involved with research, funding, or learn more about ways to prevent aging-related diseases, take a look at what being an A4M member means.  Enhancing health is always our top priority, and we believe if you are reading this, it is also yours.

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