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According to a recent study, a test of how sticky a protein molecule is could help diagnose the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh said early work on a small number of samples proved very accurate.

Sticky clumps of the molecule are found in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s – and in those of some dementia sufferers.

The study is published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

Using samples of spinal fluid from 38 patients, researchers looked for a protein molecule called alpha-synuclein using a highly-sensitive technique.

Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and the most common movement disorder

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and the most common movement disorder

The molecule is found in healthy brains but it is only when the protein sticks together in lumps that it causes problems, making brain cells die or stopping them performing properly.

These sticky clumps are called Lewy bodies and are found in the brains of those with Parkinson’s and those of some dementia patients.

In their tests, the Edinburgh researchers correctly identified 19 out of 20 samples from patients with Parkinson’s and three samples from people who were thought to be at risk of the condition.

Healthy samples from 15 people were also correctly identified.

Dr. Alison Green said the technique had already been used successfully to test for Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD), another degenerative brain condition.

She said scientists were interested in whether it could be used to identify people with Parkinson’s, or those with a type of dementia caused by Lewy bodies, in the early stages of their illness.

Dr. Alison Green said the technique was not able to pick up other types of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.

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A new study shows that tweaking the brain’s immune system with an arginine supplement has prevented mice developing dementia.

The team at Duke University, in the US, showed immune cells which start attacking nutrients in the brain may be a trigger for the disease.

The researchers say their findings could open up new avenues of research for a field that has not developed a single drug to slow the progression of the disease.

Experts said the findings offered new hope of a treatment.

The researchers indentified microglia – normally the first line of defense against infection in the brain – as major players in the development of dementia.

They found some microglia changed to become exceptionally adept at breaking down a component of protein, an amino acid called arginine, in the early stages of the disease.Arginine supplements and dementia

As arginine levels plummeted, the immune cells appeared to dampened the immune system in the brain.

In mouse experiments, a chemical was used to block the enzymes that break down arginine.

They showed fewer of the characteristics of dementia such as damaged proteins collecting in the brain and the animals performed better in memory tests.

One of the researchers, Dr. Matthew Kan, said: “All of this suggests to us that if you can block this local process of amino acid deprivation, then you can protect the mouse, at least from Alzheimer’s disease.

“We see this study opening the doors to thinking about Alzheimer’s in a completely different way, to break the stalemate of ideas in Alzheimer’s disease.”

However, the findings do not suggest that arginine supplements could combat dementia as the boosted levels would still be broken down.

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According to a study published in the journal Neurology, people who have difficulty breathing while asleep (sleep apnea) are more likely to develop memory problems early on.

US scientists checked medical databases involving 2,400 people aged over 55.

Those who said they suffered from sleep apnea reported problems with their memory and thinking skills a decade earlier than people who slept well.

Further work is under way to clarify the link. It adds to growing evidence poor sleep is associated with illness.

Scientists involved in a large Alzheimer’s research project in the US looked specifically at volunteers who said they experienced sleep apnea.

In this condition the muscles around the throat relax and can block the airways, making it hard to breathe.

Patients often snore loudly and wake up several times a night.

Researchers are concerned in some cases this could mean vital organs – including the brain – are at risk of not getting the oxygen they require.

Scientists found people with the condition were more likely to report memory and thinking problems in their late 70s, on average 10 years before those who breathed easily while asleep.

The small number of patients who received treatment – using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that keeps the airways open and forces air in – did not report memory problems early on.

Researchers are now conducting larger studies to see whether CPAP therapy could help preserve memory and thinking power.

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British researchers have identified a weak spot in the brain which is responsible for developing Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

According to the scientists who have pinpointed the region using scans, the brain area involved develops late in adolescence and degenerates early during ageing.

At the moment, it is difficult for doctors to predict which people might develop either condition.

The findings, in the journal PNAS, hint at a potential way to diagnose those at risk earlier, experts say.

Although they caution that “much more research is needed into how to bring these exciting discoveries into the clinic”.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) team who carried out the study did MRI brain scans on 484 healthy volunteers aged between 8 and 85 years.

The researchers, led by Dr. Gwenaëlle Douaud of Oxford University, looked at how the brain naturally changes as people age.

The images revealed a common pattern – the parts of the brain that were the last to develop were also the first to show signs of age-related decline.

These brain regions – a network of nerve cells or grey matter – co-ordinate “high order” information coming from the different senses, such as sight and sound.

When the researchers looked at scans of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and scans of patients with schizophrenia they found the same brain regions were affected.

The findings fit with what other experts have suspected – that although distinct, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia are linked.

Prof. Hugh Perry of the MRC said: “Early doctors called schizophrenia <<premature dementia>> but until now we had no clear evidence that the same parts of the brain might be associated with two such different diseases. This large-scale and detailed study provides an important, and previously missing, link between development, ageing and disease processes in the brain.

“It raises important issues about possible genetic and environmental factors that may occur in early life and then have lifelong consequences. The more we can find out about these very difficult disorders, the closer we will come to helping sufferers and their families.”

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According to Dutch researchers, taking vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements does not seem to cut the risk of developing dementia in healthy people.

In one of the largest studies to date, there was no difference in memory test scores between those who had taken the supplements for two years and those who were given a placebo.

The new research was published in the Neurology journal.

However, other researchers say longer trials were needed to be sure.

B vitamins have been linked to Alzheimer’s for some years, and scientists know that higher levels of a body chemical called homocysteine can raise the risk of both strokes and dementia.

Vitamin B12 and folic acid are both known to lower levels of homocysteine.

That, along with studies linking low vitamin B12 and folic acid intake with poor memory,has prompted scientists to view the supplements as a way to ward off dementia.

Yet in the study of almost 3,000 people – with an average age of 74 – who took 400 micrograms of folic acid and 500 micrograms of vitamin B12 or a placebo every day, researchers found no evidence of a protective effect.

All those taking part in the trial had high blood levels of homocysteine, which did drop more in those taking the supplements.

On four different tests of memory and thinking skills taken at the start and end of the study, there was no beneficial effect of the supplements on performance.

The researchers did note that the supplements might slightly slow the rate of decline but concluded the small difference they detected could just have been down to chance.

Study leader Dr. Rosalie Dhonukshe-Rutten, from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said: “Since homocysteine levels can be lowered with folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements, the hope has been that taking these vitamins could also reduce the risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

“While the homocysteine levels decreased by more in the group taking the B vitamins than in the group taking the placebo, unfortunately there was no difference between the two groups in the scores on the thinking and memory tests.”

The researchers stressed the research cannot be extrapolated to people who already had cognitive problems and earlier research had suggested they may benefit.

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A new research suggests that long-term use of pills for anxiety and sleep problems may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

A study of older Canadian adults found that past benzodiazepine use for three months or more was linked to an increased risk (up to 51%) of dementia.

The French-Canadian team says while the link is not definitive, it is another warning that treatments should not exceed three months.

“Benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” lead researcher, Sophie Billioti de Gage of the University of Bordeaux, France, and colleagues wrote in the BMJ.

“Unwarranted long-term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern.”

Long-term use of pills for anxiety and sleep problems may be linked to Alzheimer's disease

Long-term use of pills for anxiety and sleep problems may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease

The study involved about 2,000 cases of Alzheimer’s disease in adults aged over 66 living in Quebec. All had been prescribed benzodiazepines.

They were compared with about 7,000 healthy people of the same age living in the same community.

While an increased risk was found in those on benzodiazepines, the nature of the link was unclear.

Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia.

Despite published guidance on their appropriate use for short-term management, inappropriate prescribing of the drugs is still a concern.

Experts are calling for better monitoring of side-effects, particularly in older adults.

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A new study suggests that older people who have a severe vitamin D deficiency have an increased risk of developing dementia.

UK researchers, writing in Neurology, looked at about 1,650 people aged over 65.

This is not the first study to suggest a link – but its authors say it is the largest and most robust.

However, experts say it is still too early to say elderly people should take vitamin D as a preventative treatment.

Vitamin D comes from foods – such as oily fish, supplements and exposing skin to sunlight.

Older people who have a severe vitamin D deficiency have an increased risk of developing dementia

Older people who have a severe vitamin D deficiency have an increased risk of developing dementia

However older people’s skin can be less efficient at converting sunlight into Vitamin D, making them more likely to be deficient and reliant on other sources.

The international team of researchers, led by Dr. David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, followed people for six years.

All were free from dementia, cardiovascular disease and stroke at the start of the study.

At the end of the study they found the 1,169 with good levels of vitamin D had a one in 10 chance of developing dementia. Seventy were severely deficient – and they had around a one in five risk of dementia.

Dr. David Llewellyn said: “We expected to find an association between low vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising – we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated.”

He said further research was needed to establish if eating vitamin D rich foods such as oily fish – or taking vitamin D supplements – could “delay or even prevent” the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

However, Dr. David Llewellyn added: “We need to be cautious at this early stage and our latest results do not demonstrate that low vitamin D levels cause dementia.

“That said, our findings are very encouraging, and even if a small number of people could benefit, this would have enormous public health implications given the devastating and costly nature of dementia.”

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According to a recent research from the University of Cambridge, one in three cases of Alzheimer’s disease worldwide is preventable.

The main risk factors for the disease are a lack of exercise, smoking, depression and poor education, it says.

Previous research from 2011 put the estimate at one in two cases, but this new study takes into account overlapping risk factors.

According to the study, published in The Lancet Neurology, the Cambridge team analyzed population-based data to work out the main seven risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease main risks are:

  • Diabetes
  • Mid-life hypertension
  • Mid-life obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Depression
  • Smoking
  • Low educational attainment
    The main risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are a lack of exercise, smoking, depression and poor education

    The main risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are a lack of exercise, smoking, depression and poor education

The researchers worked out that a third of Alzheimer’s cases could be linked to lifestyle factors that could be modified, such as lack of exercise and smoking.

They then looked at how reducing these factors could affect the number of future Alzheimer’s cases.

They found that by reducing each risk factor by 10%, nearly nine million cases of the disease could be prevented by 2050.

Current estimates suggest that more than 106 million people worldwide will be living with Alzheimer’s by 2050 – more than three times the number affected in 2010.

Prof Carol Brayne, from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge, said: “Although there is no single way to treat dementia, we may be able to take steps to reduce our risk of developing dementia at older ages.

“We know what many of these factors are, and that they are often linked.

“Simply tackling physical inactivity, for example, will reduce levels of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and prevent some people from developing dementia.

“As well as being healthier in old age in general, it’s a win-win situation.”

Of the seven risk factors, the largest proportion of cases of Alzheimer’s in the US, UK and the rest of Europe can be attributed to physical inactivity.

The study says about a third of the adult population in these countries are physically inactive.

Physical inactivity is also linked to increased risks of other health problems, such as cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

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According to a US study, more than 99% of drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease during the past decade have failed.

There is an urgent need to increase the number of potential therapies being investigated, say US scientists.

More than 99 percent of drug trials for Alzheimer's disease during the past decade have failed

More than 99 percent of drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease during the past decade have failed

Only one new medicine has been approved since 2004, they report in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy.

Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, in Las Vegas, and colleagues, examined a public website that records clinical trials.

Between 2002 and 2012, they found 99.6% of trials of drugs aimed at preventing, curing or improving the symptoms of Alzheimer’s had failed or been discontinued.

This compares with a failure rate of 81% for cancer drugs.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

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Citalopram, an anti-depressant drug, could be used to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, say scientists in the US.

Research into 23 people, and transgenic mice, found citalopram hampered a protein which helps to build destructive plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Scientists said they hoped the study could help prevent the disease.

Experts said the study was “interesting” and that using an approved drug could be beneficial.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.

Citalopram could be used to slow the onset of Alzheimer's disease

Citalopram could be used to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease

It affects the brain through protein plaques and tangles which lead to the death of brain cells, and a shortage of chemicals important for transmitting messages.

Symptoms include loss of memory, mood changes, and problems with communication and reasoning.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University School of Medicine carried out the study between 2012 and 2014.

They bred mice with Alzheimer’s disease and looked at the levels of the peptide – or protein component – amyloid beta (AB), in the brain.

AB clusters in plaques which, alongside the tau protein, are thought to trigger Alzheimer’s.

After giving the mice citalopram, the level of AB fell by 25%, compared to the control group, with no anti-depressant.

And after two months of anti-depressants, the growth of new plaques was reduced, and existing plaques did not grow any further, the study said.

But it noted the drug could not cause existing plaques to shrink, or decrease in number.

The 23 people used in the study were aged between 18 and 50 and were “healthy”, researchers said.

They were given a single dose of citalopram, and the levels of AB in their cerebrospinal fluid was monitored, according to the study.

Researchers said AB levels dropped by 38% in the 37-hour period after treatment, compared to a placebo test.

Lead author, Dr. Yvette Sheline, at the University of Pennsylvania, said the antidepressants worked by “clipping” the AB molecules so they were not able to function properly.

She said: “We had predicted the results, but they were very exciting.”

Dr. Yvette Sheline stressed the study was a “proof of concept” study, hence the small number of people without Alzheimer’s, and that if the results were successful, they could be used to slow the progression of the disease 10 to 15 years before it could typically become apparent.

She added: “I am eager to get on to the next study, where we will look at whether the effect can be sustained.”

Dr. Yvette Sheline said after that a “big study” spanning several years would look at the effectiveness of the drug in people compared to a placebo.

Silvio Berlusconi is due to start a year of community service at a care home near Milan.

The former Italian prime minister was sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud last year, commuted to four hours work a week with elderly dementia patients.

The Catholic care home says Silvio Berlusconi, 77, will be treated like any other assistant.

The billionaire has been embroiled in a string of court cases.

His conviction last year was in connection with the purchase of TV rights by his firm, Mediaset, in the 1990s.

Silvio Berlusconi is due to start a year of community service at a care home near Milan

Silvio Berlusconi is due to start a year of community service at a care home near Milan

Silvio Berlusconi was spared prison because the Italian legal system is lenient to the over-70s.

He chose community service rather than house arrest to serve out his commuted sentence.

This will enable him to continue to lead his centre-right party, Forza Italia, in the European elections, although he has been forced to resign his seat in the upper house of parliament.

Silvio Berlusconi has also had to surrender his passport and his travel within Italy is severely restricted.

He also has to observe a nightly curfew at his palatial home near Milan.

Silvio Berlusconi is said to have been studying Alzheimer’s disease in preparation for his community service. He was due to arrive at the San Pietro care home in Cesano Boscone at 09:45 local time.

Massimo Restelli, head of care services there, told La Repubblica newspaper that Silvio Berlusconi’s introduction would be “gradual” so that he and the elderly patients could get used to each other.

“It will be small steps so as not to make any mistakes, and then he could do all sorts of things. He could help with meals, which are tricky because sometimes you have to ‘remind’ the patient that they are eating,” he said.

He said Silvio Berlusconi would be accompanied at all times by a medical worker specialized in Alzheimer’s.

“We’ll see if Berlusconi’s presence creates some kind of close bond, if he is a reference for anyone,” he added.

Silvio Berlusconi has always denied the charges against him, accusing left-wing judges of a witch-hunt.

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US researchers have discovered that a blood test can accurately predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists at Georgetown University in Washington DC showed that testing levels of 10 fats in the blood could predict – with 90% accuracy – the risk of the disease coming on in the next three years.

Their findings, published in Nature Medicine, will now be tested in larger clinical trials.

Experts said the results needed to be confirmed, but such a test would be “a real step forward”.

The number of people living with dementia stands at 44 million around the globe and is expected to treble by 2050.

The disease silently attacks the brain for more than a decade before any symptoms emerge. Doctors think drug trials are failing because patients are simply being treated too late to make a difference.

Georgetown University researchers have discovered that a blood test can accurately predict the onset of Alzheimer's disease

Georgetown University researchers have discovered that a blood test can accurately predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease

This is why discovering a test that predicts the risk of dementia is a major priority for the field.

Researchers analysed blood samples from 525 people over the age of 70 as part of a five-year study.

They took 53 of them who developed Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment and compared their blood with 53 who stayed mentally agile.

They found differences in the levels of 10 lipids, or fats, between the two groups.

And when the research team looked in the other blood samples, those 10 markers of Alzheimer’s could predict who was likely to enter mental decline in the following years.

The full power of the test has not been investigated either. So far they know a diagnosis of dementia can be predicted three years ahead of time, but the researchers are now investigating whether the test works even earlier.

It is not clear exactly what is causing the change in fats in the blood, but it could be a residue of the early changes in the brain.

A Korean study has found that obesity in later life puts people at higher risk of brain decline.

The study included 250 people aged between 60 and 70 found those with a high body mass index (BMI) and big waists scored more poorly in cognitive tests.

The Alzheimer’s Society said the research, published in the journal Age and Ageing, added to evidence that excess body fat can affect brain function.

Lifestyle changes can help make a difference, it said.

The study looked at the relationship between fat levels and cognitive performance in adults aged 60 or over.

The study included 250 people aged between 60 and 70 found those with a high body mass index (BMI) and big waists scored more poorly in cognitive tests

The study included 250 people aged between 60 and 70 found those with a high body mass index (BMI) and big waists scored more poorly in cognitive tests

The participants underwent BMI – a calculation based on a ratio of weight to height – and waist circumference measurements, a scan of fat stored in the abdomen and a mental test.

Both a high BMI and high levels of abdominal fat were linked with poor cognitive performance in adults aged between 60 and 70.

In individuals aged 70 and older, high BMI, waist circumference and abdominal body fat were not associated with low cognitive performance.

The lead author of the study, Dae Hyun Yoon, said: “Our findings have important public health implications. The prevention of obesity, particularly central obesity, might be important for the prevention of cognitive decline or dementia.”

 

US researchers have found that the examination of the back of the eye may offer an insight into the health of someone’s brain.

A small study, published in the journal Neurology, linked damage to the retina with declining brain function.

Researchers believe issues with the blood supply may be damaging both the eye and the brain.

The eye condition the researchers were looking at was retinopathy, which is common in patients with Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Damage to the retina can eventually lead to blindness.

Scientists followed 511 women, who were 65 or older, for a decade. Some 39 were diagnosed with retinopathy.

Those with the eye condition tended to have lower scores in tests of brain function, including memory and abstract reasoning exams.

The eye condition the researchers were looking at was retinopathy, which is common in patients with Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure

The eye condition the researchers were looking at was retinopathy, which is common in patients with Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure

Brain scans also showed up more areas of damaged brain tissue, ischemic lesions, in those with retinopathy.

Dr. Mary Haan, from the University of California, San Francisco, said: “Problems with the tiny blood vessels in the eye may be a sign that there are also problems with the blood vessels in the brain that can lead to cognitive problems.

“This could be very useful if simple eye screening could give us an early indication that people might be at risk of problems with their brain health and functioning.”

There was only a small number of patients with retinopathy in the study. Much larger studies would be needed to see if the findings could be used as a clinical test for declining brain function.

While there was no suggestion of dementia in the patients, brain decline can be an early sign of the disease.

Dr. Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, who was not involved in the research, said: “Accurate early detection of the cognitive decline that can be associated with dementia could unlock our ability to treat it.

“This small study offers clues for another possible route doctors could consider when monitoring for the signs of cognitive decline.

“The study adds to mounting evidence linking vascular health to cognitive decline, and underlines the importance of looking after our hearts. It will be useful to see whether the people in this study went on to develop dementia.”

 

Jimmy Ellis, the lead singer of Philadelphia-based funk band The Trammps, which rose to fame with its top 10 hit Disco Inferno, has died at 74.

Jimmy Ellis passed away on Thursday, March 8, in South Carolina of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Disco Inferno, which featured the catchy lyrical hook “burn, baby, burn”, was a 1976 Grammy award-winning hit for The Trammps – founded in Philadelphia by Jimmy Ellis and his friends.

Disco Inferno was immortalized on the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, the John Travolta-fronted dance fest that helped to propel his own career into the stratosphere in 1977.

The trammps also recorded Hold Back the Night and That’s Where the Happy People Go.

Jimmy Ellis, the lead singer of Philadelphia-based funk band The Trammps, which rose to fame with its top 10 hit Disco Inferno, has died at 74

Jimmy Ellis, the lead singer of Philadelphia-based funk band The Trammps, which rose to fame with its top 10 hit Disco Inferno, has died at 74

Jimmy Ellis continued to tour with The Trammps until 2010.

The band had a constantly changing line-up, but the original members played together when Disco Inferno was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

Jimmy Ellis was born in 1937 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He started out singing gospel music in church until he left for Philadelphia to sing with R&B groups.

Jimmy Ellis is survived by his wife, son, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients who stayed on the dementia drug Aricept had a slower decline in their memory.

The new research suggests that thousands of patients with advanced Alzheimer’s disease could benefit from drugs.

Aricept (donepezil) tends not to be prescribed once sufferers progress beyond moderate symptoms.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the drugs regulator in UK, said its guidelines supported continuing treatment where there were benefits.

The patent for the medicine Aricept, which is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, expired recently. Much cheaper versions under the generic name donepezil are already available for about £12 ($19) a month.

The researchers say their new evidence could lead to twice as many Alzheimer’s sufferers worldwide being given medication.

The trial involved 295 Alzheimer’s patients in England and Scotland who had been taking Aricept.

One set were given placebo tablets while another set stayed on Aricept. A third set were given another drug, Ebixa (memantine), which is usually prescribed only in the later stages of Alzheimer’s.

The fourth batch of patients received a combination of both drugs.

The researchers assessed each group for a year, looking at their cognitive scores on factors like memory, and also at how well they coped with everyday tasks such as dressing and eating.

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients who stayed on the dementia drug Aricept had a slower decline in their memory

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients who stayed on the dementia drug Aricept had a slower decline in their memory

Both drugs were unable to halt the decline of patients, but they slowed it down.

The study’s lead author, Professor Robert Howard from King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, said: “For the first time, we have robust and compelling evidence that treatment with these drugs can continue to help patients at the more severe stages.

“Patients who continued taking donepezil were about four months ahead in how they were able to remember, communicate and perform daily tasks than those who stopped taking the drugs.

“It means a lot to doctors and carers to see differences like that. These improvements were sustained throughout the year.

“It’s fair to say that both drugs have independent, positive effects at this stage of dementia. I’m advising hospital colleagues to continue patients on donepezil, when it’s tolerated, and to add in memantine.”

About 500,000 people in the UK are thought to have Alzheimer’s disease – with only about 10% who are in the earlier stages currently on drug treatment.

 

A US study found that some antipsychotic medication may increase the risk of death in patients with dementia more than others.

The antipsychotics have a powerful sedative effect so are often used when dementia patients become aggressive or distressed.

A study, published on the BMJ website, argued that antipsychotics should not be used “in the absence of clear need”.

Experts said better alternatives were needed to antipsychotics.

A study in 2009, suggested 180,000 people with dementia were taking antipsychotic medication in the UK and said the drugs resulted in 1,800 additional deaths.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School followed 75,445 people in nursing homes who had dementia and were prescribed antipsychotics.

The researchers said some drugs were associated with more than twice the risk of death than risperidone, another antipsychotic which was used as a benchmark to compare the other drugs.

The study concluded: “The data suggest that the risk of mortality with these drugs is generally increased with higher doses and seems to be highest for haloperidol and least for quetiapine.”

However, the way the study was conducted meant it could not say definitively that certain drugs actually caused more deaths, merely that there was a link between the two.

The Department of Health said antipsychotic use was “resulting in as many as 1,800 unnecessary deaths per year. This is simply unacceptable.”

“That’s why reducing the level of antipsychotics prescribing for people with dementia by two-thirds is one the key priorities in the National Dementia Strategy.”

A US study found that some antipsychotic medication may increase the risk of death in patients with dementia more than others

A US study found that some antipsychotic medication may increase the risk of death in patients with dementia more than others

The Dementia Action Alliance – which includes the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK and the Department of Health – has called for all prescriptions for antipsychotics to be reviewed by the end of March 2012.

Dr. Chris Fox, who researches dementia at the University of East Anglia, said: “This study provides an interesting insight into the differential harm of these medicines.

“More work is needed on alternatives to these medicines in dementia with behavioral problems.

“In addition, there is a need to consider duration of use in more acute situations such as severe distress. Is six or 12-week use safe in people with dementia?”

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s chief executive Rebecca Wood said the risks of antipsychotics were “well-established” yet “progress has been frustratingly slow” in reducing their use.

She said the drugs “should only be used for people with dementia where there is no alternative for dealing with challenging behavior”.

Dr. Anne Corbett, research manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “For a minority of people with dementia antipsychotics should be used, but then only for up to 12 weeks, and under the correct circumstances. For the majority, they do far more harm than good.”

 

US scientists found that starvation on alternate days can make people live longer by boosting brain power and shedding weight.

The research team said that fasting on and off can boost brain power and help to lose weight at the same time.

The National Institutes for Aging said their research was based on giving animals the bare minimum of calories required to keep them alive and results showed they lived up to twice as long.

The diet has since been tested on humans and appears to protect the heart, circulatory system and brain against age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“Dietery energy restriction extends lifespan and protects the brain and cardiovascular system against age-related disease,” said Mark Mattson, head of the laboratory of neurosciences at the NIA and professor of neuroscience at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“We have found that dietary energy restriction, particularly when administered in intermittent bouts of major caloric restriction, such as alternative day fasting, activates cellular stress response pathways in neurones,” Prof. Mark Mattson said to the Sunday Times.

In one set of experiments, a group of mice were only fed on alternate days while others were allowed to eat daily.

Both groups were given unlimited access to food on the days they were allowed to eat and eventually consumed the same amount of calories.

Prof. Mark Mattson said he found the mice fed on alternate days were more sensitive to insulin and needed to produce less of it.

High levels of the hormone, which is produced to control sugar levels after a meal or snack, are usually associated with lower brain power and are at a higher risk of diabetes.

The brains from both sets of rodents were then examined and Prof. Mark Mattson said he found the calorie restricted diets appeared to improve the function of brain synapses.

These are the junctions between brain cells which promote the generation of new cells and make them more resistant to stress.

Previous research has found that starving yourself for a few days can help in the fight against cancer.

Scientists found that depriving healthy cells of the food they need sends them into a survival mode, making them highly resistant to stress and damage caused from chemotherapy.

Experts have described the behavior similar to animals waiting out the winter by hibernating.

US scientists have discovered how to rapidly clear the destructive plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients while they were testing a cancer drug on mice.

The study, published in the journal Science, reported the plaques were broken down at “unprecedented” speed.

Tests also showed an improvement in some brain function.

Researchers said the results were promising, but warned that successful drugs in mice often failed to work in people.

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s remains unknown, but one of the leading theories involves the formation of clumps of a protein called beta-amyloid. These damage and kill brain cells, eventually resulting in memory problems and the inability to think clearly.

Clearing protein plaques is a major focus of Alzheimer’s research and drugs are already being tested in human clinical trials.

In the body, the role of removing beta-amyloid falls to apolipoprotein E – or ApoE. However, people have different versions of the protein. Having the ApoE4 genetic variant is one of the biggest risk factors for developing the disease.

Alzheimer’s plaques (in brown) form around brain cells (in blue) and shrink parts of the brain

Alzheimer’s plaques (in brown) form around brain cells (in blue) and shrink parts of the brain

Scientists at the Case Western Reserve University in Ohio were investigating ways of boosting levels of ApoE, which in theory should reduce levels of beta-amyloid.

They tested bexarotene, which has been approved for use to treat cancers in the skin, on mice with an illness similar to Alzheimer’s.

After one dose in young mice, the levels of beta-amyloid in the brain were “rapidly lowered” within six hours and a 25% reduction was sustained for 70 hours.

In older mice with established amyloid plaques, seven days of treatment halved the number of plaques in the brain.

The study said there were improvements in brain function after treatment, in nest building, maze performance and remembering electrical shocks.

Researcher Paige Cramer said: “This is an unprecedented finding. Previously, the best existing treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in mice required several months to reduce plaque in the brain.”

The research is at a very early stage, and drugs often do not make the leap from animal experiment to human treatment.

Fellow researcher Prof. Gary Landreth said the study was “particularly exciting and rewarding” and held the “potential promise of a therapy for Alzheimer’s disease”.

However, he stressed that the drug had been tested in only three “mouse models” which simulate the early stages of the disease and are not Alzheimer’s.

Prof. Gary Landreth warned people not to “try this at home”, as the drug had not been proven to work in Alzheimer’s patients and there was no indication of what any dose should be.

“We need to be clear, the drug works quite well in mouse models of the disease. Our next objective is to ascertain if it acts similarly in humans,” he said.

Prof. Gary Landreth’s group is preparing to start trials in a small group of people to see if there is a similar effect in humans.

Alzheimer’s disease is likely to become more common as people live longer.

A quick test that tells if your loved one is at risk of Alzheimer’s disease has been devised by Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Arizona, which specializes in the disease.

The 21-question test distinguishes between normal absent-mindedness and the more sinister memory lapses that may signal the early stages of dementia.

The questions are designed to be answered by a spouse or close friend.

The Alzheimer’s Questionnaire, which is almost 90% accurate, measures mild cognitive impairment (MCI), the slight memory lapses that can be a precursor of the disease.

Up to 15% of people with MCI develop Alzheimer’s within the next year.

The lack of a cure for dementia means that some may not want to take the test.

Some questions, including one about making the same statements over the course of a day, known as repetitiveness, were found to be particularly valuable.

The 21-question test distinguishes between normal absent-mindedness and the more sinister memory lapses that may signal the early stages of dementia

The 21-question test distinguishes between normal absent-mindedness and the more sinister memory lapses that may signal the early stages of dementia

The 21 questions are answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. A “yes” is given a score of one or two and a “no” always scores zero, giving a maximum possible score of 27.

Someone who scores under 5 is advised that there is no cause for concern. A score of 5 to 14 suggests mild cognitive impairment (MCI)– or memory lapses that could be the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Any higher than this and the person may already have it. Writing in the journal BMC Geriatrics researcher Michael Malek-Ahmadi said: “As the population ages, the need for a quick method of spotting the disease early will grow.”

A new research suggests that a diet rich in vitamins and fish may protect the brain from ageing while junk food has the opposite effect.

Elderly people with high blood levels of vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids had less brain shrinkage and better mental performance, a Neurology study found.

Trans fats found in fast foods were linked to lower scores in tests and more shrinkage typical of Alzheimer’s.

A UK medical charity has called for more work into diet and dementia risk.

The best current advice is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, not smoke, take regular exercise and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check, said Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The research looked at nutrients in blood, rather than relying on questionnaires to assess a person’s diet.

US experts analyzed blood samples from 104 healthy people with an average age of 87 who had few known risk factors for Alzheimer’s.

They found those who had more vitamin B, C, D and E in their blood performed better in tests of memory and thinking skills. People with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids – found mainly in fish – also had high scores. The poorest scores were found in people who had more trans fats in their blood.

Trans fats are common in processed foods, including cakes, biscuits and fried foods.

The researchers, from Oregon Health and Science University, Portland; Portland VA Medical Center; and Oregon State University, Corvallis, then carried out brain scans on 42 of the participants.

They found individuals with high levels of vitamins and omega 3 in their blood were more likely to have a large brain volume; while those with high levels of trans fat had a smaller total brain volume.

Study author Gene Bowman of Oregon Health and Science University said: “These results need to be confirmed, but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet.”

Co-author Maret Traber of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University said: “The vitamins and nutrients you get from eating a wide range of fruits, vegetables and fish can be measured in blood biomarkers.

“I’m a firm believer these nutrients have strong potential to protect your brain and make it work better.”

Commenting on the study, Dr. Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“One strength of this research is that it looked at nutrients in people’s blood, rather than relying on answers to a questionnaire.

“It’s important to note that this study looked at a small group of people with few risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, and did not investigate whether they went on to develop Alzheimer’s at a later stage.

“There is a clear need for conclusive evidence about the effect of diet on our risk of Alzheimer’s, which can only come from large-scale, long-term studies.”

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A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that moderate consumption of wine can increase bone mineral density (BMD) and prevent post-menopausal fractures linked to osteoporosis.

 

Researchers from the University of East Anglia and Kings College London have studied over 1,000 pairs of female of age about 55. The subjects were questioned about their dietary habits and the scientists have measured the thickness of their bones in the hip joint, the spine and the top of the femur. These are the places in which the bones are broken more often when osteoporosis occurred in post-menopause.

Moderate wine drinkers had higher bone density in the spine and the hip than non-drinkers, or drinkers of other types of alcohol (spirit, beer).

A glass of wine a day could prevent osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, stroke and heart attack, but excessive drinking increases risks of these conditions.

A glass of wine a day could prevent osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, stroke and heart attack, but excessive drinking increases risks of these conditions.

 

A diet of fish and chips, baked beans, meat pies and cooked meats apparently lowered bone mineral density and a diet high in fruit and vegetables seemed to have no substantial benefits.

Moderate intakes of alcohol from wine were associated with a higher bone mineral density and the consumption of a traditional 20th-century English diet was linked with a lower bone density,” said scientists.

The findings come before World Osteoporosis Day on October 20, 2011.

Polyphenols, found in the skin of grapes, could help the bones strengthening, not the alcohol, other studies have suggested. Polyphenols are known as antioxidants and they help to prevent heart and brain diseases (stroke, Alzheimer’s), besides osteoporosis.

While a glass a day could prevent osteoporisis, and smaller studies have suggested alcohol might have a protective effect, heavy drinking is known as a major factor that weakens the bones, and leads to osteoporosis.

 

It is not the first time when researchers focus on the linkage between osteoporosis and wine.

 

Katherine Tucker, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University in Boston, said in 2004 that beer could prevent osteoporosis in men bones, while wine is good for women bones. Beer contains silicon and wine polyphenols. The study was performed on 2,900 men and women, but there were not enough men who had drunk wine, nor women who had drunk beer, thus, the study only linked men to beer and women to wine. However, Professor Tucker said it is possible that men could benefit from two glasses of wine, while women from two cans of beer.

The study was presented at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research annual meeting. Men who drank one to two beers a day had around 7% higher hip bone mineral density than nondrinkers. In women, increase was slightly less but was still significantly better than bone mineral density in nondrinkers.

The same message about the importance of moderation was sent at that time too, because “while two cans of beer or two 6 ounce [177,44 ml] glasses of wine are good for bones, drinking more is harmful,” and about distilled beverages (vodka or Scotch) “daily consumption of more than two drinks promotes osteoporosis,” Professor Tucker said.

 

What is osteoporosis?

 

In children bones grow and regenerate rapidly, but in adults the process is slower. Over the age of 30 a person starts to lose bone mineral density. Through life old bone is being destroyed by osteoclasts and new bone is formed by osteoblasts. The osteoblasts (cells that produce new bone) became gradually outnumbered by osteoclasts (cells that remove the calcium and phosphorous from an old bone). The balance between these two types of cells is very important for a healthy bone.

 

Osteoporosis occurs when bone mineral density is lower. The bones are fragile and break (fracture) easily.

Osteoporosis occurs when bone mineral density is lower. The bones are fragile and break (fracture) easily.

 

Osteoporosis (porous bones, from Greek: ὀστέον/osteon meaning bone and πόρος/poros meaning pore) is a condition that causes bones to become weak and fragile and to break (fracture) easily. It appears frequently in the spine, wrist and hips. Osteoporosis is called a silent disease because lots of people become aware of it only until a fracture occurs.

The gold standard for diagnosis is dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA, formerly DEXA). It measures bone mineral density and expressed it in standard deviations from a young adult reference population (T-score).

* T-score -1.0 or greater is normal

* T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 is low bone mass (osteopenia)

* T-score -2.5 or below is osteoporosis

Osteoporosis affects an estimated 75 million people in Europe, USA and Japan.

Steroid drugs, smoke, heavy drinking and a family history of osteoporosis are important risk factors.

Worldwide, an osteoporotic fracture is estimated to occur every 3 seconds, a vertebral fracture every 22 seconds.

Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide – approximately one-tenth of women aged 60, one-fifth of women aged 70, two-fifths of women aged 80 and two-thirds of women aged 90.

About 20-25% of hip fractures occur in men. The overall mortality is about 20% in the first 12 months after hip fracture and is higher in men than women.

It is estimated that the lifetime risk of experiencing an osteoporotic fracture in men over the age of 50 is 30%, similar to the lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer. (Source: International Osteoporosis Foundation).

 

Can osteoporosis be prevented?

 

First the risk factors have to be removed. Adequate nutrition (with food rich in proteins, calcium and vitamin D), daily moderate sun exposure (to stimulate vitamin D production) and adequate exercise can slow osteoporosis progression and prevent fractures. An excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation increases the risk of skin tumors or melanoma. Childhood and adolescence are the perfect times to improve bone mineral density through exercise and to prevent osteoporosis.

 

2011 World Osteoporosis Day Animation (video)

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Osteoporosis-3D Medical Animation (video)

[youtube rHyeZhcoZcQ]

 

 

Liliane Bettencourt, L’Oreal heiress announced today she wants to emigrate after a judge ruled that she was “mentally unfit” to manage her over $20 billion fortune.

Liliane Bettencourt, 88, the France’s richest woman who inherited the L’Oreal cosmetics fortune, was told that she had dementia and Alzheimer’s and is no longer mentally fit to run her business affairs.

The L’Oreal heiress said she was fine, and accused her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers of plotting against her to try and wrestle control of the company.

Liliane Bettencourt, 88, the France's richest woman who inherited the L'Oreal cosmetics fortune, was told that she had dementia and Alzheimer's and is no longer mentally fit to run her business affairs

Liliane Bettencourt, 88, the France's richest woman who inherited the L'Oreal cosmetics fortune, was told that she had dementia and Alzheimer's and is no longer mentally fit to run her business affairs

 

Liliane Bettencourt, who turns 89 on Friday, is also suspicious of France’s judicial authorities who are investigating her for allegedly giving brown envelopes full of cash to leading politicians in return for tax breaks.

Among the politicians involved is said to be President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was once a regular visitor to Liliane Bettencourt household in Neuilly, the upmarket Paris suburb.

In a court in Courbevoie, Judge Stephanie Kass-Danno granted the controversial ruling following a petition by Francoise Bettencourt- Meyers.

Francoise Bettencourt- Meyers, 58, had argued that Liliane Bettencourt was being negatively influenced by members of her “entourage” to whom she kept handing out money.

Just before the judge’s decision, Liliane Bettencourt said: “If my daughter wins I will go abroad.”

Liliane Bettencourt also said that having her money put under the control of a daughter to whom she seldom speaks would be a “nightmare”.

The L’Oreal heiress also objected to another part of the ruling that states that she herself will be under the “guardianship” of her grandson, Jean-Victor Meyers.

The Bettencourt family war started in 2007, when Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers accused a photographer called Francois-Marie Banier of taking advantage of Liliane Bettencourt’s condition by persuading her to give him around $1.5 billion worth of artworks, insurance policies and cash.

The family war then turned into a political scandal after it was alleged that Liliane Bettencourt had effectively “bought” tax breaks from politicians like President Nicolas Sarkozy.

At that moment, a judicial enquiry has been opened into the so-called Bettencourt Affair, but it is unlikely to conclude before next year’s presidential elections.

According to Jean-Rene Farthouat, Liliane Bettencourt’s lawyer, today’s ruling was “contrary to good sense” and there would be an appeal.

Liliane Bettencourt is the daughter of Eugene Schueller, the founder of L’Oreal.

Bettencourt family owns a 31% stake in the company, worth over $20 billion.

Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers reassured investors that the decision to put Liliane Bettencourt under guardianship would not affect the company in any way.

1

A report of Alzheimer’s disease International (ADI) published in 2009, said there were 35.6 million people were with dementia and Alzheimer’s and it was expected that the number would increase to 65.7 million by 2030.

 

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that is a collective name for progressive degenerative brain syndromes. They affect memory, thinking, behavior, intellect, personality and emotion. Symptoms may include loss of memory, difficulty in finding the right words or understanding what people are saying, difficulty in performing previously routine tasks, personality and mood change. In the last stage of Alzheimer’s a person is totally dependent of care-givers and might have swallowing difficulties, is very thin and dies of infections or other diseases.

Although age, family history, and genes play a major role in determining Alzheimer’s risk, there are several ways to prevent Alzheimer’s or slower its progression.

 

Sleep. Getting enough sleep helps to consolidate memory, and an afternoon nap might lock-in long-term memoires faster. Sleep deprivation could stimulate the production of amyloid plaques and cause the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Lack of sleep also affects hormones’ balance and metabolism, leading to diabetes, weight gain, and making a person to look older. Sleeping less than eight hours a night also increases risk of heart attack, stroke, and depression and weakens immune system, so one gets cold much easier.

 

Getting enough sleep is a way to lower Alzheimer's risk.

Getting enough sleep is a way to lower Alzheimer’s risk.

 

Music. The capacity for music tends to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease differently than other brain functions. “It appears that words to a song get encoded in a different place in the brain than the words we use in speech, and it appears that people with Alzheimer’s actually preserve the music, and the words that go to music, long after much of the rest of the brain is not functioning well,” said Elaine Bearer, professor of neuroscience at the University of New Mexico. Also listening to relaxing melodies, singing or playing an instrument keep the brain in a good shape.

Intellectual activities. People who keep their brains active may be at less risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Reading, engaging in a hobby such as playing bridge or chess, or doing crosswords and word puzzles may help to reduce risk.

Wine. A glass of wine a day appears to reduce the risk of cognitive decline that occurs with normal aging as well as Alzheimer’s. A study found that those who had a drink a day through the years had about a 25% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s in old age compared with those who didn’t drink at all. Heavier drinking increased the risk of cognitive decline more than non-drinking. A glass of wine could also prevent heart and vascular illness and help you to relax and sleep better. However, if you have Alzheimer’s,  a liver condition, or other diseases that get worsen by alcohol, you should avoid it.

Stop smoking. Smokers have a 72% greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s found the researchers from the University of California, San Francisco after excluding studies sponsored by the tobacco industry. Industry-funded studies found that smokers had a lower risk. Besides lowering lung cancer’s risk, quitting smoking also can help you to sleep better, thinking more clear, being relaxed. Stopping smoking improves your complexion, reduces your wrinkles, and lowers heart attack and stroke’s risks.

Control blood sugar. A Japanese study showed that diabetes could raise Alzheimer’s risk up to three times. Those with higher than normal blood sugar levels, or prediabetes, also have a higher risk. High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) could be reverse through eight hours a night sleep, weight loss, daily walks, and a reduction in sweets and other processed foods.

Control cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels are associated with changes in the brain that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. A study that examined the brains on autopsy found that participants who had high total cholesterol levels (over 224 mg/dL) in mid- to late life were seven times more likely than those with low cholesterol (under 173 mg/dL) to have the beta-amyloid plaques in their brain when they died a decade or two later. Eating low-fat or fat-free dairy products and limiting your intake of red meat can help lower cholesterol levels. The onion and garlic consumed daily are great helpers in prevention of atherosclerosis, by reducing cholesterol level. Also the goal can be reached through weight loss and daily exercise.

Weight loss. Losing weight can also prevent the Alzheimer’s since a study showed that obesity duration increased type 2 diabetes risk, and other study said the diabetes could raise the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Exercise. A daily walk is good for the brain, and getting yourself sweaty several times a week is even better. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise (brisk walking, biking, swimming, or dancing) can reduce the risk of dementia and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia in old age. After the age of 65, at every five years, the number of people with Alzheimer’s doubles.

 

Alzheimer's is common in people over 65, but can affects younger people too.

Alzheimer’s is common in people over 65, but can affects younger people too.

 

US Against Alzheimer’s said one in eight 65-year-old already has the disease, which has no effective treatment, and is ultimately fatal.

Although Alzheimer’s appears in people over 65, like legendary crooner Glenn Campbell (75), early-onset dementia can be found in younger persons, like basketball coach Pat Summitt (59).