Monday July 22, 2019

With Increase in Elderly Population, there will be rise in Dementia: Study

The World Health Organization estimates that close to 50 million people have been diagnosed with dementia, with more than half living in low- and middle-income countries

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Higher education to reduce risk of dementia, research suggests
An old lady,pixabay

US, Dec 29, 2016: As the elderly population continues to grow globally, the number of people who will suffer from dementia also will increase. The question is, by how much?

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The World Health Organization estimates that close to 50 million people have been diagnosed with dementia, with more than half living in low- and middle-income countries.

Although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not a normal part of aging. As researchers find out more about the causes of dementia, they are also finding ways they can help reduce its prevalence.

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For example, numerous studies show that what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain. Physical activity and a healthy diet keep the heart pumping and blood flowing to the brain. Good blood flow keeps the brain functioning, and has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia.

Brains shrink with age, but studies cited by the Alzheimer’s Society of the U.K. showed that aerobic exercise not only increases the heart rate, but also enlarges the hippocampus, the key area of the brain involved in memory. In one study, a year of aerobic exercise by older adults proved to be the equivalent of reversing one to two years of age-related shrinkage.

Researchers also have found a link between higher education and a reduction in dementia. Studies continue to look at the way exercise, diet, social and mental stimulation, and other factors influence the development of dementia, Alzheimer’s being the most common form of this disease.

Dr. Kenneth Langa at the University of Michigan focuses his research on dementia. He was the co-investigator of a study of 20,000 adults in the United States over a 12-year period, and was the lead investigator of a supplemental study on the risk factors and prevalence of dementia in this group.

“We found that the prevalence of dementia declined significantly between 2000 and 2012, from about 11.5 percent down to about 9 percent,” Langa said.

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Langa attributes the decline in dementia to better treatments for high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity — treatments that keep the cardiovascular system healthy and lower incidents of stroke. He also says increases in education levels play a role.

In the U.S., education levels rose over the past two decades, according to data gathered by Langa. A larger percentage of people graduated from high school, and more people received college educations. Langa’s study showed that even a slight increase in the level of education seems to have an impact in reducing the risk of dementia.

“This suggests that a 75-year-old today has a lower risk of having dementia today than a 75-year-old 10 or 20 years ago,” he said.

But the numbers were still significant because of the large number of older adults.

“What we found was that for adults in the United States, ages 65 and older, about 3 to 5 percent of them who were 65 to 74 had dementia, and that went up to almost 30 percent for those who are 85 and older,” Larga said. “So almost one in three had dementia in our study.”

Even without a breakthrough in treatment, Langa says it appears there are things that can decrease the risk. However, he says, more work needs to be done to keep dementia trends declining.

Next Story

Scientists Closing in on Blood Test to Screen People for Possible Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

A blood test — rather than subjective estimates of thinking skills — could get the right people into studies sooner

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FILE - Dr. Jori Fleisher, neurologist, examines Thomas Doyle, 66, at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, July 9, 2019. VOA

Scientists are closing in on a long-sought goal — a blood test to screen people for possible signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. On Monday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, half a dozen research groups gave new results on various experimental tests, including one that seems 88% accurate at indicating Alzheimer’s risk.

Doctors are hoping for something to use during routine exams, where most dementia symptoms are evaluated, to gauge who needs more extensive testing. Current tools such as brain scans and spinal fluid tests are too expensive or impractical for regular check-ups.

“We need something quicker and dirtier. It doesn’t have to be perfect” to be useful for screening, said Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s Association’s chief science officer.

Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, called the new results “very promising” and said blood tests soon will be used to choose and monitor people for federally funded studies, though it will take a little longer to establish their value in routine medical care.

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“Even though no medical treatment is without risk, getting treatment for high blood pressure could be important to maintain brain health in patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” Claassen said. Pixabay 

“In the past year we’ve seen a dramatic acceleration in progress” on these tests, he said. “This has happened at a pace that is far faster than any of us would have expected.”

It can’t come too soon for patients like Tom Doyle, a 66-year-old former university professor from Chicago who has had two spinal fluid tests since developing memory problems four years ago. First he was told he didn’t have Alzheimer’s, then that he did. He ultimately was diagnosed with different problems — Lewy body dementia with Parkinson’s.

“They probably could have diagnosed me years ago accurately if they had had a blood test,” said Doyle, who represents patients on the Alzheimer’s Association’s board.

88% accuracy overall

About 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common form. There is no cure; current medicines just temporarily ease symptoms. Dozens of hoped-for treatments have failed. Doctors think studies may have enrolled people after too much brain damage had occurred and included too many people with problems other than Alzheimer’s.

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Poor sleep can predict Alzheimer’s Risk in elderly. Pixabay

A blood test — rather than subjective estimates of thinking skills — could get the right people into studies sooner. One of the experimental blood tests measures abnormal versions of the protein that forms the plaques in the brain that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Last year, Japanese researchers published a study of it and on Monday they gave results from validation testing on 201 people with Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia, mild impairment or no symptoms.

The blood test results closely matched those from the top tests used now — three types of brain scans and a mental assessment exam, said Dr. Akinori Nakamura of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Obu, Japan. The test correctly identified 92% of people who had Alzheimer’s and correctly ruled out 85% who did not have it, for an overall accuracy of 88%. Shimadzu Corp. has rights to the test and is working to commercialize it, Nakamura said.

Ruling out disorders

Another experimental test looks at neurofilament light, a protein that’s a marker of nerve damage. Abdul Hye of King’s College London gave results of a study comparing blood levels of it in 2,300 people with various neurological conditions — Alzheimer’s, other dementias, Parkinson’s, depression, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease — plus healthy folks for comparison.

Levels were significantly higher in eight conditions, and only 2% of healthy folks were above a threshold they set for raising concern. The test doesn’t reveal which disorder someone has, but it may help rule one out when symptoms may be psychological or due to other problems.

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Like the Japanese test, it measures the abnormal Alzheimer protein, and the new results will show how well the test reflects what brain scans show on nearly 500 people. Pixabay

Later at the conference, Dr. Randall Bateman of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis will give new results on a blood test he helped develop that the university has patented and licensed to C2N Diagnostics, a company he co-founded. Like the Japanese test, it measures the abnormal Alzheimer protein, and the new results will show how well the test reflects what brain scans show on nearly 500 people.

“Everyone’s finding the same thing … the results are remarkably similar across countries, across techniques,” said Bateman, whose work is supported by the U.S. government and the Alzheimer’s Association. He estimates a screening test could be as close as three years away.

ALSO READ: Healthy Lifestyle Can Cut Risk of Developing Alzheimer Even if You Have High Genetic Risk: Study

What good will that do without a cure?

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last year found that most Americans would want to know if they carried a gene tied to a disease even if it was incurable. “What people want most of all is a diagnosis” if they’re having symptoms, said Jonathan Schott of University College London. “What we don’t like is not knowing what’s going on.” (VOA)