Thursday January 24, 2019

A study finds: What causes dementia?

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1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. Pixabay
1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. Pixabay

Dementia results in a progressive and irreversible loss of nerve cells and brain functioning, causing loss of memory and cognitive impairments affecting the ability to learn. Currently, there is no cure.

Findings

  • The toxic build-up of urea, a compound created by the liver, in the brain has been found as the major reason that can cause brain damage and lead to Huntington’s Disease, one of seven major types of age-related dementia.
  • Urea level peaks in the brain even before dementia sets in. The discovery could one day help doctors diagnose and even treat dementia.
  • Urea is similarly linked to Alzheimer’s, suggesting that the toxic build-up of urea could be relevant to all types of age-related dementias.
44 million people worldwide suffer from dementia. Pixabay
44 million people worldwide suffer from dementia. Pixabay

“This study on Huntington’s Disease is the final piece of the jigsaw which leads us to conclude that high brain urea plays a pivotal role in dementia,” said Garth Cooper, Professor at The University of Manchester.

“Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s are at opposite ends of the dementia spectrum — so if this holds true for these types, then I believe it is highly likely it will hold true for all the major age-related dementias,” Cooper said, in the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Urea and ammonia in the brain are metabolic breakdown products of protein. If urea and ammonia build up in the body because the kidneys are unable to eliminate them, for example, serious symptoms can result, the researchers said.

“More research, however, is needed to discover the source of the elevated urea in Huntington’s Disease, particularly concerning the potential involvement of ammonia and a systemic metabolic defect,” Cooper noted.

For the study, the team used human brains, donated by families for medical research, as well as transgenic sheep in Australia.

Next Story

Distress May Spike up Risk of Dementia

For the study, the team included 6,807 Danish participants aged 60 years on average

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Violence
Extreme distress increases risk for dementia: Study. Pixabay

Men and women who are distressed in midlife could be at higher risk of developing dementia in their old age, suggests a new study.

The study showed that vital exhaustion, which can be perceived as an indicator of psychological distress, is a risk factor for future risk of dementia.

Psychological distress is potentially linked to the risk of dementia through neurological and cardiovascular mechanisms.

The findings, led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, revealed that for each additional symptom of vital exhaustion, the risk of dementia rose by two per cent.

While participants reporting five to nine symptoms had a 25 per cent higher risk of dementia than those with no symptoms, those reporting 10 to 17 symptoms had a 40 per cent higher risk of dementia compared with not having symptoms.

However, the researchers are yet not aware of "exactly how anticholinergics might cause dementia", the researchers said.
Representational Image- dementia, Pixabay

Importantly, physiological stress response, including cardiovascular changes and excessive production of cortisol over a prolonged period, may also contribute to linking psychological distress with an increased risk of dementia, revealed the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Stress can have severe and harmful consequences not just for our brain health, but our health in general. Cardiovascular risk factors are well-known modifiable risk factors for dementia, and in some countries, a stagnation or even a decreasing incidence of dementia has been observed,” said Sabrina Islamoska, postdoctoral student from the varsity.

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For the study, the team included 6,807 Danish participants aged 60 years on average.

Psychological distress is an important risk factor that should receive more focus when considering prevention initiatives in relation to later dementia, the team said. (IANS)