Displaying items by tag: alzheimer's disease
The Brain Protein That May Be Both Good And Bad
A protein that is toxic and dangerous to the heart and nerves, a bad thing, may prevent formation of toxic protein clumps believed to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, a good thing. This according to a new study led by a UT Southwestern researcher shows. The findings, published recently in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, may point to new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, which for the time being has no cure or even effective treatment.
Researchers have long known that sticky plaques of a protein known as amyloid beta are a hallmark of Alzheimer's and are toxic to brain cells. However another protein, transthyretin (TTR), seemes to play a protective role, explains Lorena Saelices, Ph.D., assistant professor of biophysics and in the Center for Alzheimer's and Neurodegenerative Diseases at UTSW. In healthy people and animals, Dr. Saelices says, TTR helps transport thyroid hormone and the vitamin A derivative retinol to where they're needed in the body. In one study when mice modeled to have Alzheimer's disease were genetically altered to make more TTR, they were slower to develop an Alzheimer's-like condition; similarly, when they made less TTR, they developed the condition faster.
Do TTR's Both Prevent And Cause Amyloid-Related Diseases?
Saelices wondered whether there might be a connection between TTR's separate roles in both preventing and causing amyloid-related diseases. "It seemed like such a coincidence that TTR had such opposing functions," she says. "How could it be both protective and damaging?"
Saelices and her colleagues are currently testing whether this modified TTR peptide can prevent or slow progression of Alzheimer's in mouse models. If they're successful, she says, this protein snippet could form the basis of a new treatment for this recalcitrant condition.
"By solving the mystery of TTR's dual roles," she says, "we may be able to offer hope to patients with Alzheimer's."
What Is Amyloid Beta?
Amyloid Beta (beta-amyloid) is a peptide of 39–43 amino acids that appear to be the main constituent of amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients.
Source: Amyloid Beta - Merriam-Webster
New Research Shows How Sleep Could Ward Off Alzheimer's Disease
Our brains need rest and sleep. Our brains are actually very busy while we sleep, that is if it is good quality sleep.
“Without good-quality sleep, those critical activities don’t take place, and as a consequence, we don’t just feel tired and cranky, but the processes that lead to certain diseases may even get seeded.” - Alice Park -TIME USA
Over the past several years newer technologies for measuring and tracking brain activity, scientists have defined the biological processes that occur during good-quality sleep. That they seem to be essential for lowering the risk of brain disorders, from the forgetfulness of senior moments to the more serious memory loss and cognitive decline of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Since there is at this time no real treatments many experts are very interested in how sleep can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s or possibly even prevent it.
“There has been a real renaissance in research around the connection between sleep, sleep quality, sleep disturbance and dementia, especially Alzheimer’s dementia,” says Dr. Kristine Yaffe, professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco.
The National Institutes of Health is currently funding at least half a dozen new studies exploring how sleep may impact dementia. According to Dr. Yaffe’s recent research, which focused on a group of healthy older women, supported was the idea that what seemed to matter, in terms of dementia risk: the quality as opposed to the quantity of sleep. Those who reported spending less time in bed actually sleeping, and more time tossing and turning and waking up throughout the night, were more likely to develop any type of dementia five to 10 years later than those who got better quality sleep.
With new technologies for measuring and tracking brain activity while we sleep, scientists have defined the biological processes that occur during good-quality sleep. Brain activity that seems to be essential for lowering the risk of brain disorders, from the forgetfulness of senior moments to the more serious memory loss and cognitive decline of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. With regard to the field of Alzheimer’s disease, scientist and doctors are excited, since there are currently no treatments for the neurodegenerative disease, and sleep-based strategies might open new ways to slow its progression in some and possibly prevent it in others.
To find out more about sleep and the possible of preventing neurodegenerative brain disease you can follow these links:
What Is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month
President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in 1983. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer's disease. However today, the number of people suffering with the disease is well over five and a half million.
Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s Disease.
Although in 2018 there is still no cure for the disease, one purpose of Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month is to educate the public about the disease including the symptoms, treatments and ways of coping with the effects. And organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association work to emphasize the need to increase our efforts to combat and eradicate the disease; To find a cure for Alzheimer’s.
Presidential Message on National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month
The Unites States government this year has provided a statement regarding the importance of the Awareness Month and it says in part:
“During National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, we acknowledge the efforts to combat Alzheimer’s disease, which robs too many older Americans of their cherished memories, their independence, and ultimately their lives. We reaffirm our commitment to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease… (the) Administration is working with scientific and caregiving communities to advance groundbreaking research, ensure optimal medical care, and support long-term services for Alzheimer’s patients and their families. Together, we will continue to move closer to a future where all Americans have a greater opportunity to enjoy fully the blessings of their golden years.” - whitehouse.gov
An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer's dementia in 2018. This number includes an estimated 5.5 million people age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer's.
When you search for homes of senior loved ones on our website, be sure to ask if they are staffed to accommodate those with Alzheimer’s and dementia related conditions. They will be glad to inform you.
September is World Alzheimer's Month.
World Alzheimer's Month is the international campaign every September to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. September 2018 will mark the 7th World Alzheimer's Month. The campaign was launched in 2012:
A Recent CDC Study Predicts the rate of Alzheimer's And Dementia will double by the year 2060
The report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the increase will be driven by longer lifespan and an increase in the growth of minority populations
There will be about 13.9 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) within the next 4 decades. In 2014 that number was estimated at around 1.6% of the population but by 2060 the percentage of ADRD affected Americans will rise to 3.3% or 13.9 million people.
Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. for adults 65 years of age and older. For all Americans it is the sixth leading cause of death. The affect of Alzheimer’s and its related diseases is to destroy ones memory and cognitive function. The risk becomes greater with age.
What We Can Do To Fight The Diseases of Alzheimer’s And Related Dementias
The report titled “Racial and ethnic estimates of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in the United States (2015–2060) in adults aged ≥65 years” placed emphasis on policy development and mobilization of partnerships that specifically account for the disease burden. Also the ‘need to develop a culturally competent workforce of health care providers of all types’ was discussed.
The benefits of early assessment, diagnosis, and disclosure of that diagnosis are well known, so efforts focused on care navigation and early adoption of the Annual Wellness Visit among minority populations could contribute to early diagnosis of ADRD in this population and facilitate timely linkages to care for patients and their caregivers. -CDC Study
While currently Alzheimer’s is an incurable disease, dealing with the disease early can have a beneficial outcome.
“Early diagnosis is key to helping people and their families cope with loss of memory, navigate the health care system, and plan for their care in the future,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.
Also highlighted in the report was the apparent racial and ethnic disparities among those who develop dementia. By 2060, 3.2 million Hispanics and 2.2 million African-Americans will be affected by Alzheimer’s or a related disease with the increase driven in large part by non-white population growth that will far outpace that of the white population.
“Given that some states have higher proportions of minority populations, this report can help support policy development and mobilize partnerships that specifically account for the disease burden in minority populations … (and) support efforts to develop a culturally competent workforce of health care providers of all types,” the study said.
In conclusion the report made suggestions as to ways to address the findings:
“Given the projected growth of the US population of persons aged ≥65 years, and the estimated increase in the population living with ADRD in the United States, it is critical that older adults who are exhibiting symptoms of memory loss or cognitive decline seek an assessment and potential diagnosis from a health-care provider.”
And regarding the importance of caregiver support the report further stated:
“Providing support for caregivers is a growing public health issue given that caregivers face financial, emotional, and social challenges and are at increased risk for negative economic, mental health, and physical health outcomes. In the United States, the proportion of younger adults is declining, but members of this population are likely to become caregivers as the population of adults aged ≥65 years will double to 72 million and account for 20% of the population by 2030.”
Clearly the rise of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) is something we ourselves and our government should recognize and address without delay.
The enormous cost of caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease
The cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is expected increase $20 billion this year compared with last year, totaling more than $277 billion in 2018, according to a report released by the Alzheimer's Association.
The report, “2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” showed that of the $277 billion cost, $186 billion will be paid by Medicare and Medicaid, , $60 billion will be out-of-pocket costs and $30 billion will be related to other costs.
What is perhaps even more startling is that this enormous cost of caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease does not include the cost associated with Unpaid Caregiving. The topic of Unpaid Caregiving is one much discussed here on Senior Home Search.
Healthcare, long-term care and hospice care for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias are projected to increase to more than $1.1 trillion in 2050 - Alzheimer’s Association
In a sobering statement, Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association said “Soaring prevalence, rising mortality rates and lack of an effective treatment all lead to enormous costs to society,” and relating to the effect on all of us he revealed “Alzheimer's is a burden that's only going to get worse.”
What can be done to reduce the tremendous cost of Alzheimer’s care?
Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's during the mild cognitive impairment stage of the disease could save the country as much as $7.9 trillion in healthcare and long-term care expenses, according to an accompanying special report titled “Alzheimer's Disease: Financial and Personal Benefits of Early Diagnosis,” which highlights new economic modeling data.
“The disease is better managed, there are fewer complications from other chronic conditions and unnecessary hospitalizations are avoided,” Fargo said. “The sooner the diagnosis occurs, the sooner these costs can be managed and savings can begin.”
Earlier diagnosis could save individuals approximately $64,000 each, but costs still would average $360,000 per person, according to projections.
Also in the reports:
- Deaths from Alzheimer's disease increased by 123% between 2000 and 2015. By contrast, the number of deaths from heart disease, the top cause of death in the United States, decreased 11% during that time.
- An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer's dementia now, and 5.5 million of this total are people who are at least 65 years old.
- The number of people aged 65 or more years with Alzheimer's is estimated to increase by almost 29% to 7.1 million by 2025. The number of people aged 65 or more years who have Alzheimer's may almost triple to 13.8 million by 2050, barring the development of medical breakthroughs.
How Should We Address The Rising Cost Of Alzheimer’s And Dementia ?
Around the time of the release of this startling information about the rising cost of Alzheimer’s care, a group of 14 senators led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), founder and co-chair of the Senate Alzheimer's Task Force, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has asked President Trump to boost funding allocated for Alzheimer's research in the fiscal year 2019.
Dementia Care Practice Recommendations
The new Dementia Care Recommendations are meant for “professional care providers who work with individuals living with dementia and their families in residential and community based care settings” and are available online for download.
The published document contains 10 articles that that cover the Alzheimer’s Association 2018 Dementia Care Practice Recommendations. Within the articles are 56 recommendations for providing dementia care with specific details on each recommendation.
Recommendations offered include new guidance to nonphysician residential and community-based care providers on detection, diagnosis and ongoing medical management. Typically these have been topic areas usually reserved for clinicians.
PERSON-CENTERED FOCUS IS THE CORE OF QUALITY CARE
Person-centered care, Detection and diagnosis, Assessment and care planning, are just some of the “Person Centered Focus” points mentioned on the Alzheimer’s Associations webpage announcing the new recommendations. And the Practice Recommendations are published as a February 2018 supplement to The Gerontologist.
On the website with the announcement of the Recommendations you will see a colored chart and bullet points that illustrate how each aspect of care is “focused” and “centered” around the dementia patient. Also on the webpage is a short video giving an overview of the Dementia Care Practice Recommendations.
PERSPECTIVES OF PEOPLE LIVING WITH DEMENTIA
Along with the announcement is a downloadable 20 page guide, “A GUIDE TO QUALITY CARE FROM THE PERSPECTIVES OF PEOPLE LIVING WITH DEMENTIA”
The graphic document Themes in Quality Care and includes many sections titled “PERSPECTIVES OF PEOPLE LIVING WITH DEMENTIA”. These are written in order to give a caregiver a viewpoint of what the patient with dementia may be thinking and how to address an aspect of care to address that point of view.
The announcement and the related downloads and video can be viewed on the Alzheimer’s Association website here:
The guide and the recommendations have the goal of helping a person practicing person-centered care better support individuals with dementia and their families and enhance their overall quality life throughout the course of the
Is a Cure for Alzheimer's Disease Just Around the Corner?
Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory may have found a way to reverse memory loss in mice, and possibly a breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
The team focused on one enzyme that causes memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients.
Even though there’s a long way to go, it’s an exciting development.
“This has the potential to really make a difference,” says Jay Penney, PhD, one of the lead authors of a new study.
“What we’ve done is found a new way to basically prevent this negative effect of this enzyme,” he says.
The Key to Stopping Memory Loss.
They accomplished that by turning off the enzyme. And what happened in the mice? It didn’t just stop the memory loss, it actually reversed it!
“We seem to have been able to pinpoint its role in memory processes quite specifically,” said Penney.
If it does the same thing for people with Alzheimer’s, then the plan would be to develop a drug to treat the disease.
“It’s definitely an exciting avenue that has now been opened by this,” Penney says.
It’s been known for some time that this enzyme triggers memory loss, but this is the first time scientists have been able to switch it off without causing other kinds of problems.
Even though testing on people is many years away, the stakes are very high. If treatments are not found, the disease and the damage it does will dramatically increase as the population ages.
Source: CBS Boston
According to a new study published Thursday, April 20th in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, people who drank at least one artificially-sweetened beverage a day had almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia and Alzheimer’s disease .
Does this mean that drinking diet soda can cause dementia or stroke or even increase the risks? Not necessarily.
What the Results of the Study Showed
The study was published in the Journal Stroke. The journal is affiliated with the American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association.
The researchers caution that the study only shows an association -- it does not prove that diet drinks actually cause stroke or dementia. However more research is warranted according to the studys authors.
“Although we did not find an association between stroke or dementia and the consumption of sugary drinks, this certainly does not mean they are a healthy option,” Matthew Pase, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages.”
How the Study was Conducted
The researchers analyzed data on nearly 2,888 people over the age of 45 for the stroke study and almost 1,500 people over age 60 for the dementia study.
The participants recorded their eating and drinking habits in questionnaires. The researchers reviewed this information at three different points in time over a period of seven years. The participants were then followed up on for the next 10 years to see who developed stroke or dementia and then compared dietary habits to the risk of developing these health problems.
At the end of the 10 year follow-up , the researchers found 97 cases of stroke, 82 of which were ischemic (caused by blockage of blood vessels), and 81 cases of dementia, 63 of which were diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease.
The studies control factors, other possible risk factors taken into account, included age, sex, caloric intake, education, diabetes, and the presence of genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s.
Conclusions of the Diet Soda Study:
The results showed that people who consumed at least one artificially-sweetened drink a day were three times as likely to develop ischemic stroke and 2.9 times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease dementia.
In addition to being an observational study which cannot prove cause and effect, the authors noted the studys other limitations, including that fact that the overwhelming majority of participants were white. People did not drink sugary drinks as often as diet ones, which the authors said could be one reason they did not see the same link with regular soda.
The number of people in the study was also limited, under 2900 over a ten year period.
“Even if someone is three times as likely to develop stroke or dementia, it is by no means a certain fate,” Dr. Pase said. “In our study, three percent of the people had a new stroke and five percent developed dementia, so we’re still talking about a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia.”
In an accompanying commentary, Ralph Sacco, M.D., a former president of the American Heart Association and the chairman of the department of neurology at the Miller School of Medicine at University of Miami in Florida, says that current research is “inconclusive” in determining whether or not drinking artificially sweetened beverages frequently can lead stroke, dementia, and other heart-related conditions.
However, the current study, as well as other recent research showing associations between diet soft drinks and negative effects on blood vessels throughout the body, suggest that consumers may want to use caution before turning to these drinks as an alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.
“Both sugar and artificially sweetened soft drinks may be hard on the brain,” Dr. Sacco writes.
Other professionals are in agreement. “We know that limiting added sugars is an important strategy to support good nutrition and healthy body weights, and until we know more, people should use artificially sweetened drinks cautiously,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., past chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont. “They may have a role for people with diabetes and in weight loss, but we encourage people to drink water, low-fat milk or other beverages without added sweeteners.”
Responding to the published study, Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, issued a statement from the group that said low-calorie sweeteners found in beverages have been proven safe by worldwide government safety authorities. Those authorities includes "The FDA, World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority and others".
Link to study:
A Prospective Cohort Study
Despite Disappointment - Alzheimer’s Drug Development and Testing Continues
If you or a family member has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease, then you probably pay close attention to news about the latest drug research and other efforts to combat or even reverse the dreadful affliction.
There have been many experimental drugs tested and some have even reached the market. Drugs such as Aricept and Namenda have been shown to temporarily deal with symptoms of the disease but done nothing to stop its advancement. Now the latest results of trials of the drug known as LMTX have shown it is no more effective.
A New York Times article titled “Alzheimer’s Drug LMTX Falters in Final Stage of Trials” highlighted the unwelcomed trial results. “Over all, the patients who received LMTX, which was developed by TauRx Therapeutics, did not have a slower rate of decline in mental ability or daily functioning than those in the control group” according to the Times.
This new type of drug for Alzheimer’s disease failed to slow the rate of decline in mental ability and daily functioning in its first large clinical trial, though prior to the latest study there was hopefulness. It seemed a small portion of the study participants saw favorable results. “There were highly significant, clinically meaningful, large effects in patients taking the drug as monotherapy, and no effect in patients taking it as an add-on,” Claude Wischik, a founder and the chief executive of TauRx, said in an interview. He spoke from Toronto, where the results were being presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. Monotherapy has the meaning that only the test drug was being administered, with no other related drug(s).
Future of the drug LMTX still to be determined in spite of results.
Although some people associated with the TauRx study said there were some hopeful results, other experts not involved in the study were skeptical about drawing conclusions from a small subset of patients, especially since there was no obvious explanation why LMTX would be expected to work only in patients not getting other drugs. Regulators might also be skeptical and require the company to conduct another large study, this time only with participants not using other drugs.
“I have to say that the results that we saw here were, to me, more disappointing than not,” Dr. David Knopman, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic, said in moderating a news conference at the meeting in Toronto.
Regardless of these mostly disappointing results, Dr. Wischik said the company planned to apply for approval of LMTX to be used by itself.
The Phase 3 trial presented on Wednesday had 891 patients from 16 countries with mild or moderate Alzheimer’s disease. They were randomly assigned to be treated with a lower dose of LMTX, a higher dose of LMTX or a placebo. (The placebo contained a tiny amount of LMTX to turn the patients’ urine bluish green. Otherwise people would know if they were getting the drug or the placebo based on the color of their urine.)
The decision of the company to continue with the drug LMTX certainly shows there is an obvious great desire for work to continue on Alzheimer’s research, with the hope of one day discovering genuinely effective drug treatment for what today seems an unstoppable disease.
Senior Care Homes that cater to Alzheimer’s patients can be found at Senior Home Search
Senior Home Search provides free location information for thousands of Senior Care Homes, Adult Foster Care Homes and other facilities in the U.S. Many of the homes listed on our website have special programs for residents who have Alzheimer’s. You can use the information about these homes to contact them directly and inquire about whether they cater to Alzheimer’s sufferers and what training their staff may have.
Senior Home Search will always give you contact information so you can talk directly with these homes.
Please take advantage of this free and easy to use website to find Assisted Living and Senior Homes near you. And remember to tell your friends about it. Good luck to all in your search.
Will You Or A Loved One Need Long-Term Care One Day?
You may feel great today. On the other hand, maybe you are starting to sense the affects of ageing creeping up on you. Either way, you may not be thinking about something like Long-Term care. Not today, not for yourself. Very few people like to talk about it let alone plan for it. Yet we all should give our possible need for Long-Term care serious consideration. Why?
What is Long-Term Care?
Long-Term Care: Services that include medical and non-medical care for people with a chronic illness or disability. Long-term care helps meet health or personal needs. Most long-term care services assists people with Activities of Daily Living, such as dressing, bathing, and using the bathroom. Long-term care can be provided at home, in the community, or in a facility. For purposes of Medicaid eligibility and payment, long-term care services are those provided to an individual who requires a level of care equivalent to that received in a nursing facility. Source: Glossary - Longtermcare.gov
Here is the reality - some facts that should make us think hard about our future and whether we will need someone some day to care for us or a loved one – Long-Term Care.
- According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a person turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of Long-Term Care services and supports in their later years. While one-third of today’s 65 year-olds may never need Long-Term Care support, at least 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years. And, Women on average will need care longer, 3.7 years compared to men at 2.2 years.*
- According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 36 percent of people age 65 and older reported some type of disability, be it vision or hearing loss, cognition problems, difficulties moving around, or restrictions when it comes to self-care or independence, in 2014.
- Nearly 40% of people age 65 and older have difficulties with the activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, getting out of bed, getting around inside one’s home or building, or leaving one’s home or building. Currently, about one in five older people that have these types of difficulties report that they need more help than they receive (Desai et al. 2001; Spillman 2013).
- Diseases that impair our ability to care for ourselves are on the rise. For example, one in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
- When older people who need assistance do not get enough help, terrible things can happen, including falls, burns, inadequate nutrition, missed physician appointments, depression, hospitalization and emergency room use.
These are just 5 reasons why all of us should be thinking about what we will do if and when we or a loved one needs Long-Term Care. We should feel compelled to give it serious thought.
Senior Home Search is a website designed to help you in your search for Senior Home Care facilities near you, as well as get up to date information about Assisted Living and Senior Homes in your area.
Our website is filled with valuable and detailed information about such senior living facilities and gives you contact information so you can talk directly with the staff at these homes.
Please use this site and tell your friends about it. It is free and it is easy to find just what you are looking for, Assisted Living and Senior Home information. Good luck to all in your search.
* SOURCE: Find Your Path Forward - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
New Alzheimers Test Checks for the Ability to Identify Odors
Are we one step closer to the early detection of memory decline and dementia? Two new important studies have been released this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2016 that may provide the answer.
The two new studies ”evaluated changes in odor identification as an early predictor of cognitive decline, or of the transition to dementia”, and could lead to new relatively cheap screening tests revealing the possibility of a patient developing Alzheimer’s disease. Testing of patients may include the ability to identify familiar odors such as smoke, coffee, raspberry and turpentine.
Currently, any tests that are able to spot people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's are costly and difficult. They include PET scans of the brain, and spinal taps that measure the levels of certain proteins in spinal fluid.
In both new studies, people who were in their 60s and older took a standard odor detection test. And in both cases, those who did poorly on the test were more likely to already have, or go on to develop, problems with memory and thinking.
"The whole idea is to create tests that a general clinician can use in an office setting," says Dr. William Kreisl, a neurologist at Columbia University, where both studies were done. The research was presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Toronto.
Questions Remain - Are the Results of the New Alzheimer’s Studies Valid?
Finding simple tests for brain disorders has always been elusive and difficult. Existing biomarkers, for Alzheimer's disease for instance, have serious limitations.
And the question remains: Do the tests identify a patient’s inability to sense an odor, or rather remember what the odor is? For example, did one patient forget what turpentine smelled like or instead did they never know what turpentine smelled like? This is important as the area of the brain responsible may differ.
Also the size of the studies leading to the announcement brings into question the validity of the findings. In one, researchers studied 84 people in their 60s and 70s, including 58 with the sort of memory problems that suggest early Alzheimer's. And another study by another team from Columbia followed, for more than four years, 397 people whose average age was 80 at the start. Some may question such optimism concerning results from under 500 patients over the course of many years with some participants already of advanced age. The fact is that millions currently suffer form Alzheimer's disease and related dementia.
Nevertheless, the idea of an odor detection test arose, in part, from something doctors have observed for many years in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
"Patients (with Alzheimers) will tell us that food does not taste as good," says Dr. Kreisl. The reason is often that these patients have lost the ability to smell what they eat. “That's not surprising, given that odor signals from the nose have to be processed in areas of the brain that are among the first to be affected by Alzheimer's disease.”
The point remains however, that odor tests aren't perfect. For one thing, other degenerative brain diseases, including Parkinson's, can also affect odor detection. Also, the ability to smell can be diminished by smoking, certain head injuries and even normal aging.
Continued Funding for Alzheimer’s Research Encouraged
While the results of these newly released studies are encouraging and raise hope, the need for continuing and increased funding for new Alzheimers research is imperative. To this day there is still no drug that can slow or halt the disease.
Currently more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimers disease. Also, nearly 1 in 3 seniors will die from Alzheimers or another form of dementia. And in 2015 more than 15 million caregivers provided an estimated 18.1 billion house of unpaid care.
For more startling facts about the cost of Alzheimers in America, visit the Alzheimers Association web page - 2016 ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE FACTS AND FIGURES
About the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC)
The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) is the world’s largest gathering of researchers from around the world focused on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. As a part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s research program, AAIC serves as a catalyst for generating new knowledge about dementia and fostering a vital, collegial research community.