Dementia in the News

YOU die alone, philosophers say. But you could die sooner if you live your life in loneliness. Close connections to friends and family may ward off poor health and premature death, recent research suggests.

With an Alzheimer's epidemic looming, scientists, health officials, policymakers and the public are asking if anything can slow down this disease. Some prevention trials in the U.S. will test drug interventions but what about lifestyle modifications, such as eating better or exercising more? Some data suggest that tweaks in our routine could help, but in 2010 a panel from the National Institutes of Health deemed that evidence insufficient to justify formal recommendations.

Retired pro football players seem to have higher-than-average risks of dying from Alzheimer's or Lou Gehrig's disease, U.S. governement researchers reported Wednesday.

In a study of more then 3,400 retired National Football League (NFL) players, the researchers found that death rates from the two brain diseases were four times higher than those in the general U.S. population. The researchers, from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), cannot be sure of the reasons.

Goldilocks was on to something when she preferred everything "just right." Harvard Medical School researchers have found that when it comes to the length of mitochondria, the power-producing organelles, applying the fairy tale's mantra is crucial to the health of a cell. More specifically, abnormalities in mitochondrail length promote the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

John Becklenberg says his wife, Mary Ann, still cooks their dinner, although her favorite recipes are simplified to one or two steps. She also hasn't relinquished tidying up the kitchen of their Dyed, Ind., home, but there's more clattering of pots and pans than ever before.

The simple act of picking up a pencil requires the coordination of dozens of muscles:  The eyes and head must turn toward the object as the hand reaches forward and the fingers grasp it. To make this job more manageable, the brain's motor cortex has implemented a system of shortcuts. Instead of controlling each muscle independently, the cortex is believed to activate muscles in groups, known as "muscle synergies." These synergies can be combined in different ways to achieve a wide range of movements.

At this year's Alzheimer's Association International Conference, 14-19 July 12, in sunny Vancouver, Canada, some sessions unfolded, somewhat lonesomely, in large, sparsely populated lecture halls. This could not have been more different for a session titled "Collaboration for Alzheimer's Prevention:  Common Issues Across Presymptomatic Treatment Trials," People streamed into the room long after every seat was filled, and the crowd standing around them grew so large that fire safety rules forced closure of the room, resulting in dozens of conference attendees being turned away.

The deadly march of Alzheimer's disease is slower in people aged 80 or older than the younger elderly, researchers have found.

The risk of developing Alzheimer's disease increases with age, and by 85, the risk is about 50 percent. But those who develop the progressive brain disorder that late in life will experience a less aggressive disease than those whose symptoms appear at 60 or 70 years, according to investigators at the University of California, San Diego.

A Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School neurologist was honored for his research into the causes of dementia Sunday at an Alzheimer's Association conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Dr. Bradley T. Hyman, director of the Massachusetts Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Mass. General and a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical, received the Henry Wisniewski Lifetime Achievement Award, the Alzheimer's Association said in a statement.

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