Dementia in the News

Harvard researchers have uncovered a mechanism through which caloric restriction and exercise delay some of the debilitating effects of aging by rejuvenating the connections between nerves and the muscles that they control.

The research, conducted in the labs of Joshua Sanes and Jeff Lichtman, both members of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard and professors of molecular and cellular biology, begins to explain prior findings that exercise and restricted-calorie diets help to starve off the mental and physical degeneration of aging.

First Alzheimer's disease stole Rosemary DeFelice’s speech, mobility and independence. Then, at 75, she lost the ability to eat.

She would chew away at her food, coughing and sputtering and spitting up but swallowing very little, said her daughter, Cyndy Viveiros. And like many relatives caring for patients with advanced dementia, Ms. Viveiros had to decide whether or not to have a gastric feeding tube inserted.

Cardiac index - the measure of how well the heart is pumping blood to the brain and the rest of the body - may be a future indicator of a person's risk for developing dementia.

A study in this week's Circulation suggests cardiac index is linked to brain size, even in people without heart disease, a known risk factor for dementia.

Imagine a test that could tell you if you would develop Alzheimer's disease well before you experience memory loss or other symptoms. With no cure and limited treatment available, would you take it?

More than five million Americans suffer from the disease. It's the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

Education has been linked to dementia risk for dementia for decades, but researchers behind a new study opened up the brains of hundreds of people who had died with the disease to try to find out why this correlation exists.

The scientists found that the number of years a person had spent in school early in life did not change the amount of damage to the brain from dementia.

The 323 residents living in Boston-area nursing homes had entered the final stages of dementia.

“They couldn’t recognize family members,” said the geriatrician and researcher Dr. Jane Givens. “They spoke fewer than six words. They were bed-bound.”

They couldn’t take sips of water without assistance; they’d become incontinent. Their average age was 86. And they’d developed pneumonia.

The population of older Americans is growing faster than ever and living longer than ever, but not as long as in much of Europe and elsewhere in the developed world, according to “Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being,” a report compiled by 15 federal agencies.

The full report, with tables detailing senior demographics, economics, health status, health risks and health care, is available at agingstats.gov. It contains a number of surprises, and raises a number of questions, for those interested in how Americans are aging.

Marilyn Maldonado is not quite sure why she is at the Memory Enhancement Center in the seaside town of Oakhurst, N.J.

“What are we waiting for?” she asks. About 10 minutes later, she asks again. Then she asks again.

She is waiting to enter a new type of Alzheimer's drug study that will, in the boldest effort yet, test the leading hypothesis about how to slow or stop this terrifying brain disease.

For the first time in 25 years, medical experts are proposing a major change in the criteria for Alzheimer's disease, part of a new movement to diagnose and, eventually, treat the disease earlier.

The new diagnostic guidelines, presented Tuesday at an international Alzheimer’s meeting in Hawaii, would mean that new technology like brain scans would be used to detect the disease even before there are evident memory problems or other symptoms.

Racial and cultural differences may impact how early people with dementia are diagnosed, the type of care they receive and how long they live - and they even impact the way families of Alzheimer's patients deal with grief when their loved ones dies, according to several new studies.

Research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Monday suggests more culturally-tailored resources could benefit African Americans, Latinos and other minority groups.

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