Posts tagged ‘dementia’
People who have a cynical distrust of others, and think their motives are selfish, could have a higher risk of developing dementia, a study has said.
Researchers compared levels of cynical distrust in 622 people with the incidence of dementia.
They said people with high levels of distrust were twice as likely to develop dementia.
Experts said any findings that helped understand the disease were important, but called for larger studies.
Personality and disease
Dementia is a syndrome categorised by a decline in memory, thinking speed, mental agility, language, understanding and judgement.
One in three people aged over 65 in Britain will develop dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK.
In 1998, volunteers, with an average age of 71, were asked to rate their agreement with statements such as “I think people would lie to get ahead”, or “it is safer to trust nobody”, said the researchers.
Scientists at the University of Eastern Finland said 46 people had developed dementia in the following decade.
Fourteen of the 164 people who showed high levels of cynical distrust in 1998 had developed dementia in this time, compared with nine out of the 212 people with low levels.
Dr Anna-Maija Tolppanen at the University of Eastern Finland led the study.
She said: “These results add to the evidence that people’s view on life and personality may have an impact on their health.”
Explaining the results, Dr Tolppanen said: “People with different personality traits may be more or less likely to engage in activities that are beneficial for cognition, such as healthy diet, cognitive or social activities, or exercise.
“Or personality may act via morphological changes or structural differences in brains. Also, inflammation has been suggested as one link between cynicism and worse health outcomes.”
She said the study was controlled for socioeconomic factors, age, sex, health status, and lifestyle, such as smoking and alcohol use.
Role of depression
But Dr Tolppanen said she had not accounted for people becoming depressed after the first stage of the assessment, or that the volunteers’ depression might not have showed up adequately in questionnaires.
She added it was “really important” to replicate the findings on a much larger scale, to prove the link.
Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “With the rising numbers of people affected with dementia, any addition our understanding of what might affect disease development is important.”
He said that as only a small number of people in the study developed dementia, he would want to see a larger study conducted to be “more confident” in the proposed link.
Dr Ridley said the volunteers with a high level of cynical distrust could have been already beginning to develop dementia, and that depression, which may be both a risk factor and a symptom for dementia, could account for the cynicism.
“The biggest risk factor for dementia is age, by far,” he said.
Browning meat in the oven, grill or frying pan produces chemicals which may increase the risk of developing dementia, US researchers suggest.
Advanced glycation end (AGE) products have been linked to diseases such as type-2 diabetes.
Mice fed a high-AGEs diet had a build-up of dangerous proteins in the brain and impaired cognitive function.
Experts said the results were “compelling” but did not provide “definitive answers”.
AGEs are formed when proteins or fats react with sugar. This can happen naturally and during the cooking process.
Researchers at the Icahn school of medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York, tested the effect of AGEs on mice and people.
The animal experiments, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that a diet rich in AGEs affects the chemistry of the brain.
It leads to a build-up of defective beta amyloid protein – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. The mice eating a low-AGEs diet were able to prevent the production of damaged amyloid.
The mice performed less well in physical and thinking tasks after their AGEs-rich diet.
A short-term analysis of people over 60 suggested a link between high levels of AGEs in the blood and cognitive decline.
The study concluded: “We report that age-related dementia may be causally linked to high levels of food advanced glycation end products.
“Importantly, reduction of food-derived AGEs is feasible and may provide an effective treatment strategy.”
Derek Hill, a professor of medical imaging sciences at University College London, commented: “The results are compelling.
“Because cures for Alzheimer’s disease remain a distant hope, efforts to prevent it are extremely important, but this study should be seen as encouraging further work, rather than as providing definitive answers.
“But it is grounds for optimism – this paper adds to the body of evidence suggesting that using preventative strategies might reduce the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in society and that could have very positive impact on us all.”
Dr Simon Ridley, from the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Diabetes has previously been linked to an increased risk of dementia, and this small study provides some new insight into some of the possible molecular processes that may link the two conditions.
“It’s important to note that the people in this study did not have dementia. This subject has so far not been well studied in people, and we don’t yet know whether the amount of AGEs in our diet might affect our risk of dementia.”
Exercise throughout a person’s life plays a significant role in reducing the risk of developing dementia, a study spanning 35 years has found.
The Cardiff University study which began with 2,235 men from Caerphilly in 1979 found factors including diet and not smoking had an impact on preventing illnesses developing in older age.
However exercise had the single biggest influence on dementia levels.
This week a G8 summit will hear dementia will affect 135m by 2050.
‘Really amazed us’
The research by Cardiff University found the five factors that were integral to helping avoid disease were regular exercise, not smoking, low bodyweight, healthy diet and low alcohol intake.
Caerphilly Cohort Study
The study has followed a group of 2,235 men aged between 25 and 49 from Caerphilly, just north of Cardiff, since 1979.
It has recorded their behaviour in relation to their health over that period, initially focusing on the causes of heart disease, which was particularly high in the area.
As time has gone on, the study has moved to looking at the effects of dementia and strokes.
Over 400 research papers in the medical press have been produced from its findings.
One of the contributions was the discovery that aspirin helped prevent heart attacks.
The study has been funded by the Medical Research Council, the Alzheimer’s Society and the British Heart Foundation.
People in the study who followed four of these had a 60% decline in dementia and cognitive decline rates, with exercise named as the strongest mitigating factor.
They also had 70% fewer instances of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, compared with people who followed none of the factors.
Professor Peter Elwood, who led the study on behalf of Cardiff School of Medicine, said healthy behaviour was far more beneficial than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.
“The size of reduction in the instance of disease owing to these simple healthy steps has really amazed us and is of enormous importance in an ageing population,” he said.
“Taking up and following a healthy lifestyle is however the responsibility of the individual him or herself.
“Sadly, the evidence from this study shows that very few people follow a fully healthy lifestyle.”
‘More active lifestyle’
Prof Elwood stressed that while one aspect of the five strands of behaviour mentioned may have more impact on certain illnesses, the emphasis was on an overall healthy lifestyle.
“Exercise happens to be the most important but the other factors come in very close behind,” he added.
He told BBC Wales while the recommended levels of exercise were half an hour five times a week, it did not mean having to go to a gym.
“We should all live a more active lifestyle. If I park my car a mile from work – that makes me likely to do more than the half an hour a day. Any exercise has some benefit and the more, the better.”
The research showed that while smoking levels had dropped over the 35 years, the number of people leading what the team described as a fully healthy lifestyle had not changed.
This study provides more evidence to show that healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia”
Dr Doug BrownAlzheimer’s Society
These findings are replicated across Wales, according to recent surveys, which showed less than 1% of the population have a fully healthy lifestyle, with 5% not following any of the five recommended points.
Prof Elwood added: “If the men had been urged to adopt just one additional healthy behaviour at the start of the study 35 years ago, and if only half of them complied, then during the ensuing 35 years there would have been a 13% reduction in dementia, a 12% drop in diabetes, 6% less vascular disease and a 5% reduction in deaths.”
Prof Elwood said everyone had to take personal responsibility for their health
Dr Doug Brown from the Alzheimer’s Society said: “‘We have known for some time that what is good for your heart is also good for your head, and this study provides more evidence to show that healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia.
‘These large, longitudinal studies are expensive and complicated to run, but are essential to understand how dementia can be prevented.”
The research team estimated that unhealthy living has accounted for around 10% of the NHS budget in Wales since the study began.
Health Minister Mark Drakeford said the study “threw into sharp relief” the extent to which preventing illness lay in a person’s own hands.
The research is being published in the PLOS One journal.
Mid-life stress may increase a woman’s risk of developing dementia, according to researchers.
In a study of 800 Swedish women, those who had to cope with events such as divorce or bereavement were more likely to get Alzheimer’s decades later.
The more stressful events there were, the higher the dementia risk became, BMJ Open reports.
The study authors say stress hormones may be to blame, triggering harmful alterations in the brain.
Stress hormones can cause a number of changes in the body and affect things such as blood pressure and blood sugar control.
Current evidence suggest the best ways to reduce the risk of dementia are to eat a balanced diet, take regular exercise, not smoke, and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check”
Dr Simon RidleyAlzheimer’s Research UK
And they can remain at high levels many years after experiencing a traumatic event, Dr Lena Johansson and colleagues explain.
But they say more work is needed to confirm their findings and ascertain whether the same stress and dementia link might also occur in men.
In the study, the women underwent a battery of tests and examinations when they were in either their late 30s, mid-40s or 50s, and then again at regular intervals over the next four decades.
At the start of the study, one in four women said they had experienced at least one stressful event, such as widowhood or unemployment.
A similar proportion had experienced at least two stressful events, while one in five had experienced at least three. The remaining women had either experienced more than this or none.
During follow-up, 425 of the women died and 153 developed dementia.
When the researchers looked back at the women’s history of mid-life stress, they found the link between stress and dementia risk.
Dr Johansson says future studies should look at whether stress management and behavioural therapy might help offset dementia.
Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said that from this study, it was hard to know whether stress contributed directly to the development of dementia, whether it was purely an indicator of another underlying risk factor in this population of women, or whether the link was due to an entirely different factor.
“We know that the risk factors for dementia are complex and our age, genetics and environment may all play a role. Current evidence suggests the best ways to reduce the risk of dementia are to eat a balanced diet, take regular exercise, not smoke, and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check.
“If you are feeling stressed or concerned about your health in general, we would recommend you talk this through with your GP.”
Communities need to look after people with dementia because too often they feel trapped and cut off from everyday local life, a charity says.
One in three people over the age of 65 develop the disease, but the Alzheimer’s Society says this large group is neglected by society.
It sought the views of 510 dementia patients and their carers.
A third of the patients said they left their home just once a week, and one in 10 said they got out only once a month.
Almost half avoided getting involved with local life because they felt they were a burden, and less than half felt part of the community.
A separate YouGov survey of more than 2,000 adults found most thought dementia patients’ level of inclusion of in the community was fairly or very bad.
The Alzheimer’s Society is campaigning for towns and cities to become “dementia-friendly”.
This includes opening up leisure activities to people with dementia and ensuring local transport services cater for their needs.
Shops and businesses should also train their staff to recognise and deal with customers who have dementia.
Lorraine Botbol, who cares for her mother who has dementia, called for more understanding about the disease.
“We took Mum out recently to a local supermarket because she used to love shopping,” she said.
“We always have a problem when we get to the cash desk.
“Mum is sometimes vocal and it often irritates people in the queue or sometimes even the cashier.
“This time, my mum got upset, and the cashier said she’d rather be dead than have dementia.
“It really upset me.
“You can’t just turn your back on people when they have dementia.
“My mum still enjoys activities and I wish people would wise up and understand you still need to value person when they have dementia.
“They’re still there, they just express themselves differently.”
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said it was shocking and saddening that so many people with dementia felt trapped and cut off.
“By committing to change, communities can give people with dementia the confidence to be part of local life and stay independent for longer.
“It’s vital that people sign up to the recognition process to kick-start this movement and help change attitudes and behaviour.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government was committed to backing initiatives to help manage dementia.
In December, the UK will use its presidency of the G8 to hold the first global dementia summit.
Two-thirds of people with dementia live in the community, and a third of these are living on their own.
The number of people with dementia is increasing because people are living longer.
It is estimated that by 2021, there will be about a million people with dementia in the UK.
Older people’s risk of getting dementia is going down in the UK, research suggests.
A study in the Lancet reveals a smaller proportion of older people living in Britain now have the condition than experts had predicted.
Researchers say it could be a reflection of improving public health.
The work looks at three areas of England – Cambridgeshire, Nottingham and Newcastle – and compares dementia rates in people born 20 years apart.
Based on 1991 trends, experts had predicted 8% of over-65s would have dementia in 2011.
The actual figure for 2011 turned out to be just over 6%, the Cambridge University team discovered.
This could be because known risk factors for dementia are on the decline”
Co-researcher Prof Tony Arthurfrom the University of East Anglia
Applied to the whole UK, it would mean there are 214,000 fewer cases of dementia than predicted – a 24% reduction.
This suggests there are 670,000 people living in the UK with dementia, rather than the 800,000 – 900,000 figure that experts currently cite.
Prof Carol Brayne and colleagues who carried out the analysis say the UK is still seeing more cases of dementia year on year as a whole because of the nation’s ageing population.
More people are living to increasingly old ages, at which they are expected to be at the highest risk of dementia.
But for the individual, the study findings appear to be good news.
Co-researcher Prof Tony Arthur, from the University of East Anglia, said: “When you compared the two cohorts born 20 years apart you see that dementia prevalence has gone down.
“This could be because known risk factors for dementia are on the decline.”
He said there had been improvements in managing cardiovascular disease, which has been linked to an increased risk of dementia.
“More people are spending more time in education as well which might be protective,” he added.
Dr Eric Karran of Alzheimer’s Research UK said the study was robust and made reliable comparisons by looking at two groups of over-65s from the same geographical regions and using the same assessment and analysis tools, 20 years apart.
“One interpretation of the findings is that general health and health management has improved to the extent that it has helped reduce dementia risk, which is encouraging news for us all,” he said.
“However, this study clearly demonstrates that the risk of dementia can change with time, and for future birth cohorts it will be important to track, for example, the effects of the increase in obesity in the general population.”
The Alzheimer’s Society agreed, saying: “While this is good news, this is one study which needs careful examination and may not indicate a continuing trend.
“For example, we also know that other risk factors such as obesity are in fact increasing.
“Dementia remains the biggest health and social care challenge facing the UK. Today’s research doesn’t mean we can take our eye off the ball. With no cure, few effective treatments and an economic impact dwarfing that of cancer and heart disease, more research is needed to identify the causes of dementia and how to reduce people’s risk.”
The results are part of the MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Study of more than 15,000 older people.
THE number of Brits over-65 with dementia is almost a quarter less than predicted, a study says.
Scientists in 1991 forecast 884,000 would be hit by 2011, but there were only 670,000.
Estimates were based on two sets of interviews with people in Cambridgeshire, Newcastle and Nottingham.
The first series, with 7,000 people, began in 1989 and included questions on lifestyle, health and medication.
The second, identical series with 7,796 people ran from 2008.
From the findings, experts showed the number with dementia in 2011 was 24.1 per cent down on that expected.
Highest levels were found among women — 7.7 per cent compared to 4.9 per cent among men.
Professor Carol Brayne, of Cambridge University’s Institute of Public Health, described evidence from the Medical Research Council-funded study as “compelling”.
Alison Cook of the Alzheimer’s Society said the findings “could indicate better heart health and education” were combining to reduce the prevalence of dementia.
She added: “While this is good news this is one study which needs careful examination and may not indicate a continuing trend.
“For example, we also know other risk factors such as obesity are in fact increasing.
“Dementia remains the biggest health and social care challenge facing the UK. Today’s research doesn’t mean we can take our eye off the ball.”
Dr Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, said the study, published in the medical journal, was “important and welcome”.
Can the brain build up a memory reserve?
Keeping mentally active by reading books or writing letters helps protect the brain in old age, a study suggests.
A lifetime of mental challenges leads to slower cognitive decline after factoring out dementia’s impact on the brain, US researchers say.
The study, published in Neurology, adds weight to the idea that dementia onset can be delayed by lifestyle factors.
An Alzheimer’s charity said the best way to lower dementia risk was to eat a balanced diet, exercise and stay slim.
In a US study, 294 people over the age of 55 were given tests that measured memory and thinking, every year for about six years until their deaths.
The brain that we have in old age depends in part on what we habitually ask it to do in life”
Dr Robert Wilson Rush University Medical Center
They also answered a questionnaire about whether they read books, wrote letters and took part in other activities linked to mental stimulation during childhood, adolescence, middle age, and in later life.
After death, their brains were examined for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, such as brain lesions and plaques.
The study found that after factoring out the impact of those signs, those who had a record of keeping the brain busy had a rate of cognitive decline estimated at 15% slower than those who did not.
Dr Robert Wilson, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who led the study, said the research suggested exercising the brain across a lifetime was important for brain health in old age.
He told BBC News: “The brain that we have in old age depends in part on what we habitually ask it to do in life.
“What you do during your lifetime has a great impact on the likelihood these age-related diseases are going to be expressed.”
Dementia exacts a heavy toll on society, with more than 820,000 people in the UK alone currently living with the condition.
Commenting on the study, Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said there was increasing evidence mental activity may help protect against cognitive decline. But the underlying reasons for this remained unclear.
“By examining donated brain tissue, this study has shed more light on this complex question, and the results lend weight to the theory that mental activity may provide a level of ‘cognitive reserve’, helping the brain resist some of the damage from diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” he said.
Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, added: “More research and bigger studies are needed, but in the meantime reading more and doing crosswords can be enjoyable and certainly won’t do you any harm.
“The best way to reduce your risk of developing dementia is to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.”