dementia

  1. Your thirsty, thirsty brain

    Coca-Cola used to call its drink "the ideal brain tonic," proving that companies put marketing ahead of reality even in the long-ago days of Way Back When.

    But while soda will actually rot your brain, there's another beverage that really can protect it -- and it's something many of us already enjoy at the end of the day: Booze.

    I've told you before how alcohol can boost your health and well-being and slash your disease risk, and a new study confirms that a moderate drinking habit can even save your brain from the ravages of dementia.

    Researchers tracked 3,202 Germans over the age of 75 who did not have dementia at the start of the three-year study. Roughly half didn't drink at all, while 25 percent sipped less than one a day, 13 percent enjoyed between one and two, and 12 percent drank even more than that.

    Overall, the researchers found that the moderate drinkers -- those who had a glass or two a day -- were 30 percent less likely to develop dementia during the study period than non-drinkers.

    These healthy drinkers also had a 40 percent lower risk of the most frightening cognitive disorder of all: Alzheimer's disease.

    Wine was the most popular drink, followed by beer... but the researchers wrote in Age and Ageing that there were no significant differences in the types of booze -- just between moderate drinkers and nondrinkers.

    Other studies have also found that drinking can protect the brain and lower the risk of dementia. Research published in 2009 found that seniors who enjoyed between eight and 14 drinks a week were 37 percent less likely to develop dementia than nondrinkers.

    Another study published last year found that women who have a drink or two a day have a 52 percent lower risk of Alzheimer's, while men can lower the odds by 20 percent.

    Think that's all? Not even close -- there's actually been more than 70 studies on this over the years, and most of them have reached a similar conclusion.

    Just remember: Too much booze can actually hurt your brain, not save it. Heavy drinkers have a higher risk of dementia, and by some estimates alcohol abuse plays a role in up to 10 percent of all cases.

    Keep it moderate, however, and you won't just protect your brain. A healthy drinking habit can lower the risk cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

    Drinkers are also happier, wealthier, smarter -- and they even live longer, too.

  2. The incredible shrinking brain

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    There's one part of the body you don't want to see get smaller--and no, men, it's not down there.

    It's the brain--and while we all lose a little grey matter as we age, too much shrinkage has been linked to dementia.

    Now, a new study finds that the loss of brain mass found in Alzheimer's patients might actually be detectable up to a decade before the telltale signs of the disease appear.

    Researchers looked at two groups of 33 healthy people in their 70s who were given MRI scans of the regions of the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease, and then tracked for between 8 and 11 years.

    The researchers say 55 percent of the 11 people who had the lowest MRI measurements eventually developed Alzheimer's disease... versus none of the nine people with the highest measurements and just 20 percent of those with normal readings, according to the study in Neurology.

    A similar study in 2009 found that people with smaller hippocampal volumes and faster shrinkage rates were between two and four times more likely to develop dementia than people with larger hippocampal volumes and slower rates of shrinkage.

    Like I said earlier, all brains shrink with age--so don't worry about the normal loss of volume, which is about half a percent a year in seniors.

    More than that, however, and you still don't have to accept dementia as your fate. In fact, you might even be able to slow that shrinkage with ordinary B vitamins.

    Researchers found that a patented blend of folate, B12 and B6 slowed the rate of brain shrinkage by an average of 30 percent when compared to a placebo in a study of 168 seniors who suffered from mild cognitive impairment.

    The patients who had the highest levels of the inflammation marker homocysteine had an even greater benefit, with the B blend lowering their shrinkage rates by 53 percent. (Read about that here.)

    Brain shrinkage isn't the only dementia warning sign to watch for--another new study finds that people who lose the ability to detect lies and sarcasm may actually suffer from frontotemporal dementia, a form of the disease that affects about 5 percent of all dementia patients.

    Researchers from U.C. San Francisco asked 175 older adults--half of whom had some form of dementia--to watch videos of two people speaking, one of whom occasionally lied or used sarcasm.

    While the patients without dementia had no problems picking up on it, the ones who showed signs of frontotemporal dementia missed it.

    Two messages from this: First, if someone in your life starts missing sarcasm and lies, it may be time to bring them to a specialist.

    And second, if they do have this form of dementia, they may be especially prone to scams and con artists--so keep a close eye on them and their finances.

  3. Pink isn't just for princesses

    Researchers say a common source of the color, a pigment that comes from undersea algae, could help prevent dementia.
  4. New warning over dementia overmedication

    Studies have shown over and over that a little TLC goes a long way for dementia patients. Of course, that takes time and patience--two things health care professionals seem to be lacking these days.
  5. How 'B' can beat dementia

    There may "B" an answer to Alzheimer's after all--and it might even be something you're taking right now. Researchers have found that high levels of three common B vitamins can dramatically slash the brain shrinkage associated with dementia and related conditions.
  6. Dementia's earliest warning sign?

    The first signs of dementia may not be absent-mindedness... but a vision problem that can appear years before the condition itself.
  7. Staying connected, staying healthy

    Having a strong social support circle is a key factor in overall health when it comes to aging.
  8. Hearts & minds: The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids

    Do you want to keep your mind in top shape and lower your risk for dementia? The answer is simple: Eat more fish.
  9. Connecting the brain to the heart

    We think of Alzheimer's disease as a brain disorder – but new research suggests the answer may be closer to the heart.
  10. Painkillers every day? No way!

    Researchers found that regular users of ibuprofen, naproxen and other painkillers were actually more likely to come down with dementia.
  11. Statins: Not good for dementia, either

    Researchers have carried out a major review of the studies on this, and they've concluded that statins won't have any impact whatsoever on your Alzheimer's risk.
  12. Worried about dementia? Relax!

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    A study found that people who have less stress have a lower risk of dementia.
  13. Diabetes: Even worse than you thought

    The latest data links the disease to an increased risk of Alzheimer's, and shows how diabetes appears to help dementia take hold faster once it sets in.
  14. Hypertension on the brain? Get it under control fast

    An interesting new study shows just how important it is to keep your blood pressure under control, especially as you age.
  15. Worried about dementia? Relax!

    A study found that people who have less stress have a lower risk of dementia. It also found a lower risk in people who are more socially active.
  16. You're not sick – you're over-medicated

    How many elderly patients are diagnosed with dementia each year that are really just taking too many-or the wrong-medications?
  17. Keeping your brain sharp may be easier than you think

    You can get a sneak peek at an elderly person's future mental health if you know something about their lifestyle, outlook and exercise habits.

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