dementia

  1. 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.

  2. Pink isn't just for princesses

    Looking to preserve your power to think? Think pink!

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

    It's called astaxanthin, and eating it is what turns shrimp, krill and salmon that delicious pink color.

    And when you hear about what else it can do, you might turn pink with envy--because this pigment is also an antioxidant 500 times more powerful than vitamin E.

    It can even beat PLOOH.

    OK, I know that may sound silly--will PLIGLET show up next?--but PLOOH is short for phospholipid hydroperoxides, a compound known to build up in the red blood cells of dementia patients.

    Stopping PLOOH might be the key to stopping dementia--and a new study finds that astaxanthin stops this stuff cold: Patients given the antioxidant saw levels fall by as much as 50 percent.

    Even PLEYORE might get happy over that.

    Patients who got a placebo, on the other hand, had no change in PLOOH levels, according to the study in the British Journal of Nutrition.

    We'll need more research before we can say for sure whether astaxanthin can stop, slow or prevent dementia… but that's no reason to delay making it a key part of your antioxidant regimen.

    Astaxanthin can protect your skin from the damage of sun and age. It's also great for your eyes, and some studies have found it can help your joints, too.

    One study found it can even raise HDL cholesterol by up to 15 percent and lower levels of deadly triglycerides by up to 25 percent.

    But let's get back to the brain--because there's something else from the sea that can keep yours as sharp as a knife: fish oil.

    Studies have found that the great omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can boost memory and cognitive power, and maybe even protect against Alzheimer's disease.

    Wild salmon just happens to be a great source of both omega-3 fatty acids and astaxanthin--but unless you're a bear, you're probably not eating it every day.

    Work in a supplement instead. (And for more on brain- boosting supplements, read this.)

    But not every brain boost comes in a bottle.

    In addition to good nutrition, be sure give your noggin a good workout. Studies have shown that if you don't use it, you could lose it.

    For some real mental gymnastics, try to sprechen some deutsch or parlez-vous a little français--because one new study finds that people who speak two or more languages can put off or even avoid Alzheimer's disease.

    And that's fantástico in any language.

  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Staying connected, staying healthy

    Having a strong social support circle is a key factor in overall health when it comes to aging.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Worried about dementia? Relax!

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    A study found that people who have less stress have a lower risk of dementia.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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?
  16. 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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