vascular dementia

  1. How physical activities can save your brain

    The right moves for beating dementia

    Want to beat dementia? Start moving.

    The couch potato lifestyle is responsible for 21 percent of all dementia cases, making it one of the leading preventable causes of the brain-robbing condition.

    If that's not enough to get you off the sofa and outside, take a look at the latest research, which confirms exactly what I've seen all along: Seniors who get even moderate levels of basic physical activities have a much lower risk of cognitive problems, including dementia, than couch potatoes.

    And that's even true of people who have some of the earliest warning signs of dementia within the brain itself.

    For the new study, researchers recruited 638 seniors who had the type of damage in the brain linked to dementia, but no actual outward signs of the disease, and tracked them for three years.

    Those who got even very modest levels of physical activities were 60 percent less likely to develop any form of cognitive impairment and 40 percent less likely to suffer from vascular dementia over those three years.

    The only condition where physical activities didn't show a direct benefit was full-blown Alzheimer's -- but I've seen other studies that have shown otherwise. One study published earlier this year found that the most sedentary seniors have 2.3 times the risk of Alzheimer's disease of those who are most active.

    In the new study, the levels of physical activities were also fairly moderate -- just 30 minutes of walking, biking, or gym classes three times a week. Maybe that's enough to keep some forms of dementia at bay, but not quite enough to protect against Alzheimer's.

    I'd say shoot for more -- between two and three hours a week or more of light to moderate activity, and not just to save your brain.

    A little movement can help protect the rest of your body, too, by slashing your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and more. But let's stay focused on lowering that dementia risk today, because another new study shows what happens inside your brain when you get even a little bit of movement.

    Keep reading for more...

  2. Higher doses of bad meds

    What should you do with a med that doesn't work? Increase the dosage!

    That seems to be the philosophy behind the latest head- scratching move by the Food and Drug Administration, which recently approved higher doses of an Alzheimer's drug that has proven ineffective time and again.

    It's like repeatedly pushing the button for the elevator when the sign says "OUT OF ORDER."

    The drug is called donepezil, but you might know it as Aricept. Its makers, Pfizer and Eisai, say a company-funded trial shows that bigger doses may help improve cognitive skills in some patients... but the same trial also found no improvement in global function with the higher dose.

    Global function is exactly what it sounds like--the overall ability to function. With no improvement there, many patients are simply getting a double dose of nothing.

    Well, not exactly nothing: Side effects can include nausea, paranoia, agitation, aggression, vomiting, diarrhea and even anorexia. Some experience bizarre dreams--and those can be especially terrifying for people already losing touch with reality.

    And in 2006, 11 out of 648 vascular dementia patients taking Aricept as part of a clinical trial in Japan died... versus none in a placebo group of 326 patients.

    That's a pretty big toll for a drug that offers only minimal improvement, if anything at all. And that's not me talking--that's straight from a 2004 study.

    "Long-term use of donepezil provides minimal improvement in cognition and provides no benefit in preventing institutionalization," researchers wrote in BMJ. "Donepezil also provides no meaningful long-term protection against functional decline."

    Other studies have shown similarly unimpressive results. And earlier this year, the feds sent out a warning letter over Aricept commercials that showed Alzheimer's patients dramatically improving. The feds noted that just 5 percent of patients in clinical trials were considered to be either "moderately improved" or "markedly improved."

    "The majority of patients experienced no change or became worse on Aricept treatment," according to the FDA warning letter.

    In other words, those rapidly improving patients in the commercials are like the "after" images in scammy weight loss ads--these results are definitely not typical.

  3. Cholesterol's early link to dementia

    New research shows that high cholesterol levels in your middle ages can increase your risk for Alzheimer's disease 30 years down the road.

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