People who live in close proximity to high-traffic roadways appear to have a higher risk of dementia than those who live farther away, say researchers, suggesting that air pollution from vehicles may be a factor in the development of the neurological disease. Read more here:
How can we look after our aging brains? If you're interested, the following article from the January 4th issues of the Los Angeles Times is a must read.
The aging brain is a shrinking brain, and a shrinking brain is, generally speaking, a brain whose performance and reaction time are declining: That is a harsh reality of growing older.
But new research shows that brain shrinkage is less pronounced in older folks whose diets hew closely to the traditional diet of Mediterranean peoples — including lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and olive oil, little red meat and poultry, and regular, moderate consumption of fish and red wine.
In a group of 562 Scots in their 70s, those whose consumption patterns more closely followed the Mediterranean diet experienced, on average, half the brain shrinkage that was normal for the group as a whole over a three-year period.
To glean how diet might influence brain aging, researchers tapped into a large group of Scottish people who were all born in 1936 and had many measures of health status and lifestyle tracked from an early age.
Around the time they reached age 70, 843 members of the “Lothian Birth Cohort” filled out a dietary frequency form that gave researchers a broad look at what foods they ate, which they avoided, and how often they consumed them. At about age 73 and again around age 76, their brains were scanned to gauge the volume of the overall organ and a few of its key components.
The researchers used the food-frequency surveys to divide the group into two — those who at least approximated a Mediterranean-style diet and those who came nowhere close. Even though many in the Med-diet group were far from perfect in their adherence, the average brain-volume loss differed significantly between the two groups.
Findings on the impact of Mediterranean diet on healthy aging have been pretty strong — this is generally a good way to eat. Studies large and small have established that following a Mediterranean diet is effective at driving down heart attack, stroke and premature death risks, and improving the health conditions — including hypertension, worrisome cholesterol levels and metabolic problems — that raise those risks.
But researchers are less sure of the particulars of how the diet promotes better health.
In recent years, studies have sought to tease out not only how great the benefits are, but how they work: whether healthier brain-aging is a function of better vascular health or preserved brain volume, and whether the diet’s advantages lie in its dearth of red meat, the positive effects of the fatty acids in fish or olive oil, or the combined benefits of its plant-based foods.
Researchers also must demonstrate that, in their measurements of dietary intake and health, they’re not actually capturing well-understood relationships between intelligence, education and long-term health: People with certain cognitive strengths do better and stay longer in school and earn more; yes, the better educated and paid may consume healthier diets, but they are generally healthier anyway, so maybe the healthier diet is incidental.
The newest study, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, helps untangle many of those mysteries. But it also leaves many questions unanswered.
Contrary to some research findings on the Mediterranean diet, the findings suggest that reduced brain shrinkage is not specifically linked to low intake of meat and high intake of fish. Maybe, the authors suggest (and many researchers believe this), the magic in the Mediterranean diet is all those plant-based foods, acting collectively to improve subjects’ cognitive health.
The study also finds that subjects across the spectrum of intellect and educational attainment reaped the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in reducing brain shrinkage (or, alternatively, suffered the effects of diets that departed sharply from that diet’s emphasis on plants, fish and polyunsaturated fats). That suggests the researchers are not wrongly crediting subjects’ dietary choices for advantages that may actually stem from higher intelligence and educational attainment.
Finally, the researchers wrote, the study’s design helps establish that the brain-shrinkage rates seen are likely to be the result of dietary patterns, and not just an association. That’s because the subjects’ dietary patterns were measured first, about the time that participants reached 70 years old. Their brain volumes were then measured by imaging scans three and six years later.
Assuming that people did not dramatically change their dietary patterns — a shift that is considered unlikely for folks in their 70s — researchers believe that the dietary habits that Scots reported as they entered older age played some role in the brain changes they detected further down the road.
Left unexplored here is whether a midlife shift toward the Mediterranean diet could have the same effects, or whether the group differences in brain volume are the rewards or penalties for a lifetime of dietary choices.
There’s good evidence that, when it comes to making better dietary choices, earlier is better. In a 2013 study of more than 10,000 women, researchers found that those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet in their 50s and 60s were about 40% more likely to live past the age of 70 without chronic illness and without physical or mental problems than were those with less-healthy diets.
Antipsychotic medications are warranted, but are being relied upon far too often in seniors with dementia.
Here is a recent Globe and Mail article exploring this important issue: Read this on The Globe and Mail
Caring for a parent afflicated with Alzheimers is challenging.
Listen here https://soundcloud.com/680cjob/parenting-our-parents as Dr. Michael Gordan discusses key considerations in a CJOB 680 interivew with host Jeff Currier in Winnipeg.
This is an email from a long time friend on the west coast.
Her point is simple and poignent… a nursing home drama: wrong treatment.
Her challenge: how to help her failing fahter.
It's not pretty, and so many of us experience the same trauma.
Please read on.
On Thursday, dad's geriatric psychiatrist contacted me to discuss his treatment. The facility is saying he is being aggressive, so they are looking at his meds to adjust. Less than a half hour later the doctor called me back asking if the facility had contacted me because they are indicating they will send him to emergency where he will essentially be sedated. The doctor doesn't agree with this and has him on the waiting list to get into the geriatric floor at the hospital.
Dad is physically fine, he gets around and is busy. He tends to get into other people's rooms and moves everything around and tries to fix things. His eyesight is really bad, so he feels for things. One care aide at the home is calling this aggressive behaviour. He has had a couple of incidents, but they were because he was alone and could have been redirected, no one was hurt or even close to being hurt. Dad jokingly does a one two jab action, then laughs. It is a jest, not aggressive whatsoever. His main care aides say he is the least aggressive person, but busy and gets into things. The facility have told us we have to be there from the time he wakes until he goes to sleep or they will send him to emergency here he will be sedated and returned to the facility or he may not have anywhere to go.
The home has a lack of staff and often there is often no LPN on his floor. If they are on breaks there is no one there. This is a dementia unit for high needs patients. They will move in temporary replacement staff that do not have dementia training, nor read the patients charts and make comments such as why are we even feeding these people.
They have lost his shoes, his dentures, his glasses, they don't shave him and I have to ask for him to be changed. They are supposed to contact us when incidents occur and they haven't.
It is appalling. I am putting in a formal complaint to the health authority, licensing board, and ministry. The disease is hard enough on its own without having to deal with the system. Not sure why I am sharing, except that I know you went through the disease part. This is not the norm as far as care, is it? I am working with the doctor and hopefully we can get him into a place that has adequate care.
Maybe you need a follow up book on how to ensure your parent is being cared for?
Clearly, her father needs the right kind of care.
He seems to need regular attention and care. And a way to vent his interets and energy. It seems he's not violent or dangerous. But ongoing stimulation may be needed.
Bottom line: the system needs stronger checks and balances. It needs to be able to effectively understand and manage the needs to those who are suffering from various stages of dementia.
We tripped across this multi-week free course offered online by the University of Tasmania in Australia. We did not sign up, but we did poke around and it looks interesting, engaging, and helpful.
It's worth checkng out.
This article could help you think about ways to inspire your aging parents to get the most out of their lives moving ahead.
It focuses on lifestyle, motivation, activities, and social interaction. Read it here: http://ctv.news/cAtd84g
Here is a very thought-provoking recent article from the Globe & Mail about whether those of us caring for aging parents with dementia should consider getting ourselves tested to see if we have the gene that will more than likely ensure we end up with Alzheimers. It will make you think about this pressing dilemma.
A blood test can reveal if you carry a hereditary gene, but many people decline to find out.
Marty and Matt Reiswig, two brothers in Denver, knew that Alzheimer’s disease ran in their family, but neither of them understood why. Then a cousin, Gary Reiswig, whom they barely knew, wrote a book about their family, The Thousand Mile Stare.
Here is a really interesting recent article on hoe evolving technology could do more to help in the home where demential is an issue and challenge:
A chance conversation was all it took to give Alex Mihailidis’s burgeoning career a new focus.
As a graduate student in 1996, the now 41-year-old met a man whose wife had developed dementia in her early 50s. Her bizarre behaviour, such as taking soiled toilet paper, folding it up and hiding it around the house, had her husband at wit’s end.
Childless, unmarried baby boomers warned to prepare for future.
Dr. Mireille Norris says elder orphans are a growing problem across the country.
A new study is raising awareness about the problem of "elder orphans" — seniors who have no children, spouse or any other family member to care for them as they age.
The research comes on the heels of an incident earlier this week in North Carolina in which an 81-year-old cancer patient with no caregiver called 911 to ask someone to buy him some food.
Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, the chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at North Shore-LIJ Health System, recently completed a case study and literature review that she will be presenting to The American Geriatrics Society's Annual Scientific Meeting this weekend.