Tag Archives: research

New survey shows need to increase Alzheimer’s awareness for American women

While it may seem unfathomable to those of us who have seen Alzheimer’s and other dementia touch the lives of our families, a new survey from the Cleveland Clinic suggests that the majority of American women may not be aware of their own risk for the disease.

In what researchers from the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) at Cleveland Clinic called a “startling fact,” 82 percent of women do not know they are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, though two-thirds of cases are women. Only 12% of women who took the survey knew about a potential link between estrogen loss and Alzheimer’s, an area that the Cleveland Clinic is researching.

In other findings from the study, 73% of women have not had a discussion with their doctors about their cognitive health and 62% of women have not discussed menopause or perimenopause. The changes women experience during menopause can impact cognitive health, so it’s important for women to talk to their doctors to learn steps they can take to reduce their risk of dementia.

According to the study, two in five women have dealt with anxiety, depression and/or insomnia.

One not surprising finding from the study: 56 percent of women reported not getting enough sleep. We know that sleep quality can have a direct impact on cognitive health and there is research to suggest poor sleep quality during mid-life can increase one’s risk of dementia. A potential reason for the poor sleep? Over half of the women who took the survey said they cared for others.

While the results of the survey are concerning, researchers said the good news is that women are interested and motivated in learning more about ways they can maintain good cognitive health.

Image by geralt/Pixabay.

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Studying blood vessels in the brain to develop targeted treatment for Alzheimer’s

There is more interesting research going on in the world of Alzheimer’s. Scientists are examining whether the brain’s infrastructure plays a role in a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. A damaged vascular system in the brain could develop cognitive performance issues, akin to an aging power grid that struggles to deliver power to a city, according to the research discussed in this Stanford Medicine Scope blog post.

In looking at a genetic atlas of the brain, researchers found that the “majority of the top Alzheimer’s risk genes are significantly expressed in the [brain’s] vasculature.” If you want to do a deep dive into the research, take a look at the study published in Nature.

The new technology used to create a genetic atlas and the accompanying discoveries give Alzheimer’s researchers new avenues to explore. No cause and effect has been established yet between brain vascular damage and Alzheimer’s risk, but there will now be additional research conducted to examine this area.

What could this mean for potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease down the road? According to the Tony Wyss-Coray, who runs the lab where the research was conducted, treatments that could target the brain’s vascular system may be more easily accessible as the blood-brain barrier presents a challenge when it comes to getting drugs into the brain.

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New research finds potential cause of Alzheimer’s disease

A recent study from researchers at UC Riverside offers intriguing data that could lead to a better understanding of what causes Alzheimer’s disease.

Plaques and tangles in the brain have been a focus of Alzheimer’s researchers and some believe ridding the brain of the buildup will help in treating the disease. Approximately 20 percent of people have plaques detected in the brain, but do not develop dementia, prompting researchers to do a deeper investigation of the tau protein. Their results suggest that a specific presentation of the protein was linked to the development of dementia. The body has an automatic mechanism called autophagy to clear defective proteins from cells, but that process slows as we age, especially for those over the age of 65.

The researchers described the defective tau protein as “trying to put a right-handed glove on your left hand.”

If their preliminary research proves to be correct, there are drugs being tested to improve the autophagy process, which could potentially be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

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New study on family caregiving yields suprising finding

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As a journalist, I am inundated with dozens of reports on new medical studies weekly. The number has only increased during the coronavirus pandemic. One caught my eye this week, because I saw outlets running cheery headlines that set off my BS detector.

One headline example: “Long thought to be damagingly stressful, family caregiving does no harm”

That is quite a proclamation! It is certainly news to the thousands of us who have been family caregivers and experienced mental, emotional, and physical side effects. As with most such overly optimistic headlines, I go to the originating source. In this case, it’s a Johns Hopkins study, Transition to Family Caregiving, which found that “caregivers didn’t have significantly greater inflammation over a nine-year period.”

Certainly this is a significant finding, and it is good news that family caregiving may not have long-term physical effects. My concern is the way such studies are promoted across social media, which could cause family caregivers who are struggling to doubt their own experiences.

Let me be clear that caregivers should always listen to their own body, no matter what a study proclaims. Family caregivers may experience a range of emotional, mental and physical side effects attributed to caregiving. This can include anxiety, anger, depression, burnout, insomnia and appetite issues, just to name several common ailments. While these periods of stress may not trigger a response that show up in an inflammation study, it doesn’t mean that your symptoms are not real.

Bottom line, studies are useful but you know your own body better than any researcher. Don’t let rosy headlines discourage you from seeking help if you are feeling overwhelmed by the duties of family caregiving.

That being said, for those who are anxious about the long-lasting impact of family caregiving on their health, this study may help ease worries. I have found that being a family caregiver can strengthen one’s resiliency, which is a positive in these challenging times.

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