Information About Alzheimer's Disease


Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed Alzheimer's in a Dish. Human brain cells with Alzheimer's can now be grown in a petri dish. This discovery will enable scientists to study the disease and test different drugs in a less costly and efficient way. Lead researcher Rudolph Tanzi is now embarking on testing 1200 drugs on the market and 5000 experimental drugs that have completed their first clinical testing. While testing on mice can take approximately a year, testing in a petri dish can last for a few months, thus saving researchers valuable time and resources.



The April 10, 2014 edition of Medical Economics reported that older women are more likely to be afflicted with Alzheimer’s than breast cancer.  At age 60 years old, one out of six women will develop Alzheimer’s, and one out of eleven women will develop breast cancer. Two-thirds of the 5. 2 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s are women. Caregivers of those suffering with Alzheimer’s incur increased medical costs  (approximately $9.3 billion) because of stress.

4/10/14 Medical Economics p. 25.


Dr. Bryan James of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago has found that more deaths can be attributable to Alzheimer’s than previously reported. It is more likely that Alzheimer’s is the number two cause of death in this country.  Alzheimer’s affects part of the brain that controls breathing, heart rate and swallowing. When completing death certificates, most physicians mention pneumonia and heart failure but omit to mention the initial condition, Alzheimer’s. Patients who were aged 75 to 84 were four times as likely to die if they were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Similarly, Alzheimer’s patients aged 85 and older were three times more likely to die than those in the same age group who did not have Alzheimer’s. In 2010, 503,400 Americans who were aged 75 and older died from Alzheimer’s but only 83,494 deaths were reported as being Alzheimer’s related on death certificates.


The importance of healthy eating was demonstrated by a study conducted by the University of Eastern Finland. The results were published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders and Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. The study reveals that people in their 50s who maintain a diet low in saturated fats, including berries, fruits, vegetables, fish, had  90% less chance of dementia than those who indulged in sausages, salty fish, sugary drinks, dessert, candy and saturated fats from milk products. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends “protective foods” such as prunes, raisins, red grapes, plums, blueberries, cherries, broccoli, spinach, kale, onion, red bell pepper, beets and eggplant, nuts (almonds, walnuts and pecans), and cold-water fish (trout, salmon, tuna, mackerel and halibut). Taking vitamins such as C, E, folate and B12 is beneficial.


A blood test can predict whether people who are over age 70 will become afflicted with Alzheimer’s.  The samples of those who eventually had Alzheimer’s had ten depleted metabolites in their blood. The test is 90% accurate.



It is possible that lack of sleep could contribute to Alzheimer’s and disturbed sleep could cause Alzheimer’s. In a study described in the October 17 edition of Science, mice who were asleep had changes in their brain that were able to eliminate beta amyloid. In the October 21 edition of JAMA Neurology, research conducted at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health found that patients with less sleep had more amyloid plaque than those who had a good night’s sleep.


There is no link between the flu vaccine and Alzheimer’s. In fact, everyone should get their flu vaccine.


Alzheimer’s research is a top priority so even in an era of budget cuts, a $33.2 million grant will be used to test healthy people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The latest funding demonstrates a recognition that it is too late to administer drugs to people after symptoms of dementia are exhibited. It may be far more effective to administer drugs to people who are more likely to get Alzheimer’s because they possess risk factors like certain genes. Dr. Eric Reiman and Dr. Pierre Tariot of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute will test a drug that attacks amyloid (a protein that accumulates in plaques in the brains of those suffering from Alzheimer’s) or placebo on patients who possess two copies of the ApoE4 gene. The study hopes to prove that the drugs will be able to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s in people at risk. People with two copies of ApoE4 are over 50% more likely to get Alzheimer’s. No decision has been made about what drug will be used in the trials. It should be noted that the pharmaceutical industry will be funding the bulk of the research which will cost over $100 million.


Memory loss caused by age is not equivalent to memory loss suffered by those afflicted by Alzheimer’s. Scientists at Columbia University Medical Center were able to reverse memory loss caused by age by increasing or decreasing RbAp48, the gene associated with age-related memory loss. While older people and persons with Alzheimer’s may exhibit the same symptoms, different regions of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in memory, are impacted. The study appeared in the August 28, 2013 edition of Science Translational Medicine.


Read this poignant account by writer Bonnie Tsui whose grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s.


Proper dental hygiene could play a role in whether a person becomes afflicted with Alzheimer’s. British researchers found that four of ten Alzheimer’s patients had Porphyromonas gingivalis, bacterium that causes many periodontal diseases.


Read this summary of an interview with Robert Santulli, M.D., geriatric psychiatrist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and former President of the Alzheimer’s Association of Vermont and New Hampshire.


Dogs can provide a source of comfort to those afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
July 31, 2013


The FDA has issued guidelines for pharmaceutical companies that are developing drugs to combat Alzheimer’s. The guidelines recommend testing on persons with early stages of Alzheimer’s because persons with late Alzheimer’s have suffered irreversible brain damage.[tt_news]=208534


The results of a study conducted by Rand Corporation were reported in the New England Journal of Medicine today. The study, which was financed by the federal government, concludes that the costs and the number of people with dementia will double within 30 years. The study finds that these costs will be even higher than those associated with heart disease and cancer. The study is important because previous figures have been associated with the Alzheimer’s Association. Rand estimates that approximately 15% of people aged 71 or older—3.8 million people—have dementia. By 2040, there will be a staggering 9.1 million people afflicted with dementia. In 2010, health care expenses for dementia, including nursing home care, were $109 billion. The costs for heart disease totaled $102 billion and $77 billion for cancer. The study examined the cost of informal care for those suffering from dementia and found that it was often provided by family members at home. That cost was estimated at $50 billion to $106 billion depending on the type of position that a family member had to give up or the professional caregiver who was hired. Moreover, it costs approximately $41,000 to $56,000 a year to take care of a person suffering from dementia. By 2040, the total costs will balloon to a staggering $379 to $511 billion. The costs will also strain our Medicare system.


Medicare has refused to reimburse physicians for a PET (positron emission tomography) scan that detects beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s. This is a disappointing setback in the battle against Alzheimer’s because early detection of Alzheimer’s may enable doctors to slow the advancement of the disease.[tt_news]=208424


In recognition of the need to address the increasing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed to ease its rules for approving treatments for people in the early stages of the disease. Under the proposed policy, drug companies would have to show that patients had slight improvement on memory or reasoning tests, but companies would not have to demonstrate that their drugs improved patients’ daily functioning. Many people with early stages of Alzheimer’s do not exhibit deterioration of daily function and cognitive abilities. The F.D.A.’s proposal could help millions of people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s by speeding the development and approval of drugs.


Neurology is reporting alarming statistics. According to a new study published in the February 6, 2013 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple in the next 40 years. (A 2010 Census was used for the study.) Co-author Jennifer Weuve, MPH, ScD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, observes that “this increase is due to an aging baby boom generation. It will place a huge burden on society, disabling more people who develop the disease, challenging their caregivers, and straining medical and social safety nets." She further noted that "our study draws attention to an urgent need for more research, treatments and preventive strategies to reduce this epidemic."


Tau proteins provide stabilization for microtubules, which are structures found in the cytoplasm. Tau are found in neurons of the central nervous system. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania found that patients with Alzheimer’s diseases and frontotemporal lobar degeneration have neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) composed of pathological tau filaments. Penn researchers found that tau fibrils alone can recruit and convert soluble tau within cells into pathological clumps in neurons, followed by transmission of tau pathology to other inter-connected brain regions. The researchers used mice and synthetic fibrils made from recombinant protein. Dr. Virginia Lee explained, “Our new model of tau pathology spread provides an explanation to account for the stereotypical progression of Alzheimer's and other related tauopathies by implicating the cell-to-cell transmission of pathological tau in this process.” The results will be published in the Journal of Neuroscience.


A rare missense mutation (rs75932628-T) in the gene encoding the triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) is linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Carriers of rs75932628-T who were between the ages of 80 and 100 years old and did not have Alzheimer’s had poorer cognitive abilities than non-carriers.


Smoking, including second hand smoke, can lead to an increased risk of dementia. This finding was a result of a study by scientists in the United States, China and Great Britain. This makes it imperative for the government to protect people from environmental tobacco smoke.


Caregiving is extremely important for patients suffering with Alzheimer’s. A person with Alzheimer’s can decline more rapidly if he receives poor care; patients with positive spousal interactions or quality caregivers can delay institutionalization. A caregiver undergoes a great deal of stress when he is responsible for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s.  A caregiver’s ability to cope with the situation will positively impact the care of the patient and lead to a less rapid decline. Thus, “environmental factors such as cognitively stimulating environment in early dementia and closer caregiver-care recipient relationships predict slower declines in cognition and function.”

“Caregiver Coping Strategies Predict Cognitive and Functional Decline in Dementia: The Cache County Dementia Progression,” The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry Vol. 21, Issue 1 pp. 57-66 Jan 2013


In a groundbreaking study, surgeons of Johns Hopkins implanted a “pacemaker-like device” into the brains of patients suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Patients who are accepted into this trial have sufficient cognitive ability to agree to the procedure. The device can stimulate the brain and reverse cognitive decline, and it has been used in thousands of people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

In a prior study in Canada, devices were implanted in six Alzheimer’s afflicted patients who sustained glucose metabolism during a 13-month period. Alzheimer’s patients experience a decline in glucose metabolism.

Rather than use drugs to stem Alzheimer’s progress, Johns Hopkins is trying to mechanically stimulate the brain. University of Pennsylvania, University of Toronto and University of Florida are also participating in the study. 40 patients will receive the devices. Half of the subjects will receive brain stimulation every two weeks while the other half will have the stimulators turned on after one year. The participants do not know when they will be receiving the brain stimulation and cannot feel the electrical impulses.

“In US First, Johns Hopkins Surgeons Implant Brain ‘Pacemaker’ For Alzheimer’s Disease,” Medical News Today (Dec. 7, 2012)


A new software called PredictAD may be able to provide an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The software takes patient measurements and compares it to its large database of patients. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is important so that certain drug therapies can be applied.

“Half of Alzheimer’s Patients Could Be Diagnosed Earlier with Newly Developed Method,” Medical News Today (Dec. 7, 2012)


Here’s a reason to take Vitamin D: Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences has reported that vitamin D may decrease the chance of getting Alzheimer’s, especially in women.

“Link Between Vitamin D and Women’s Cognitive Performance,” Medical News Today (Dec. 4 2012)


Two groups of researchers have discovered a mutated gene called TREM2 that “interfere[s] with the brain’s ability to prevent the buildup of plaque” in the brain. If the gene is not mutated, white blood cells will destroy beta amyloid, the protein that forms plaques in the brain. If the gene is mutated, the white blood cells become less effective in destroying the beta amyloid. People are three to five times more likely to become afflicted with Alzheimer’s if they have TREM2.  Researchers at University College London and Washington University in St. Louis published their findings in the online edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.  The presence of another gene ApoE4, which was discovered in 1993, also makes it more likely that someone will contract Alzheimer’s. Although only two percent of Alzheimer’s sufferers have TREM2, this is another step to finding a cure for the disease.

Researchers are continuing to seek ways to combat Alzheimer’s. Clinical trials on Solanezumab, Eli Lilly’s drug, have shown some signs of slowing mental decline in patients with mild Alzheimer’s. While the results are “encouraging,” they are “not good enough to win approval” of the drug now, without another study to confirm there is a benefit. Solanezumab and two other drugs are in late-stage testing. The Eli Lilly drug has less side effects than the other two drugs.

Music has restorative powers and trigger memories. In the video mentioned in the article “Music Ignites Memories in Those Addled by Alzheimer’s,” Dan Cohen, founder of Music & Memory, demonstrates how music can literally transform a person by unlocking their memories. Ninety-two year old Henry Dryer, who appeared lifeless and could not even remember his daughter, perked up when he heard a tune that he heard years ago and could recall the exact words of the song. Some researchers hypothesize that Alzheimer’s does not affect the anterior temporal lobe, which helps people recognize melodies. Other researchers theorize that music memory is not located in one area of the brain and that it “activates multiple neurological processes, including cognition, emotional memory, and even motor skills.”  Jed Levine, EVP of the Alzheimer’s Association of New York, helped Cohen bring his project to fruition.


Researchers at Washington University have discovered that signs of Alzheimer’s can develop 25 years before the symptom of memory loss is exhibited. Randall Bateman, the first author of the study, observed that “a series of changes begin in the brain decades before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are noticed by patients or families, and this cascade of events may provide a timeline for symptomatic onset.” In the study, 128 people “at risk for carrying a mutation for the autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease were enrolled in the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN) study at 1 of 10 sites. “  (NEJM, 796). Autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease is a rare, hereditary form of Alzheimer’s; symptoms begin to exhibit when a person is in his 30s instead of age 65. Each subject was interviewed for family history and underwent neuropsychological tests, brain imaging, and cerebrospinal fluid and blood analysis. (NEJM, 796-97). The study found: 20 years before symptoms of Alzheimer’s exhibit, protein Amyloid beta decreases; 15 years before Alzheimer’s symptoms develop, tau protein levels begin to increase; 10 years before Alzheimer’s symptoms exhibit, the brain’s consumption of glucose is lower, and there is evidence of brain shrinkage and atrophy. These findings may help doctors judge the effectiveness of Alzheimer’s drug treatments in slowing and possibly even preventing the disease.

Purdy, Michael C. "First Detailed Timeline Established for Brain’s Descent into
  Alzheimer’s." Newsroom. Last modified July 1, 2012. Accessed September 2,
Bateman, Randall J., M.D., Chengjie Xiong, Ph.D., Tammie L.S. Benzinger, M.D., Ph.D.,
  Anne M. Fagan, Ph.D., Alison Goate, Ph.D., Nick C. Fox, M.D., Daniel S. Marcus, Ph.D., Nigel J. Cairns, Ph.D., Xianyun Xie, M.S., Tyler M. Blazey, B.S., David M. Holtzman, M.D., Anna Santacruz, B.S., Virginia Buckles, Ph.D., Angela Oliver, R.N., Krista Moulder, Ph.D., Paul S. Aisen, M.D., Bernardino Ghetti, M.D., William E. Klunk, M.D., Eric McDade, M.D., Ralph N. Martins, Ph.D., Colin L. Masters, M.D., Richard Mayeux, M.D., John M. Ringman, M.D., Martin N. Rossor, M.D., Peter R. Schofield, Ph.D., D.Sc., Reisa A. Sperling, M.D., Stephen Salloway, M.D., and John C. Morris, M.D. "Clinical and Biomarker Changes in Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Disease." The New England Journal of Medicine 367, no. 9 (August 30, 2012): 795-803.

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WALK TO END ALZHEIMER’S   We have a number of Walkathons scheduled. Please join us in the fight to end Alzheimer’s and raise $1,000,000 by participating: Sunday, September 23, 2012 at Coney Island Broadwalk, Brooklyn; Sunday, September 30, 2012 in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens; and Sunday, October 21, 2012 in Riverside Park, Manhattan. You can register, start a team, make a donation and volunteer.  Thanks for making a difference!

Researchers in Iceland have found a genetic mutation in people that prevents the development of Alzheimer’s. The gene produces amyloid beta precursor protein (APP). The genetic mutation is carried by 0.5% Icelanders and 0.2-0.5% of Finns, Swedes and Norwegians. Icelanders who have the genetic mutation are five times more likely to reach age 85 without developing Alzheimer’s. If amyloid-beta plaques cause Alzheimer’s, drugs that suppress the formation of such plaques could be developed. In other words, a drug could be developed that would “mimics the effects of the mutation.”


A myriad of financial implications arise when a person suffers from Alzheimer’s. People with Alzheimer’s have difficulty handling their finances and are susceptible to people taking advantage of them.  A lawsuit has been commenced against JP Morgan Chase because one of their employees allegedly withdrew $100,000 over the course of a year from a customer who was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Often family members fail to recognize or admit that someone is suffering from Alzheimer’s until there are irreversible financial consequences. Caregivers may find themselves in the difficult position of trying to convince a person who is suffering from Alzheimer’s to turn over control of his finances. Lawyers who suspect that a client lacks competency risk having a client’s will challenged at a later date.


I just read a heart-wrenching account about a New York City woman whose husband was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia five years ago. Michael French exhibited symptoms years earlier and was becoming someone that his wife Ruth could not bear to be around. She considered a divorce until the neurologist made the diagnosis. People who suffer from frontotemporal dementia exhibit some of the same symptoms as those who have Alzheimer’s, and the disease can often be mistaken for Alzheimer’s. The disease strikes individuals when they are younger, and people typically survive for approximately eight years after diagnosis.  At the early stages of the disease, people exhibit signs of silence, apathy and personality changes. In retrospect, Ruth has come to understand that Michael’s mind began slipping away when he was in his 50s. She also came to the painful realization that she was unable to care for him at home and now spends several hours a day visiting him in a nursing home. Researchers have discovered some drugs that may be able to combat some of the proteins that build up in the brain of those afflicted with this disease, and testing will begin next year. I wanted to share this article, which recounts the pain and suffering experienced by those who have a loved one with frontotemporal dementia or Alzheimer’s.


Exercise can help improve our memory. A study conducted by Dartmouth’s psychology and neuroscience departments indicates that there is a correlation between exercise and memory. The study showed that exercise can help increase BDNF, brain-derived neurotropic factor. BDNF is a protein that plays a role in improving thinking. Researchers found that the group that exercised for four weeks performed better on their memory scores than the sedentary group. Also, those who exercised on the day of the test and who had been exercising for four weeks performed the best on the test and had less anxiety. The group which had not exercised on the morning of the test but had worked out for a month before the test performed better than the sedentary group; they did not perform as well as those who had exercised for four weeks and on the morning of the test. Individuals who exercised for four weeks but had a BDNF gene variant that blunted BDNF production after exercise did not improve their memories. In other words, regular exercise could not help those with that gene variation. Professor David Bucci, associate professor in Dartmouth’s psychological and brain science department, observed that “exercise generally enhances the ability to remember. The current data strongly suggests that people should be physically active.”

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There are tests that can help determine whether a person has or will have Alzheimer’s. However, the question is whether a person would want to know if he was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s because there is presently no means of prevention or cure. Linda Dangaard, age 56, had a spinal tap, which determined that she was afflicted with early Alzheimer’s. She and her husband Colin, age 70, feel that it was the “biggest mistake” to have her tested because she lost her driver’s license, her self-esteem and friends. He noted that “her golden years were ripped out from under her by a diagnosis that I think is cruel, because there is nothing anybody can do about it.” Certain conditions, which can cause memory loss are treatable, and it makes sense to have a test performed to rule out these conditions. Some people want to know whether they or a family member have Alzheimer’s so they can do financial planning. Others would prefer to enjoy their lives as long as possible without knowing the truth. There are no easy answers.

Beck, M. (2012, May 22) “The Curse of a Diagnosis,” Wall Street Journal p. D1-2.

Alzheimer’s tends to be hereditary in nature, and often family members may be genetically predisposed to getting the disease. The world’s largest family to be afflicted with Alzheimer’s is a clan of 5,000 people who live in Medellin, Columbia. Family members with a genetic mutation exhibit signs of dementia at age 45 and full dementia at age 51. A $100 million study will be conducted over five years to determine whether the drug Crenezumab can prevent people who are predisposed to Alzheimer’s and have not yet exhibited symptoms from later being afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Genetech, the American manufacturer of the drug and the largest funder of the research, acknowledges the ethical issues raised by conducting tests on healthy subjects who have little education and income; however, the subjects will eventually become afflicted with Alzheimer’s if no action is taken. The Columbian family being tested is an ideal subject because of their sheer numbers and the predictability of when members will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Hopefully, the study will bring us closer to Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention.; Belluck, P. (2012, May 15) “New Drug Trial Seeks to Stop Alzheimer’s Before It Starts,” New York Times;

There appears to be a tie between depression and dementia. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research studied the link between depression and dementia in Kaiser Permanente members. The study found that  subjects who were depressed in midlife but not late in life did not have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia, the second leading cause of dementia. People who had late in life depression were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. People who were depressed during both midlife and late in life were three times as likely to develop vascular dementia. Additionally, smoking, diabetes, belly fat and high cholesterol increase the chances of a person developing Alzheimer’s.

Dooren, J. C. (2012, May 8) “Study Examines Depression and Aging Brain,” Wall Street Journal p. D2.

Bexarotene, a cancer drug used to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, has been discovered to reverse Alzheimer’s. Researchers found that mice treated with the drug became smarter and the plaque in their brains began to disappear in a few hours. The drug works by raising levels of protein, Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) that help dispose of amyloid plaque buildup. After six hours, the mice treated with the drugs began perform better on mental tests and smell tests. In one test, the treated mice began to build a nest out of tissue paper – a task which mice afflicted with Alzheimer’s could not do. The findings will be published in Science. Bexarotene is safe and widely available, but testing on humans will be necessary. Research was co-authored by researchers at Case Western University School of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, and Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.

There are some more exciting developments in the field of Alzheimer's research. Assistant Professor of Engineering Solomon Diamond of the Thayer School of Engineering and his team are looking for ways to determine "brain health" by measuring blood supply to the brain and neuron activity by using Electroencephalography ("EEG") and neuro infrared spectroscopy. Diamond is optimistic about unraveling  the mysteries of Alzheimer's in the next decade though a global scientific, medical and engineering effort. His group's contribution will be to provide a means to measure brain  health or a "brain checkup."
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There are studies showing that insulin nasal spray may contribute to improved memory function. A study involving 104 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment revealed that 20 IU of insulin experienced improved memory (i.e. story recall). However, the participants who took 40 IU of insulin showed no memory improvement. Participants on 20 IU and 40 IU preserved general cognition. Since the study only lasted four months, long term studies on a greater number of patients will be necessary.
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Researchers at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering have developed a “high tech hat for researching Alzheimer’s Disease.” Wires and sensors can determine who is at risk for the disease.
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Join me at Riverside Park  for a two mile walk. Rain or shine. Call 646-744-2997 or email  I will be working at the dog run where I worked last year. I will be handing out dog treats, dog bandannas and taking photos!

Can a milkshake cure Alzheimer’s? Accera Inc. is selling a milkshake called Axona.  The shake contains caprylic triglyceride, which is derived from coconut oil.  The company claims that the shake fuels the brain.  Alzheimer’s patients don’t convert glucose energy as efficiently as people with healthy brains. The shake can be made with any type of liquid.  Most researchers feel that more research needs to be done before determining the efficacy of the shake. Note that the article from the Wall Street Journal is no longer available but here is a reference to the article.
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First Criteria and Guidelines for Alzheimer's in 27 Years. The National Institute on Aging /Alzheimer's Association Diagnostic Guidelines for Alzheimer's Disease "expand the definition of Alzheimer's to include two new phases of the disease: 1) presymptomatic (with changes to brain scan and spinal fluid chemistry but no symptoms); and 2) mildly symptomatic but pre-dementia (mild changes in memory and thinking, enough to be noticed and measure but not causing impairment), along with 3) dementia caused by Alzheimer's.” Here is a startling number. In a 2010 report by Alzheimer's Association a hypothetical intervention that delayed the onset of Alzheimer's disease by five years could result in an almost 45 percent reduction in the number of people with Alzheimer's by 2050, and reduce the projected Medicare costs of Alzheimer's from $627 billion to $344 billion dollars. 
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Number of Alzheimer's Caregivers on the Rise. The increase of caregivers since 2000 is 37% or 15 million Alzheimer's caregivers in the United States. Caregivers suffer from stress, exhaustion and financial strain.
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New York Times article discusses tests for risk assessment and early diagnosis of Alzheimer's. Both studies were reported in The Journal of the Medical Association ("JAMA"). One test is a blood test (which is not yet ready for clinical study) and the other is a brain scan. What this means is that Alzheimer's is a top priority, and we are getting closer to finding ways to combat this disease. 
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Here is some exciting news. An FDA advisory committee has voted unanimously to approve PET scans of the brain for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease in living people. The approval is contingent on radiologists agreeing on how to interpret the scans as well as doctors being trained to read the scans.  If approved, the scan will be the first test that can reveal plaques in the brain indicating Alzheimer's disease. PET scans have been in use for years, but the new approval for Alzheimer's disease would also involve a dye that makes the plaque visible on scans. Currently, the only definitive way to diagnose Alzheimer's disease is with an autopsy after death. According to New York Times, Alzheimer’s experts anticipate that PET scans will be approved by the FDA for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease.
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Check out the November-December 2010 edition of the Duke Magazine p.20, which contains an interview with Kathleen Welsh-Bohmer, Director, Bryan Alzheimer's Disease Research Center entitled "Alzheimer's in Mind." Welsh-Bohmer gives an over-view of the status of Alzheimer's in the United States.

Could there be a link between diabetes and Alzheimer's? Untreated diabetes may lead to reduced cholesterol in the brain. The brain has more cholesterol than any other organ and is necessary for normal brain function. 
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Heavy smoking may increase the risk of Alzheimer's. 
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The Associated Press reports that another protein called Tau is an an indicator of how quickly a Alzheimer's patient could deteriorate.  If Tau levels can be reduced, it is possible that dementia can be slowed.  TauRx Therapeutics, a Singapore based company is doing a research trial of an anti-tau drug known as LMTX. Other pharmaceuticals and scientists are looking at another protein , amyloid plaque which appears in the earlier stages of Alzheimer's. Tao seems to appear later as Alzheimer's symptoms appear. Patients with Alzheimer's disease have higher levels of ptau or phosphorylated levels, abnormal form of tau build up inside dying nerve cells.
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Today is World Alzheimer's Day! Help make a difference. Share information with others, get involved in charitable work. Alzheimer's Disease International has released World Alzheimer's Report 2010 which focuses on the high cost of dementia throughout the world. In the report, it notes that l) every health and social care system in the world is affected by dementia; 2) 1% of the world's gross domestic product is made up of dementia care costs; and 3) the costs of dementia will increase by 85% by 2030.
What action can you take?  1) Write to Congress and ask that Alzheimer's be a national priority.2) Join me and thousands around the country on Memory Walks. Notes that on October  24, I will be volunteering at NYC's Memory Walk. You will find me at Doggie Dugout where I will be handing out treats to dogs. 3) Make a tax deductible donation to the Alzheimer's Association.
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A new study conducted by the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Aging (Optima) found that persons who take B vitamins folate, B6 and B12 well above the daily recommended amount reduced their brain shrinkage by 30% and in some cases by more than 50%. After age 50, the average brain shrinks at a rate of 0.5% a year while those persons with mild cognitive impairment shrink twice as fast. The brain of  an Alzheimer's sufferer shrinks 2.5% a year.  The study involved 168 elder people who suffered from mild cognitive impairment. Over a two year period, half of the volunteers were given a vitamin B supplement and the other half were given a placebo. Now studies will be done to see if high does of Vitamin B prevent the onset of Alzheimer's. Persons should consult a physician before  going on a vitamin B regimen. 
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The New York Times reported yesterday that Eli Lilly is terminating its new amyloid lowering drug because patients who received the drug did worse than those receiving sugar pills. The drug was supposed to reduce plaque in the brain and was in the late stage of clinical testing. However, patients who took the drug suffered a further decline in cognitive function. Additionally, those patients appeared to suffer an increase in skin cancer. Although there are hundreds of Alzheimer's drugs that are undergoing testing, Eli Lilly was one of five to reach late stage clinical trials.
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Exciting news. Scientists and executives from Food and Drug Administration, National Institute of Health, drug companies, universities, and non profit groups are working together to find a cure for Alzheimer's. In addition to raising money for research, scientists are sharing data and findings. The odds of finding a cure for Alzheimer's will be greatly improved because of  this collaboration.
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The July 2010 edition of the Cortlandt Forum has some interesting articles on Alzheimer's including, among other things: "Daytime Sleepiness May Lead to Alzheimer's Risk"  and “Attacking Alzheimer's Through Diet."
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Scientists have linked clusterin, a protein in the blood plasma, to the development, severity, and progression of Alzheimer's. "Clusterin/apolipoprotein J was associated with atrophy of the entorhinal cortex, baseline disease severity, and rapid clinical progression in Alzheimer’s Disease. Increased plasma concentration of clusterin was predictive of greater fibrillar amyloid-β burden in the medial temporal lobe. Subjects with Alzheimer’s had increased clusterin messenger RNA in blood, but there was no effect of single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the gene encoding clusterin with gene or protein expression. APP/PS1 transgenic mice showed increased plasma clusterin, age-dependent increase in brain clusterin, as well as amyloid and clusterin colocalization in plaques." Madhav Thambisetty et al., "Association of Plasma Clusterin Concentration with Severity, Pathology, and Progression in Alzheimer Disease," Archives of General Psychiatry 67, no. 7 (July-August 10): 739-748, doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.78 (accessed July 9, 2010).
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The  two  most common causes of  dementia  are: vascular  dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular dementia is caused by arteriosclerosis   and  strokes, which leads to  brain injury,   brain cell death and  dementia.   Alzheimer’s disease is   a  degenerative disease  due to  the build up of  Amyloid  plaque, which causes brain cells to die.

The laboratory of Neurobiology and Genetics at Rockefeller University, headed by Sidney Strickland, have learned   that Alzheimer’s disease may be attributed to clotting abnormalities caused by the interaction of amyloid-B and high levels of the blood clotting agent fibrinogen, which  leads to hypercoagulability  or the propensity to develop thrombosis.  This causes   stokes in the  small vessels in  the brain causing brain cells to die and thus leading  to Alzheimer.  These scientists theorize that Alzheimer is another form of vascular dementia. In their research, genetically engineered mice with Alzheimer’s disease and, therefore with extra amyloid-B produced by Alzheimer’s disease clotted more quickly and such clots were difficult to degrade. In contrast, mice with lower levels of fibrinogen had less build up of amyloid-B in the walls of the blood vessel and performed better in memory tests. Scientists theorize that lowering the fibrinogen levels in the brain may halt the progression of Alzheimer’s.
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One study reports that exercising 20 to 30 minutes several times a week decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 60%. Researchers suggest that this decrease is due to exercise promoting blood vessel health and increasing the brain’s ability to repair damage. RealAge, "Do This for 20 Minutes to Skirt Alzheimer's," RealAge.
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I just had to share this story about an Australian woman who has been afflicted with Alzheimer's. She gave birth to a baby a week ago and has no recollection of giving birth.
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Did you know that persons afflicted with Down's Syndrome are more susceptible to Alzheimer's disease? Women age 40-65 years old with Down’s syndrome are more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than men in the same age category.
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