Everything You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia. Dementia is a broader term for conditions caused by brain injuries or diseases that negatively affect memory, thinking, and behavior. These changes interfere with daily living.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people with the disease get a diagnosis after age 65. If it’s diagnosed before then, it’s generally referred to as early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease. Learn more about the basics of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s facts

Although many people have heard of Alzheimer’s disease, some aren’t sure exactly what it is. Here are some facts about this condition:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic ongoing condition.
  • Its symptoms come on gradually and the effects on the brain are degenerative, meaning they cause slow decline.
  • There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s but treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and may improve quality of life.
  • Anyone can get Alzheimer’s disease but certain people are at higher risk for it. This includes people over age 65 and those with a family history of the condition.
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t the same thing. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia.
  • There’s no single expected outcome for people with Alzheimer’s. Some people live a long time with mild cognitive damage, while others experience a more rapid onset of symptoms and quicker disease progression.

Each person’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease is different. Find out more details about how Alzheimer’s can affect people.

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s

The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are sometimes used interchangeably. However, these two conditions aren’t the same. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia.

Dementia is a broader term for conditions with symptoms relating to memory loss such as forgetfulness and confusion. Dementia includes more specific conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and others, which can cause these symptoms.

Causes, symptoms, and treatments can be different for these diseases. Learn more about how dementia and Alzheimer’s disease differ.

Alzheimer’s disease causes and risk factors

Experts haven’t determined a single cause of Alzheimer’s disease but they have identified certain risk factors, including:

  • Age. Most people who develop Alzheimer’s disease are 65 years of age or older.
  • Family history. If you have an immediate family member who has developed the condition, you’re more likely to get it.
  • Genetics. Certain genes have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Having one or more of these risk factors doesn’t mean that you’ll develop Alzheimer’s disease. It simply raises your risk level.

To learn more about your personal risk of developing the condition, talk with your doctor. 

Alzheimer’s and genetics

While there’s no one identifiable cause of Alzheimer’s, genetics may play a key role. One gene in particular is of interest to researchers. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is a gene that’s been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms in older adults.

Blood tests can determine if you have this gene, which increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Keep in mind that even if someone has this gene, they may not get Alzheimer’s.

The opposite is also true: Someone may still get Alzheimer’s even if they don’t have the gene. There’s no way to tell for sure whether someone will develop Alzheimer’s.

Other genes could also increase risk of Alzheimer’s and early onset Alzheimer’s.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Everyone has episodes of forgetfulness from time to time. But people with Alzheimer’s disease display certain ongoing behaviors and symptoms that worsen over time. These can include:

  • memory loss affecting daily activities, such as an ability to keep appointments
  • trouble with familiar tasks, such as using a microwave
  • difficulties with problem-solving
  • trouble with speech or writing
  • becoming disoriented about times or places
  • decreased judgment
  • decreased personal hygiene
  • mood and personality changes
  • withdrawal from friends, family, and community

Symptoms change according to the stage of the disease. 

Alzheimer’s stages

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means the symptoms will gradually worsen over time. Alzheimer’s is broken down into seven stages:

  • Stage 1. There are no symptoms at this stage but there might be an early diagnosis based on family history.
  • Stage 2. The earliest symptoms appear, such as forgetfulness.
  • Stage 3. Mild physical and mental impairments appear, such as reduced memory and concentration. These may only be noticeable by someone very close to the person.
  • Stage 4. Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed at this stage, but it’s still considered mild. Memory loss and the inability to perform everyday tasks is evident.
  • Stage 5. Moderate to severe symptoms require help from loved ones or caregivers.
  • Stage 6. At this stage, a person with Alzheimer’s may need help with basic tasks, such as eating and putting on clothes.
  • Stage 7. This is the most severe and final stage of Alzheimer’s. There may be a loss of speech and facial expressions.

As a person progresses through these stages, they’ll need increasing support from a caregiver. 

Early onset Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s typically affects people ages 65 years and older. However, it can occur in people as early as their 40s or 50s. This is called early onset, or younger onset, Alzheimer’s. This type of Alzheimer’s affects about 5 percent of all people with the condition.

Symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s can include mild memory loss and trouble concentrating or finishing everyday tasks. It can be hard to find the right words, and you may lose track of time. Mild vision problems, such as trouble telling distances, can also occur.

Certain people are at greater risk of developing this condition. 

The only definitive way to diagnose someone with Alzheimer’s disease is to examine their brain tissue after death. But your doctor can use other examinations and tests to assess your mental abilities, diagnose dementia, and rule out other conditions.

They’ll likely start by taking a medical history. They may ask about your:

  • symptoms
  • family medical history
  • other current or past health conditions
  • current or past medications
  • diet, alcohol intake, or other lifestyle habits

From there, your doctor will likely do several tests to help determine if you have Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s tests

There’s no definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease. However, your doctor will likely do several tests to determine your diagnosis. These can be mental, physical, neurological, and imaging tests.

Your doctor may start with a mental status test. This can help them assess your short-term memory, long-term memory, and orientation to place and time. For example, they may ask you:

  • what day it is
  • who the president is
  • to remember and recall a short list of words

Next, they’ll likely conduct a physical exam. For example, they may check your blood pressure, assess your heart rate, and take your temperature. In some cases, they may collect urine or blood samples for testing in a laboratory.

Your doctor may also conduct a neurological exam to rule out other possible diagnoses, such as an acute medical issue, such as infection or stroke. During this exam, they will check your reflexes, muscle tone, and speech.

Your doctor may also order brain-imaging studies. These studies, which will create pictures of your brain, can include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs can help pick up key markers, such as inflammation, bleeding, and structural issues.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. CT scans take X-ray images which can help your doctor look for abnormal characteristics in your brain.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. PET scan images can help your doctor detect plaque buildup. Plaque is a protein substance related to Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Other tests your doctor may do include blood tests to check for genes that may indicate you have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Alzheimer’s medication

There’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, your doctor can recommend medications and other treatments to help ease your symptoms and delay the progression of the disease for as long as possible.

For early to moderate Alzheimer’s, your doctor may prescribe medications such as donepezil (Aricept) or rivastigmine (Exelon). These drugs can help maintain high levels of acetylcholine in your brain. This is a type of neurotransmitter that can help aid your memory.

To treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s, your doctor may prescribe donepezil (Aricept) or memantine (Namenda). Memantine can help block the effects of excess glutamate. Glutamate is a brain chemical that’s released in higher amounts in Alzheimer’s disease and damages brain cells.

Your doctor may also recommend antidepressants, antianxiety medications, or antipsychotics to help treat symptoms related to Alzheimer’s. These symptoms include:

  • depression
  • restlessness
  • aggression
  • agitation
  • hallucinations

Other Alzheimer’s treatments

In addition to medication, lifestyle changes may help you manage your condition. For example, your doctor might develop strategies to help you or your loved one:

  • focus on tasks
  • limit confusion
  • avoid confrontation
  • get enough rest every day
  • stay calm

Some people believe that vitamin E can help prevent decline in mental abilities, but studies indicate that more research is needed. Be sure to ask your doctor before taking vitamin E or any other supplements. It can interfere with some of the medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to lifestyle changes, there are several alternative options you can ask your doctor about. 

Preventing Alzheimer’s

Just as there’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there are no foolproof preventive measures. However, researchers are focusing on overall healthy lifestyle habits as ways of preventing cognitive decline.

The following measures may help:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Try cognitive training exercises.
  • Eat a plant-based diet.
  • Consume more antioxidants.
  • Maintain an active social life.

Be sure to talk with your doctor before making any big changes in your lifestyle.

Alzheimer’s care

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you may consider becoming a caregiver. This is a full-time job that’s typically not easy but can be very rewarding.

Being a caregiver takes many skills. These include patience perhaps above all, as well as creativity, stamina, and the ability to see joy in the role of helping someone you care about live the most comfortable life they can.

As a caregiver, it’s important to take care of yourself as well as your loved one. With the responsibilities of the role can come an increased risk of stress, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise.

If you choose to assume the role of caregiver, you may need to enlist the help of professional caregivers as well as family members to help. 

The statistics surrounding Alzheimer’s disease are daunting.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s is the sixth most common cause of death among U.S. adults. It ranks fifth among causes of death for people 65 years and older.
  • A study found that 4.7 million Americans over the age of 65 years had Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Those researchers projected that by 2050, there will be 13.8 million Americans with Alzheimer’s.
  • The CDC estimates that over 90 percent of people with Alzheimer’s don’t see any symptoms until they’re over 60 years old.
  • Alzheimer’s is an expensive disease. According to the CDC, about $259 billion was spent on Alzheimer’s and dementia care costs in the United States in 2017.

The takeaway

Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease in which there are many unknowns. What is known is that the condition worsens over time, but treatment can help delay symptoms and improve your quality of life.

If you think you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s, your first step is to talk with your doctor. They can help make a diagnosis, discuss what you can expect, and help connect you with services and support. If you’re interested, they can also give you information about taking part in clinical trials.

senior man with headache

All Sweetened Drinks Can Raise Heart Disease Risk

Some sweetened beverages can have more sugar than a 12-ounce can of Coca Cola. 

It’s not news that too much sugar isn’t good for you.

Indeed, soda, candy, and sticky-sweet confections can take a toll on your waistline, not to mention your teeth.Now, the specific connection between diseases and sugary beverages, such as soda, sports drinks, and sweetened coffee beverages, is clearer.

Earlier this month, the journal of the American Heart Association released findings that show people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and some cancers.No matter what drink you take, excessive consumption [of sugar] is a problem. High overall sugar intake from any drink like coffee with sugar or juices can lead to problems. Higher consumption of sugar leads to increased incidence of weight gain and diabetes, which in turn leads to increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.This study joins previous research that points to the relationship between a high-sugar diet and negative heart health outcomes.However, in this one, the authors controlled for other dietary factors, physical activity, and body mass index, items that could be independently linked with sugar-sweetened beverages.The results still pointed to the damaging effects sugary beverages may have, regardless of other possible cardiovascular risk factors.

Sugar replacements are risky, too

A secondary finding of the Circulation study suggests people who replace one sugary drink per day with an artificially-sweetened drink (such as a diet soda) have a slightly lower risk of death.However, if a woman drinks four or more artificially-sweetened drinks per day, she has a higher risk of death.Low-calorie drinks, while containing less sugar, also carry an increased risk. 

What beverages are not OK?

Soda is the poster star of sugar problems, but Americans are actually drinking fewer sugary drinks like soda today than any time in the past decade.

Yet, 1 in 10 people still get more than a quarter of their daily calories from sugar.

That’s not all coming from soda.

A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola Classic has 39 grams of sugar. You may be unlikely to reach for the syrupy soda after a workout, but the Gatorade you down on your way out the door has 34 grams.

Feeling a little sluggish in the afternoon? Instead of a 20-ounce bottle of Pepsi (69 grams), you may take a quick jaunt down to Starbucks for a Grande Mocha Frappuccino (skim milk and no whip, please), which has —are you ready? —59 grams of sugar. Even the extra 500 steps won’t burn off that sugar crush.

Are you stocking sugary “smoothies” in your fridge, sipping them on your commute to the office, as a way to get more fruit into your diet? A 15.2-ounce bottle promises apples, bananas, blueberries, and blackberries — all while delivering 55 grams of sugar.

Does fruit provide a bit of a health halo for that much sugar? 

“Any liquid source of sugar, even if it is a naturally occurring form that is in a concentrate, will have the same impact,” she told Healthline. “The blood sugar and insulin levels still spike and fall with all of these options. You can dress up a drink with over 10 grams of sugar any way you like, but in the end, it’s still just sugar.”

More than 60 different names for sugar could be listed on an ingredient label.

Fruit juice concentrate seems natural, but it’s a form of sugar. Brown rice syrup? That’s sugar. Beets are healthy, so what about beet sugar? Still sugar.

If, however, you’re not keen to memorize five dozen random words, keep this rule in mind: water is best.

How to quit sugar for good

Drinking water in place of sugary drinks is a healthy choice that could contribute to longevity. Diet soda may be used to help frequent consumers of sugary drinks cut back their consumption, but water is the best and healthiest choice.

To get your daily sugar consumption down, it’s important to understand what you’re actually eating in a day. A food diary can help.

Whether you record your food in a smartphone app or hand-write everything in a notebook, jotting down what you typically eat for several weeks will give you an idea of what you’re taking in and how much, if any, you need to cut to reach recommended guidelines.Per the American Heart Association, men should consume no more than nine teaspoons or 36 grams of added sugar a day, and women no more than six teaspoons or 25 grams of added sugar per day. To put this in perspective, one 12-ounce can of regular soda has eight teaspoons of sugar.

From there, the process of cutting back begins. Ask what you can reasonably get rid of. If cravings occur… you can look toward fresh fruit like berries or apples. If cola is your big thing, start there, and try a cold turkey approach, not replacing a regular soda with a diet option.It’s not an easy task. Research shows sugar has qualities that may cause an addiction, and your body will call out for it.

Part of your goals must involve support from family and friends and an environment in which sugar is not easily accessible. If this is too tough to do, then consider simply slashing all foods from your diet that have more than four grams of added sugar per serving.New regulations from the Food and Drug Administration require food manufacturers to list added sugar on food labels, beginning in 2020. This will make identifying surprising sources of sugar easier.

Prostate Cancer in detail

Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland, the gland that produces some of the fluid in semen and plays a role in urine control in men.

The prostate gland is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum.

In the United States, it is the most common cancer in men, but it is also treatable if found in the early stages.

In 2017, the American Cancer Society predicts that there will be around 161,360 new diagnoses of prostate cancer, and that around 26,730 fatalities will occur because of it.

Regular testing is crucial as the cancer needs to be diagnosed before metastasis.

Fast facts on prostate cancer:

Here are some key points about the prostate cancer. More detail is in the main article.

The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.

It is treatable if diagnosed early, before it spreads.

If symptoms appear, they include problems with urination.

Regular screening Is the best way to detect it in good time.

Symptoms

There are usually no symptoms during the early stages of prostate cancer. However, if symptoms do appear, they usually involve one or more of the following:

  • frequent urges to urinate, including at night
  • difficulty commencing and maintaining urination
  • blood in the urine
  • painful urination and, less commonly, ejaculation
  • difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection may be difficult

Advanced prostate cancer can involve the following symptoms:

  • bone pain, often in the spine, femur, pelvis, or ribs
  • bone fractures

If the cancer spreads to the spine and compresses the spinal cord, there may be:

  • leg weakness
  • urinary incontinence
  • fecal incontinence

Treatment

Treatment is different for early and advanced prostate cancers.

Early stage prostate cancer

If the cancer is small and localized, it is usually managed by one of the following treatments:

Watchful waiting or monitoring: PSA blood levels are regularly checked, but there is no immediate action. The risk of side-effects sometimes outweighs the need for immediate treatment for this slow-developing cancer.

Radical prostatectomy: The prostate is surgically removed. Traditional surgery requires a hospital stay of up to 10 days, with a recovery time of up to 3 months. Robotic keyhole surgery involves a shorter hospitalization and recovery period, but it can be more expensive. Patients should speak to their insurer about coverage.

Brachytherapy: Radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate to deliver targeted radiation treatment.

Conformal radiation therapy: Radiation beams are shaped so that the region where they overlap is as close to the same shape as the organ or region that requires treatment. This minimizes healthy tissue exposure to radiation.

Intensity modulated radiation therapy: Beams with variable intensity are used. This is an advanced form of conformal radiation therapy.

In the early stages, patients may receive radiation therapy combined with hormone therapy for 4 to 6 months.

Treatment recommendations depend on individual cases. The patient should discuss all available options with their urologist or oncologist.

Advanced prostate cancer

Advanced cancer is more aggressive and will have spread further throughout the body.

Chemotherapy may be recommended, as it can kill cancer cells around the body.

Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), or androgen suppression therapy, is a hormone treatment that reduces the effect of androgen. Androgens are male hormones that can stimulate cancer growth. ADT can slow down and even stop cancer growth by reducing androgen levels.

The patient will likely need long-term hormone therapy.

Even if the hormone therapy stops working after a while, there may be other options. Participation in clinical trials is one option that a patient may wish to discuss with the doctor.

Radical prostatectomy is not currently an option for advanced cases, as it does not treat the cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Fertility

As the prostate is directly involved with sexual reproduction, removing it affects semen production and fertility.

Radiation therapy affects the prostate tissue and often reduces the ability to father children. The sperm can be damaged and the semen insufficient for transporting sperm.

Non-surgical options, too, can severely inhibit a man’s reproductive capacity.

Options for preserving these functions can include donating to a sperm bank before surgery, or having sperm extracted directly from the testicles for artificial insemination into an egg. However, the success of these options is never guaranteed.

Patients with prostate cancer can speak to a fertility doctor if they still intend to father children.

What causes prostate cancer?

The prostate is a walnut-sized exocrine gland. This means that it’s fluids and secretions are intended for use outside of the body.

The prostate produces the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm on their journey to fuse with a female ovum, or egg, and produce human life. The prostate contracts and forces these fluids out during orgasm.

The protein excreted by the prostate, prostate-specific antigen (PSA), helps semen retain its liquid state. An excess of this protein in the blood is one of the first signs of prostate cancer.

The urethra is tube through which sperm and urine exit the body. It also passes through the prostate.

As such, the prostate is also responsible for urine control. It can tighten and restrict the flow of urine through the urethra using thousands of tiny muscle fibers.

How does it start?

It usually starts in the glandular cells. This is known as adenocarcinoma. Tiny changes occur in the shape and size of the prostate gland cells, known as prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN). This tends to happen slowly and does not show symptoms until further into the progression.

Nearly 50 percent of all men over the age of 50 years have PIN. High-grade PIN is considered pre-cancerous, and it requires further investigation. Low-grade PIN is not a cause for concern.

Prostate cancer can be successfully treated if it is diagnosed before metastasis, but if it spreads, it is more dangerous. It most commonly spreads to the bones.

Stages

Staging takes into account the size and extent of the tumor and the scale of the metastasis (whether it has traveled to other organs and tissues).

At Stage 0, the tumor has neither spread from the prostate gland nor invaded deeply into it. At Stage 4, the cancer has spread to distant sites and organs.

Diagnosis

A doctor will carry out a physical examination and enquire about any ongoing medical history. If the patient has symptoms, or if a routine blood test shows abnormally high PSA levels, further examinations may be requested.

Tests may include:

  • a digital rectal examination (DRE), in which a doctor will manually check for any abnormalities of the prostate with their finger
  • a biomarker test checking the blood, urine, or body tissues of a person with cancer for chemicals unique to individuals with cancer

If these tests show abnormal results, further tests will include:

  • a PCA3 test examining the urine for the PCA3 gene only found in prostate cancer cells
  • a transrectal ultrasound scan providing imaging of the affected region using a probe that emits sounds
  • a biopsy, or the removal of 12 to 14 small pieces of tissue from several areas of the prostate for examination under a microscope

These will help confirm the stage of the cancer, whether it has spread, and what treatment is appropriate.

To track any spread, or metastasis, doctors may use a bone, CT scan, or MRI scan.

Outlook

If the disease is found before it spreads to other organs in a process known as metastasis, the 5-year survival rate is 99 percent. After fifteen years, this decreases to 96 percent. Once the cancer metastasizes, or spreads, the 5-year survival rate is 29 percent.

Regular screening can help detect prostate cancer while it is still treatable.

Risk factors

The exact cause of prostate cancer is unclear, but there are many possible risk factors.

Age

Prostate cancer is rare among men under the age of 45 years, but more common after the age of 50 years.

Geography

Prostate cancer occurs most frequently in North America, northwestern Europe, on the Caribbean islands, and in Australia. The reasons remain unclear.

Genetic factors

Certain genetic and ethnic groups have an increased risk of prostate cancer.

In the U.S., prostate cancer is at least 60 percent more common and 2 to 3 times more deadly among black men than non-Hispanic white men.

A man also has a much higher risk of developing cancer if his identical twin has it, and a man whose brother or father had prostate cancer has twice the risk of developing it compared to other men. Having a brother who has or has had prostate cancer is more of a genetic risk than having a father with the disease.

Diet

Studies have suggested that a diet high in red meat or high-fat dairy products may increase a person’s chances of developing prostate cancer, but the link is neither confirmed nor clear.

Medication

Some research has suggested that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Others have linked NSAID use with a higher risk of death from the disease. This is a controversial area, and results have not been confirmed.

There has also been some investigation into whether statins might slow the progression of prostate cancer. One 2016 study concluded that results were “weak and inconsistent.”

Obesity

It is often believed that obesity is linked to the development of prostate cancer, but the American Cancer Society maintains that there is no clear link.

Some studies have found that obesity increases the risk of death in advanced cancers. Studies have also concluded that obesity decreases the risk that a cancer will be low-grade if it does occur.

Agent Orange

Exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical weapon used in the Vietnam war, may possibly be linked to the development of more aggressive types of cancer, but the extent of this has not been confirmed.

What diet is best for older adults?

A new study has revealed that a diet rich in protein and low in calories can help older adults with obesity lose more weight while maintaining muscle mass and improving bone density.

Older adults often lose bone density and muscle mass when they concentrate on shedding weight.

This unwanted bone and muscle loss can result in mobility issues and can even increase a person’s risk of injury.

A recent study, which Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, is the lead on, has shown that a high-protein, low-calorie diet can help adults avoid these problems.

Several peer-reviewed journals, which include Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have accepted four research papers from the study for publication.

The researchers randomly selected 96 adults over 65 years of age and assigned them to one of two groups.

They put the first group on a 6-month, low-calorie meal plan that was also high in protein — more than 1 gram (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. They assigned the other group to a weight-maintenance plan that included 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight.

High-protein, low-calorie

Those in the high-protein, low-calorie diet group experienced the most weight loss, but more revealing was that those in this group maintained their muscle mass. They also lost weight on the stomach, hips, thighs, and rear, which can decrease the risk of certain medical conditions, including diabetes and stroke.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the participants in the high-protein group improved their bone quality, and they gained 0.75 points on their Health Aging Index scores, involving longevity and mortality biomarkers.

Consequently, the study asked those in the weight-loss group to use four meal replacements every day and to prepare two meals of lean protein and vegetables each day. The team allowed each participant one healthy snack per day to wrap up a low-calorie, high-protein meal plan. Those in the other group were instructed to maintain their regular diet and usual activities.

Older adults have unique nutritional needs and may need to make changes to their diets as the years go by. Muscle mass can decrease as a natural part of aging, and people do not burn calories at the same rate as they do during their younger years.

Targeting nutrient-dense foods is essential for older adults, and avoidance of high-calorie foods that lack vital nutrients is crucial.

Beneficial foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes, and low-fat dairy. Portion control may also be necessary — for older adults especially — as people may eat more food than they need.

It can be challenging to cook for a smaller family, so experts sometimes suggest cooking ahead and freezing portions to eat later when cooking is less appealing.

The particulars of this latest study seem to mirror the nutritional needs of older adults. However, the authors suggest that the addition of more protein may be the key to avoiding some of the unhealthful pitfalls that can take place when an older adult loses weight.

This study suggests that a diet high in protein and low in calories can give seniors the health benefits of weight loss while keeping the muscle and bone they need for better quality of life as they age.

Alzheimer & Diabetes


Diabetes and Alzheimer’s: What’s the link?

New research has shown that impaired insulin signaling in the brain, often a feature of diabetes, may negatively impact cognition, mood, and metabolism — all of which are common aspects of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study examines the links between Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

Although the conditions are seemingly independent of each other, earlier studies have found that people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

However, the mechanisms behind this relationship have remained hidden.

A recent study investigated the impact of blocking insulin receptors and insulin-like growth factor (IGF1) receptors in mouse models.

The work was carried out at the Joslin Diabetes Center, affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA. The results reveal that interrupting these similar pathways impaired both learning and memory.

The researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Insulin receptors and learning

The researchers worked with both the hippocampus and the central amygdala, areas of the brain that help with cognition function, as well as metabolic control.

They looked into how mice with disabled insulin and IGF1 receptors tackled mazes, and the results were revealing.

First, the researchers allowed the mice to explore the maze to familiarize themselves with its layout, and then they blocked a pathway before reintroducing the mice to the labyrinth.

These particular mice failed to analyze the new barricade and instead tried to go through the maze as if it was the way it had always been.

This is the first study that shows a relationship between these disrupted pathways and cognition problems.

Since these two receptors can partially compensate for one another, what we did that was critical was this combined insulin and IGF receptor knockout.

However, it was also important to do it in specific regions, since if it was everywhere it might have impaired brain development. By knocking out both [receptors], we removed not only the primary way they work but the backup system that’s already built in.”

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is when a person is experiencing memory loss and other cognition issues that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Alzheimer’s, though, is not a normal part of aging, and while most of those who have it are 65 years of age and older, it can affect people who are younger.

Alzheimer’s does not get better over time, and, in most cases, it tends to worsen until the person loses the ability to carry on a conversation or respond to what is happening around them.

There is no cure for the condition, but there are treatments available that can slow down progression and may improve the individual’s overall quality of life.

There are risk factors that scientists have associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease. There are some factors that people cannot control, for example, age, family history, and genetics. People might be able to influence other potential causes, however, including head injuries and heart disease.

Other conditions that can lead to vascular damage, such as high blood pressure and stroke, may also be factors in Alzheimer’s risk.

Diabetes is also a risk factor

Additionally, diabetes is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Other studies have shown a connection between insulin pathways and premature cognitive decline, dementia, depression, and anxiety.

Also, studies have helped demonstrate that abnormal receptors are present more often in those who have both Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes.

The current study is the first to target specific regions to help determine cause and effect.

Next, the researchers want to look at what happens when they cross the mice they used in this study with mice that are genetically prone to developing Alzheimer’s.

Investigating these connections, they say, may lead to recommendations of lifestyle changes well before a disease process even begins.

With diabetes and obesity, there is resistance in these pathways and, therefore, we think that this could be an important factor as to why people with Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes have a faster-accelerated course or have more Alzheimer’s disease.

How can a vegan diet improve your health?

Dr. Afshin Shawn Adhami M.D
www.VistasolMedicalGroup.com

In a recent study, researchers have compared the effects of a plant-based meal with those of a meal that includes animal-derived products on a person’s health. The study concludes that vegan meals may help a person stay healthy and manage weight gain.

New research shows how plant-based meals contribute to your health.
In the United States, approximately 93.3 million people live with obesity, and over 100 million have diabetes or prediabetes.
A key factor in the development of these metabolic conditions is diet.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s dietary guidelines for 2015-2020, “the typical eating patterns currently consumed by many in the US do not align” with official recommendations.

Their estimates indicate that approximately “three-fourths of the population” does not consume enough vegetables, fruits, dairy products, or oils.
New research conducted by investigators from three international institutions now suggests that following a plant-based diet could have a beneficial impact on many aspects of a person’s health.
More specifically, the study’s findings suggest that following a vegan type diet fosters the presence of certain gut hormones that help to regulate blood pressure.
These hormones also help a person feel fuller sooner, and their action is thus beneficial for weight management.

Promoting good gut hormones

In this study, the research team worked with 60 male participants, of whom 20 had a diagnosis of obesity, 20 had type 2 diabetes, and a further 20 had no health complaints and made up the control group. 
The researchers split the participants randomly so that some of them ate a vegan meal with tofu, while others ate a meal of processed meat and cheese. The researchers matched both meals for the number of calories and macronutrients.
Regardless of whether they had diabetes, obesity, or no health problems at all, the people who ate the vegan meal had a higher level of beneficial gut hormones than the people who ate meat and cheese.

The beneficial gut hormones, the researchers explain, help regulate glucose (simple sugar) levels, insulin production, and energy levels. They also help increase the feeling of satiety, thus contributing to weight management.

According to the investigators, people may feel fuller because plant-based foods are rich in fiber, which can increase satiety but do not add extra calories.

These beneficial gut hormones can help keep weight down, enhance insulin secretion, regulate blood sugar, and keep us feeling full longer. 
The fact that simple meal choices can increase the secretion of these healthy hormones has important implications for those with type 2 diabetes or weight problems. 
In previous research, we found that vegan diets can help people with type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin secretion and improving insulin sensitivity.
The current study strengthens previously uncovered proof of the benefits afforded by plant-based diets, and further shows that it can contribute to weight management. 

This study adds to the mounting evidence that plant-based diets can help manage and prevent type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Stress may raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Dr. Afshin Shawn Adhami M.D

www.VistasolMedicalGroup.com

Stress may raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

New research suggests that vital exhaustion, a marker of psychological distress, may raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Many factors may increase Alzheimer’s risk, including age, family history, and genetic makeup.

Certain health issues, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, may also influence the odds of experiencing dementia because they impact the blood vessels.

New research indicates that psychological factors could also affect risk. Psychological distress, in particular, may increase the likelihood of developing dementia, suggests the new study.

Vital exhaustion describes “a mental state of psychological distress” that manifests as irritability, fatigue, and a feeling of demoralization.

As the researchers explain, vital exhaustion may be a reaction to “unsolvable problems” in one’s life, especially when the person has been exposed to stressors for a prolonged period. So, vital exhaustion can be seen as a sign of psychological distress.

Previous studies have noted that vital exhaustion may raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, premature death, and obesity, among other conditions.

Regarding the possible mechanisms that may underpin the findings, the researchers point to excessive levels of the stress hormone cortisol and cardiovascular changes as potential culprits.

Stress can have severe and harmful consequences, not just for our brain health, but our health in general.

Cardiovascular risk factors are well-known, modifiable risk factors for dementia, and in some countries, a stagnation or even a decreasing incidence of dementia has been observed.

Our study indicates that we can go further in the prevention of dementia by addressing psychological risk factors for dementia.

Tired and stress business people concept. A stressed Asian business woman looks tired in her office. Beautiful Asia female model in her 20s

Could managing cholesterol prevent Alzheimer’s?

The largest genetic study of Alzheimer’s disease to date finds that a “handful of gene variants” increases some people’s risk of both dementia and cardiovascular disease. The findings imply that, in principle, we may be able to repurpose some cardiovascular drugs to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s.

The findings of a new study raise the question: could drugs for cardiovascular problems prevent Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease already affects a large number of older adults in the United States and worldwide, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that the burden of the condition will double in the U.S. by 2060.

Currently, about 5.7 million Americans are living with the condition, and experts expect this number to reach almost 14 million in the next four decades.

As a result, both tracking down the root cause of Alzheimer’s and moving closer to a cure are of critical importance.

Researchers know that this neurodegenerative condition has a strong genetic component. For instance, a person with one copy of the APOE4 gene variant is twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as someone without it, while having two copies may increase the risk up to 12-fold.

The APOE gene encodes a protein called apolipoprotein E. In combination with fats, or lipids, this protein forms a type of molecule called a lipoprotein.

Lipoproteins play a role in the transportation of cholesterol and other types of fat through the bloodstream, so there is already an established link between Alzheimer’s disease and cholesterol.

However, new research has now uncovered many other genes that connect the risk of Alzheimer’s with that of cardiovascular disease.

The new study, which appears in the journal Acta Neuropathologica, is the largest genetic study of Alzheimer’s disease to date. 

Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease

The research team used “large genome-wide association studies and validated tools” to examine the DNA of over 1.5 million people.

Specifically, the team examined the differences in the DNA of people who had risk factors for heart disease, such as a high body mass index (BMI), type 2 diabetes, and high triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

Overall, the analysis found 90 points in the genome, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), that had an associated risk of both Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.

The scientists identified these 90 SNPs across a total of 19 chromosomes.

Six of these 90 SNPs both strongly influenced Alzheimer’s disease risk and raised the levels of blood lipids — a finding that confirmed the results of previous studies.

Some of the SNPs that the team identified were in genes that scientists had not previously associated with Alzheimer’s risk. These included several SNPs in the CELF1/MTCH2/SPI1 region on chromosome 11, which previous studies had linked to immunity.

The researchers replicated their findings in a large genetic study of healthy individuals. They found that the participants with a family history of Alzheimer’s were more likely to have the newly identified risk genes, even if they themselves had no symptoms.

Can lower cholesterol prevent Alzheimer’s?

Co-senior author reports on the findings, saying, “The genes that influenced lipid metabolism were the ones that also were related to Alzheimer’s disease risk.”

However, the genes that contribute to other cardiovascular risk factors, like body mass index and type 2 diabetes, did not seem to contribute to genetic risk for Alzheimer’s.

These findings represent an opportunity to consider repurposing drugs that target pathways involved in lipid metabolism. Armed with these findings, we can begin to think about whether some of those drugs might be useful in preventing or delaying Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers note that the findings indicate that keeping cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check could help manage Alzheimer’s risk in some people. However, he stresses that more research is necessary to confirm this.

These results imply that, irrespective of what causes what, cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s pathology co-occur because they are linked genetically. That is, if you carry this handful of gene variants, you may be at risk not only for heart disease but also for Alzheimer’s.”

Researchers summarize the study, saying it “emphasizes that there’s much to learn about how genes driving Alzheimer’s disease risk also increase the risk for other health problems, particularly cardiovascular disease, and vice versa.”

“So, we really need to think about these risks more holistically,” concludes the author.

 

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Interaction between immunity and gut bacteria influences aging

A mechanism that links the immune system, gut bacteria, and aging has come to light in recent research.

An imbalance in the gut bacteria may be what drives aging.

Immune system dysfunction can disrupt gut bacteria in ways that promote aging-related changes in the body, claim scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

A study paper in the journal Immunity details how the scientists used genetically-altered fruit flies to reach their conclusions.

They introduced a dysfunction in the fly’s immune system by switching off a gene. This led to an imbalance in gut bacteria, or microbiota, that produced an excess of lactic acid.

The excess lactic acid generated chemicals called reactive oxygen species that can damage cells and have links to aging-related changes in organs and tissues.

Need to understand commensal dysbiosis

The guts of nearly all animals are home to large colonies of bacteria and other microorganisms that are collectively known as commensal microbes.

There is increasing evidence that commensal microbes influence the immune system and other functions in the body and live in balance with them.

Disruption to this balanced co-existence is known as commensal dysbiosis and can occur for various reasons, such as illness and use of medication.

Studies have also linked commensal dysbiosis to various disease-related changes as well as a shorter life span.

The biological nature of these relationships, however, and the mechanisms that link them, remain somewhat unclear.

The team decided to investigate this further by using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as their model organism. Scientists often use this species to study gut bacteria and genetics.

Commensal dysbiosis shortened life span

In previous work, latsenko had identified a gene that enables the immune system in fruit flies to detect potentially harmful foreign bacteria and attack them. The gene is called peptidoglycan recognition protein SD (PGRP-SD).

For the new investigation, the team bred a mutant strain of immune-impaired fruit flies by switching off their PGRP-SD genes.

The result was that the immune-impaired flies did not live as long as normal flies. They also had much higher numbers of the bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum.

L. plantarum is a gut bacterium that produces lactic acid. The scientists found an excess of lactic acid in the immune-impaired flies, together with an associated increase in reactive oxygen species.

Activating PGRP-SD, on the other hand, “prevented commensal dysbiosis” in the flies and caused them to live longer.

“Lactic acid, a metabolite produced by the bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum,” Prof. Lemaitre explains, “is incorporated and processed in the fly intestine, with the side-effect of producing reactive oxygen species that promote epithelial damage.”

Igor Iatsenko calls for further studies to find out more about metabolic interactions between commensal bacteria and the body during aging.

Top 5 natural antihistamines for allergies

People with allergies may find relief by using natural plant extracts and foods that act as antihistamines.

Antihistamines are substances that block histamine activity in the body. Histamine is a protein that triggers allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itchy eyes, and a scratchy throat.

Over-the-counter and prescription antihistamine medications are effective for symptom relief, but they can cause side effects, such as drowsiness and nausea. As a result, some people wish to try natural alternatives.

In this article, we describe the five best natural antihistamines, and we take a look at the science behind them.

1. Vitamin C

There are a number of natural antihistamines that may help relieve allergy symptoms.

Vitamin C boosts the immune system. It also acts as a natural antihistamine.

According to a 2018 study on vitamin C in the treatment of allergies, oxidative stress plays a key role in allergic diseases. As vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it may act as a treatment for allergies.

The researchers observed that high doses of intravenous vitamin C reduced allergy symptoms. They also reported that a deficiency in vitamin C might lead to allergy-related diseases.

Another study from 2000 suggests taking 2 grams (g) of vitamin C daily to act as an antihistamine.

The vitamin is present in many fruits and vegetables, including:

  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • cantaloupe melon
  • cauliflower
  • citrus fruits
  • kiwifruit
  • strawberries
  • tomatoes and tomato juice
  • winter squash

2. Butterbur

Butterbur is a plant extract from a shrub that grows in Asia, Europe, and some parts of North America. People often use butterbur to treat migraines and hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), butterbur may have antihistamine effects.

A 2007 review of 16 randomized controlled trials, testing 10 herbal products, suggests that butterbur could be an effective herbal treatment for hay fever.

This review suggested that butterbur was better than a placebo, or as effective as antihistamine medications, for relieving allergy symptoms.

However, the authors of the review point out that some large studies received funding from industry manufacturers, and so further independent research is needed.

Most people tolerate butterbur well, but it may cause side effects such as:

  • breathing difficulties
  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • a headache
  • itchy eyes

Raw butterbur extracts contain certain compounds called alkaloids that can cause liver damage and cancer. Extracts of butterbur that do not contain these substances are available. However, no studies have looked into the long-term effects of using these products.

The plant extract can also cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivities to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies.

3. Bromelain

Pineapple juice contains the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain.

Bromelain is an enzyme found in the core and juice of pineapples and is also available as a supplement.

Bromelain is a popular natural remedy for swelling or inflammation, especially of the sinuses and following injury or surgery.

Research on mice suggests that bromelain can reduce allergic sensitization and allergic airway disease thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties.

In some people, oral supplementation of bromelain may cause adverse reactions such as:

  • changes in menstruation
  • digestive upset
  • an increased heart rate

People who are allergic to pineapple should avoid bromelain.

4. Probiotics

Probiotics are microorganisms that might offer health benefits by helping the body maintain a healthful balance of gut bacteria.

Probiotics may boost a person’s immune system, which can help the body fight off allergies.

The NCCIH say that the evidence for probiotics is mixed and that some probiotics may help while others may not.

5. Quercetin

Quercetin is an antioxidant flavonoid found in many plants and foods. Research suggests that adding quercetin to the diet may help to relieve allergy symptoms.

Research reports that quercetin can have anti-allergic and antihistamine properties.

In one animal study, researchers found that quercetin could reduce the respiratory effects of allergies in mice by lowering airway inflammation.

However, the evidence for its effectiveness is mixed, and according to the NCCIH, there is not enough evidence to suggest that quercetin can relieve allergic rhinitis.

Quercetin is naturally present in many foods and herbs, including:

  • apples
  • berries
  • black tea
  • broccoli
  • buckwheat tea
  • grapes
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • green tea
  • peppers
  • red onions
  • red wine

However, taking supplements of quercetin will work better in the treatment of allergies than eating foods that contain it. This is because foods contain significantly lower levels of the flavonoid.

Quercetin is generally safe for most people. It may cause headaches and tingling in the arms and legs of some people. Very high doses, especially when taken long-term, may cause kidney damage.

Other natural remedies

The NCCIH state that there is not enough evidence to suggest that the following natural products can help with the symptoms of allergic rhinitis:

  • astragalus
  • grape seed extract
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • stinging nettle
  • Pycnogenol
  • spirulina

Alternative allergy treatments

If natural antihistamines do not reduce a person’s allergy symptoms, they may need to seek alternatives.

Other methods to treat and prevent allergy symptoms include:

Avoiding the allergen

Allergy avoidance is typically the first line of defense against symptoms. Try to identify the allergen, which might be pollen, pet dander, or mold spores, and reduce exposure to it as much as possible.

Medications

Allergy shots may be helpful for people with severe allergies.

Allergy medicines can cause the immune system’s reaction to the allergen to calm down. Antihistamines work by breaking down histamine in the body.

Antihistamine medications can reduce symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes, and sinus pressure.

Medications for allergies are available OTC or by prescription and include:

  • oral medications
  • liquids
  • nasal sprays
  • eye drops

Immunotherapy

People with severe allergies may benefit from immunotherapy. This treatment is also suitable if allergy medications do not relieve symptoms.

During immunotherapy, a healthcare professional will give a person a series of injections that contain tiny amounts of the allergen. This treatment may take place over several years and aims to desensitize the body to the allergen.

For people with pollen allergies, doctors may recommend sublingual immunotherapy. This involves placing a tablet under the tongue until it dissolves.

Epinephrine treatment

Those with severe allergies may need to carry an emergency epinephrine shot (Auvi-Q, EpiPen) with them at all times. Giving this treatment at the onset of an allergic reaction can reduce symptoms and may save a person’s life.

Takeaway

Living with allergies can be challenging, especially when symptoms are at their worst. Seek help and advice from a doctor when dealing with allergy symptoms.

Some natural substances can have antihistamine properties, meaning they can break down the chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. More evidence is needed to find out how effective these natural remedies are.

For the best chance of relief, try to limit or avoid exposure to the allergen. Practice good self-care techniques and consider using natural antihistamines.

As the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate supplements, and natural remedies can interfere with certain medications, it is essential to speak to a doctor before beginning any new supplement or herbal remedy.