Does Socializing Reduce Dementia Risk?

elderly couple holding hands

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. About a third of people 85 and older show signs of the disease. The genes you get from your parents play a part at this age, but so do things like diet, exercise, and your social life.

A recent study shows that staying socially active may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in later life. This gives us another reason to encourage connected communities and find ways to reduce isolation and loneliness.

The research team from University College London used data from a study of 10,228 people who had been asked six times between 1985 and 2013 about how much contact they had with friends and family. These individuals completed cognitive tests beginning in 1997. The researchers also studied their electronic health records until 2017 to see whether they ever had received dementia diagnoses. And they came to the conclusion that family and friends are a must.

Increased social contact at age 60 is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing dementia later in life. Someone who saw his or her friends almost daily at age 60 was 12% less likely to develop dementia than someone who only saw one or two friends every few months, according to study results. The investigators said they found similarly strong associations between social contact at ages 50 and 70 and subsequent development of dementia.

How Does Social Contact Reduce Dementia Risk?

Here are three reasons why socializing may reduce dementia risk:

  • People who are socially engaged are exercising cognitive skills such as memory and language, which may help them to develop cognitive reserve. This may not stop their brains from changing, but it may delay any symptoms of dementia.
  • Spending more time with friends is good for a person’s mental wellbeing and helps you remain physically active. Both mental health and exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia.
  • We are social creatures and thrive best when we interact with others. Make sure you put in the effort to keep your old friends and make new ones.

 

Four Surprising Foods that Improve Memory

spices on spoons

For most people, occasional lapses in memory are a normal part of the aging process. One of the reasons is that the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in the formation and retrieval of memories, often deteriorates with age. Here are four surprising foods that may help improve your memory.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a yellow spice that is a key ingredient in curry powder. It’s not just the taste that’s great, it’s also good for your brain. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It can cross the blood-brain barrier. This means it can enter the brain and benefit the cells there. Here’s what it does:

  • Improves memory: Curcumin may help improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s. It may also help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of this disease.
  • Eases depression: It boosts serotonin and dopamine, which both improve mood.
  • Encourages brain cell growth: Curcumin boosts the type of growth hormone that helps brain cells grow.

Tip: Spice chicken, meat, beans and lentils with curry powder. The spice will add taste, color and health benefits to your food.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has a high protein content. Protein is important to preserve muscle mass. It also provides high levels of calcium and potassium. And here’s where the brain benefits come in: Greek yogurt gives you vitamin B12. B12 is also involved in synthesizing brain chemicals and regulating sugar levels in the brain. And here’s another reason to up your intake of vitamin B12: being deficient in two types of B vitamins — folate and B12 — has been linked to depression.

Tip: Avoid the flavored varieties of Greek yogurt because of the high sugar content. Opt for plain Greek yoghurt and add fresh fruit or granola.

Eggs

Eggs are a good source of several nutrients tied to brain health, including vitamins B6 and B12, folate and choline. We’ve spoken about vitamin B12. Choline is an important micronutrient that your body uses to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory.Two studies found that higher intakes of choline were linked to better memory and mental function.

Tip: Egg yolks are one of the most concentrated sources of this nutrient, so make eggs an regular part of your diet.

Carrots

Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene (which your body converts to vitamin A). Many studies have shown that people who consumed higher levels of vitamin A and other anti-oxidants over several years had substantially decreased levels of Alzheimer’s disease. One 7-1/2″ long carrot delivers 203% of the daily RDA for vitamin A. Broccoli and other vegetables are also high in vitamin A, but you would have to eat almost nine broccoli spears to equal the vitamin A in one carrot.

Tip: More than three carrots a day will saturate the body’s ability to store vitamin A over a short time and can show up as an orange tint on the skin. Make it easier to eat carrots either by grating them or by steaming them lightly.

Sleep Loss for Caregivers of Dementia Patients

Sleeping man

 

Researchers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas say that sleep loss for caregivers of dementia patients can be between 2.5 to 3.5 hours of sleep per week. The researchers reviewed 35 studies that included nearly 3,300 caregivers. The findings were published online recently in JAMA Network Open.

Two Reasons for Sleep Loss for Caregivers

  1.  Chronic stress can cause sleep problems. Caregivers of dementia patients need to deal with all the extra responsibilities, grief and sadness that come with the caring. The extra stress makes it hard to fall asleep and to stay asleep.
  2. People with dementia often have nighttime awakenings that make it difficult for both them and their caregivers to get a good night rest.

The sleep loss may not seem much, but it accumulates over the years and puts both the caregivers and their loved ones at risk. The extra stress affects caregivers’ cognition, and mental and physical health. As a result, they may forget some medication doses or react more emotionally than they normally would have.

But improving the quality of sleep of the caregivers can improve their functioning and quality of life.

Three Tips to Get Better Sleep

Get more morning sunlight

Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm. This rhythm tells you when to wake up and when to start feeling sleepy. One way to keep this rhythm healthy is to spend time in strong sunlight. One study in older adults found that two hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by two hours and sleep efficiency by 80%.

Enjoy some exercise

Moderate exercise can help to lower your stress. You can take a short walk, meditate or try some stretching exercises. One study in older adults showed that exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took to fall asleep and provided 41 more minutes of sleep at night. Try to avoid exercising late at night.

Stick to a routine

Try to establish a regular and relaxing bedtime routine. This is important for people with dementia because consistency gives them a sense of security. It’s also important for you. Try relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing.  A relaxing bath or shower is another popular way to sleep better. Having a routine can make your life simpler as it helps you feel in control and lowers your stress levels.

About 16 million family caregivers in the United States provide long-term care for dementia patients. Share this and make their night!

How Pets Can Help Fight Loneliness in Seniors

 

White puppy

Loneliness in seniors is on the rise. One in five Americans say that they feel lonely and nearly half of our seniors say they often feel lonely. Loneliness can affect you physically and mentally. According to a new study of social isolation published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in May, loneliness doesn’t just affect your moods. It can affect your health and especially your heart.

But here’s the good news. A new survey by Home Instead, Inc. says that regular interaction with animals can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in older adults. Researchers found that petting a dog, holding a cat or watching a bird can brighten up the mood of a lonely senior.

How Pets Help with Loneliness in Seniors

Stress relief

Spending time with a pet releases endorphins. Endorphins have a calming effect and reduce levels of stress. This is especially good for patients who suffer from dementia.  Dementia patients can become stressed when they are unable to communicate with people or are unable to express their ideas or feelings. Having pets around allows them to bond with animals without relying on any language.

Self-Confidence

Spending time with pets gives seniors a sense of purpose and boosts their self-confidence and improves self-esteem. Seniors feel independent and happily take on the responsibility of owning a pet.

Exercise

Seniors who own pets are more likely to get recommended levels of exercise. As a result, they have lower blood pressure and less stress. Exercise also improves motor skills and reduces the risk of joint stiffness, falls and pain. Seniors with arthritis especially benefit from petting an animal. Seniors with a risk of heart disease also benefit from spending time with a pet, because this positively spent time helps to lower blood pressure levels. Interacting with animals actually lessens the perception of pain and discomfort.

The chance to socialize with other people

Not everyone wants to own a pet. But don’t worry: seniors experience the same positive feelings even when they visit with pets owned by family, friends or neighbors. Even interactions for half an hour a week can make a difference.

 

You Can Take These Easy Steps to Prevent Alzheimer’s

E

Research shows that by taking these easy steps you can help to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. With many of us living longer than ever before, we need to maintain the quality of life that can prevent dementia and make the Golden Years shine.

Many things contribute to Alzheimer’s. Sometimes it’s genes. Sometimes it’s inflammation in the brain, vascular risk factors, and lifestyle. Here’s what you can do to improve your lifestyle to try and prevent Alzheimer’s.

Exercise

According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 percent. It can also slow the progression in people who have who have already started to develop cognitive problems. Exercise works by stimulating the brain’s ability to maintain old connections as well as the ability to make new ones.

Health Tip: Aim for 30 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise, three to four days per week. Some training will increase your muscle mass as well as help your brain. If you’re over 65 and you add 2-3 weight and resistance sessions to your weekly routine, you may cut your risk of Alzheimer’s in half.

Learn Something New

It may be that by stimulating your brain, you are actually taking steps to prevent Alzheimer’s. In one study, older adults who got 10 sessions of mental training, improved their cognitive functioning in daily activities in the months after the training. They also continued to show long-lasting improvements 10 years later.

Health Tip: Practice memorization by learning things off by heart. Start with something short, like your grandchildren’s birthdays and move on to longer lists. Invest in strategy games, puzzles, and riddles.

Be Social

It looks like staying active socially may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in later life. We are social creatures and thrive best when we interact with others. Make sure you put in the effort to keep your old friends and make new ones.

Health Tip: Join a club where you can take up something that you enjoy doing, like wood work. It’s never too late to start going to a community college. Get to know your neighbors and make dates with your family members and friends.

Eat a Mediterranean Diet

The diet includes fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, legumes, fish some chicken eggs, and dairy, a little wine and even less red meat. If changing your diet seems too hard, remember that you may be helping yourself even if you follow this diet only partially. The second thing you want to do is to cut down on sugar. Sugary foods and refined carbs such as white flour, white rice, and pasta can lead to dramatic spikes in blood sugar which can inflame your brain. Fruits and vegetables give you antioxidants and vitamins you need.

Health Tip: If you’re looking for supplements, try adding folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and fish oil to your diet.

Sleep

Improving your sleep patterns can help clear out of your brain the toxins associated with Alzheimer’s. Aim for seven to eight hours per night. It seems that deep sleep is necessary for memory formation.

Health Tip: Try to create a bedtime ritual that relaxed you. Take a hot bath, do some light stretches, write in your journal, or dim the lights. By creating a ritual, your brain learns that it’s time to go to sleep. Use deep breathing techniques to quiet your inner chatter.

New Blood Test to Detect Alzheimer’s

 

vial-of-blood-used to-detect-Alzheimer's

The latest research has come up with a blood test to detect Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s has always been difficult to confirm. Until recently, only an autopsy could detect Alzheimer’s with certainty. With medical advances, doctors began to use PET brain scans. Another method used is testing levels of amyloid. Amyloid is a toxic protein that is a sign of Alzheimer’s. This test, which involves drawing fluid from the spine, is invasive and painful

A Blood Test to Detect Alzheimer’s

Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a simple blood test can pinpoint the early signs of Alzheimer’s in a new study. Using a blood test to confirm Alzheimer’s is both convenient and easy. How does it work?

The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s symptoms are  memory loss and confusion. About twenty years before people develop these symptoms, harmful clumps of amyloid beta protein begin to accumulate in their brain. Now we may be able to measure the levels of amyloid beta in the blood. This can help us tell us whether the protein has accumulated in the brain. Researchers claim that the blood test may be even more sensitive than a PET brain scan.

Two Additional Factors

Researchers take two additional factors into account when trying to identify people who have early Alzheimer’s brain changes. They consider the results of the blood amyloid levels, the age of the person and whether the genetic variant APOE4 is present. By putting them all together, researchers claim to identify with 94% accuracy.

The study included 150 adults over age 50 who had no thinking or memory problems.

Future Uses of the Blood Test

Researchers said that this test could be available in doctors’ offices within a few years, the researchers said. This means that it will be easier to develop treatments that stop the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials of Alzheimer’s drugs are hard to conduct because it’s hard to identify patients who have Alzheimer’s brain changes but no symptoms. The blood test could help spot people with early signs of the disease who will want to participate in drug clinical trials.

Today, people are screened for clinical trials using brain scans. This is time-consuming and expensive. With a blood test, thousands of people could be screened in one month. By enrolling people in clinical trials, researchers will be able to find treatments faster.

How Music Affects Dementia Patients Positively

Sheet-of-music-and-memento

If you’re struggling to connect with a patient with dementia, push aside the frustration and sadness because research shows that music can help you.

Dan Cohen, a social worker, began introducing music to people with dementia in nursing homes.  How did he do this? First, he asked the family of the resident to list the songs or instrumental pieces that the resident used to enjoy listening to. Then he put the songs and other music into an MP3 player and gave it to the resident. Depending on the resident, the music Cohen recorded ranged from jazz to rock to classical. The results were always surprising.

Some people, who had seemed unable to speak, started to sing and dance to the music. Others began to speak about when and where they had listened to that music. Listening to the music opened the doors to the residents’ memories. Why was that? Researchers say that listening to music reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion, and reward. Music affects dementia in such a positive way…so try to share time listening together to the music that your Alzheimer’s patient loves.

Music Does More than Affect Dementia

You’re familiar with the rush of pleasure that fills you when you hear music that you like. That’s because when we hear music, the pleasure centers in our brain release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy. The brain can even anticipate the most pleasurable peaks in familiar music and prime itself with an early dopamine rush. But music is more than a fun activity.

Music and Stroke Recovery

In another study, researchers found that singing lyrics could help people who are recovering from a stroke or brain injury that damaged the left-side of the brain. This side is responsible for speech. The right side of the brain is used for sing. Since this side of the brain hadn’t been damaged, people were able to sing their thoughts and then move on to saying them without the  melody.

Using Music to Improve Memory

Two recent studies—one in the United States and the other in Japan—found that music doesn’t just help us retrieve stored memories, it also helps us lay down new ones. In both studies, healthy elderly people took part in several weekly classes where they exercised while listening to music. When they were given tests of memory and reasoning, they scored higher than they had done before the exercise and music classes.

Music and Health

Music doesn’t just make you feel good and improve your memory. It can even be good for your health. Research has shown that listening to music is associated with upticks in immunity-boosting antibodies and cells that protect against bacteria and other invaders.

The Steinway Society of Western Pennsylvania Young Artist Volunteers have picked up on how music affects dementia patients and the elderly in general. The group performs works from Chopin, Bach, Liszt, Beethoven and Schubert. They plan to do one concert every three weeks throughout the region. The concerts last close to an hour and are followed up with 30 to 60 minutes of fellowship. The evenings are so popular that residents don’t want to kids to stop playing…so they usually stay on longer.

Beware of These Elderly Fraud Scams

Elderly Fraud Scams: Why they happen and what to watch out for

Elderly fraud scams are on the rise. Research shows that about 5 percent of the elderly population suffer from some sort of scam every year. That works out to be two to three million people. Why are the elderly so susceptible to scams?

Con Artists and Elderly Fraud Scams

The elderly are easy prey to unscrupulous con artists for five simple reasons.

  1. Loneliness. Elderly people are often lonely, especially if they have lost their spouse. This makes it easy for con artists to step in and pretend to offer friendship and caring.
  2. Ready money. After a lifetime of work, many seniors have managed to save up a tidy sum towards their retirement. This is exactly what con artists are looking for.
  3. Trusting nature. Elderly people grew up in a world that was trusting and polite. Con artists know that these people most probably won’t cut them short. They’ll listen for long enough to build up a relationship. This makes the next step — taking their money — easy.
  4. Reluctance to report. The elderly are less likely than their younger counterparts to report fraud. Admitting to being scammed is embarrassing especially because it puts in question their ability to make sound financial decisions. They are afraid that if they can’t take charge of their finances, their children may take over.
  5. Poor memory. As we age, our memory weakens. The elderly may be suffering from memory lapses or dementia. These conditions make it harder to present the details needed to investigators.

Five common scams targeting seniors

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the top 10 scams targeting seniors include the following:

1.Medicare. Con artists sometimes pose as Medicare representatives to get seniors to give them their personal information, such as their Medicare identification number. The con artist can then use this information to bill Medicare for fraudulent services and pocket the money.

2.Counterfeit prescription drugs. Seniors are searching the internet for cheaper prices for their medications. Con artists capitalize on this and set up websites that advertise cheap prescription drugs which are usually counterfeit. These counterfeit drugs don’t work. In fact, they endanger the lives of the people using them.

3.Funerals. Con artists scan obituaries to find out information about the deceased. Then they contact family members and tell them that the person who died left an outstanding debt that must be paid immediately.

4.Anti-aging products. Every one wants to look young today. Elderly people are willing to buy products that conceal their age. Con artists advertise products that are worthless and in some cases even harmful.

9.Lotteries. Con artists contact elderly people and tell them that they have won a prize, but must pay taxes on the prize before the money can be paid out. The con artists may even send a fake check to the victim. The victim then wires the money to the con artist. When the bank cannot clear the check, the victim realizes that he was conned.

10.The grandparent scam. The con artist calls the elderly person and claims to be a grandchild. He tells them that he needs some money and asks the grandparent to send this to him.  Then he asks the grandparent not to tell his parents what has happened.

Beware of these Senior Dental Care Challenges

Head made of rock smiling in field.

Senior dental care is more than ever relevant. The world’s population is ageing. By 2050, 25% of the world’s population will be aged over 60 years. A fifth of these – 400 million – will be aged over 80 years. Studies show that older people are particularly affected by poor oral health. Which challenges do they face and what can we do about them?

The Challenges in Senior Dental Care

We’ve all got to make sure we follow a good dental hygiene regime if we want to smile with confidence. Good dental hygiene becomes even more important as we grow older because seniors face unique challenges.

Receding gums

As you get older, your gums may recede (shrink back). This exposure means your teeth become more sensitive as a result. The solution? Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and toothpaste or mouthwash that deals with the sensitivity.

Motor challenges

You may find it more difficult to clean your teeth properly if you have problems with your hands or arms or if you have arthritis. The solution? Use an electric toothbrush. The handles are thicker and easier to hold and the oscillating head does most of the work.

If your eyesight is poor, you may find it helpful to use a  magnifying mirror and a good light. If you’re not sure if you manage to remove all of the plaque, you can invest in “disclosing tablets” or harmless dye that can be painted onto your teeth with a cotton bud. Simply brush your teeth again to remove the stained plaque.

If you have lost some teeth in the past, and have bridges or dentures, you may have particular cleaning needs and problems. Your dental team can help you with these.

Dry mouth

Saliva helps to protect your teeth against decay, so you want to make sure that your mouth stays nice and moist. Unfortunately, 30% of patients older than 65 years and up to 40% of patients older than 80 years suffer from a dry mouth, aka xerostomia. This often happens to people who are taking more than 4 daily prescription medications. It can also happen to people with diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease. Dry mouth can lead to cavities, cracked lips, and a cracked tongue. The solution? You can buy special products, including artificial saliva, in most pharmacies without a prescription. Alternatively, keep your mouth moist by sipping water regularly throughout the day and limiting alcoholic beverages, tea, coffee an sweetened drinks.

Mouth ulcers

These can be caused by broken teeth, poorly fitting dentures or sharp pieces of food. Once you’ve dealt with the cause, ulcers should heal within 3 weeks.

Cavities

Did you know that approximately 50% of people over the age of 75 years, have root caries affecting at least one tooth. The solution? Brush correctly and use topical fluoride through daily mouth rinses, high fluoride toothpaste and regular fluoride varnish application. In addition, make sure your dietary intake meets recommendations.

Cognitive impairment and senior dental care

Seniors with severe cognitive impairment, including dementia, are at increased risk for cavities and gum disease because its harder for them to take care of their teeth. In these cases, caregivers have to take a more active role in the dental care of their loved ones.

Neglecting senior dental care can lead to a drastic decrease in quality of life. Cavities, gum disease, tooth loss or dry mouth affect our ability to chew and therefore our nutritional intake. These challenges also affect the way we interact socially. Make sure that everyone can smile with confidence.

 

The Link Between Cancer and Dementia

 

Researchers have found a link between cancer and dementia. People all over the world are living longer than ever before. While this is obviously a good thing, the downside is that these extra years often come with age-associated disorders. Cancer and dementia are two diseases that increase with age, but they don’t come together.

Cancer and dementia don’t come together

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. According to Jim Ray, head of research for the Neurodegeneration Consortium at MD Anderson, people with a history of cancer are less likely to get Alzheimer’s. And people with Alzheimer’s are less likely to get cancer. Several other studies have come to the same conclusion: cancer survivors have a relatively lower risk of developing dementia. Why is that?

Reasons that cancer and dementia don’t come together

One clue could be in the way that these diseases work. They work in very different ways. With dementia, cells that are supposed to remain alive die out. With cancer, things work the opposite way: cells multiple and do not die out. So it looks like the mechanisms that allow cancer cells to grow and spread may, in the brain, protect cells from dying.

A research team at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine may have an answer. Professor Maria Glymour focused on an enzyme called PIN1. The activity of the enzyme is enhanced in cancer, but decreased in Alzheimer’s. So what does this enzyme do? Plenty of things.  Among others PIN1 probably prevents the buildup of abnormal proteins in the brain that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

A research team at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, has come up with a different observation. Obesity is a shared risk factor for both cancer and Alzheimer’s. Researchers notes that fat cells produce many active substances, including leptin and adiponectin; leptin has cancer stimulating and AD inhibiting properties, while adiponectin can inhibit cancer but stimulate AD.

Memory in the long term

But there’s more to it. Even before their diagnosis, older adults who go on to develop cancer have an edge when it comes to memory performance.
Among the older Americans who were tracked for 16 years, those who developed cancer typically had sharper memory skills — both before and after the diagnosis — than those who remained cancer-free.

Researchers said that cancer patients do typically see a sudden worsening in their memory for a short time. An estimated 75% of cancer patients have some level of cognitive impairment (memory loss, attention problems, etc.). Chemotherapy works by killing cancer cells by targeting fast-dividing cells, and in most cases, kills off some healthy cells along the way, including nerve cells in the brain. But afterward, their rate of memory decline continued at the same pace as before the diagnosis — which meant they maintained an advantage over cancer-free older adults.

The more researchers discover about the link between cancer and dementia, the more hope  we have for improving the quality of life for the elderly.