Seniors: Top research stories on alzheimer’s disease in the last year

  • Jan. 11, 2018 6:30 p.m.

January is Alzheimer ’s disease awareness month in Canada and Alzheimer’s Society chapters all over Canada are gearing towards raising awareness of the disease among Canadians. It is therefore an appropriate time to sum up the top research stories on Alzheimer ’s disease in 2017, as a reminder of the great work being done to find treatments to improve the lives of individuals affected by dementia and to identify interventions to help reduce the risk of developing the disease as we age.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Helps Preserve Memory and Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease, Study Finds

Researchers at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine , in Philadelphia, have found that one major component of the Mediterranean diet in particular — extra-virgin olive oil — protects against cognitive decline. According to researchers, consumption of extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and learning ability and reduces the formation of amyloid-beta plaque and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, both classic Alzheimer’s hallmarks.

One In Three Cases of

Dementia Are Preventable

An international review determined that 35 per cent of dementia cases could be delayed or prevented by improving nine lifestyle factors. Early life education ( minimum of 15 years); managing blood pressure, protecting hearing, and preventing obesity in midlife; and controlling depression and social isolation, in late life can ward off dementia. Throughout lifetime, managing diabetes, avoiding smoking, engaging in regular physical activity and lifelong learning contribute to cognitive maintenance.

Drinking Tea May Boost Cognition and Ward Off Dementia, Singapore Study Suggests

This study from Singapore found that drinking tea was linked to better cognition and a lower risk of neurocognitive disease. In fact, the more tea a person drank, the larger the protective effect. Various tea types — black, green, and oolong — were equally beneficial, researchers said, but noted that the protective effect was really seen only in women and people with the APOE4 risk gene.

Exercise May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and Delay Its Progression

University of British Columbia researchers from the Okanagan campus reviewed over 150 research papers, including seven articles about the role of exercise in preventing Alzheimer’s disease and 20 concerning symptom management through physical activity, coming to the conclusion that “regular participation in physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Among older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, regular physical activity can improve performance of activities of daily living and mobility, and may improve general cognition and balance.”

Moderate, but not low-intensity exercise might help protect brain from Alzheimer’s Disease

People at risk for Alzheimer’s disease who spend more time doing moderate-intensity exercise have a healthier level of glucose metabolism in the brain — considered as an indication of a healthy brain. In contrast, low-intensity physical activity, such as a slow walk, was not related to brain metabolism, according to the research, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

While many people become discouraged about Alzheimer’s disease because they feel there’s little they can do to protect against it, these results suggest that engaging in moderate physical activity may slow down the progression of the disease.

Volunteering reduces the risk of dementia in older adults

Researchers from the University of Calgary conducted a study exploring the cognitive benefits of volunteering for seniors. They found that people who did not volunteer were 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia than those who volunteered regularly, at least an hour every week. In addition, volunteering intermittently provided no cognitive benefits. The team strongly recommends volunteering in retirement as an effective, inexpensive way to reduce dementia risk that benefits the seniors as well as the wider community.

Latest clinical data on Namenda confirms beneficial effects for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease

Results from four recent studies confirmed the beneficial clinical effects of Namenda (Memantine), an FDA-approved Alzheimer’s therapy, to treat the disease’s behavioral and functional symptoms in people with moderate to severe disease.

Namenda blocks the activity of specific brain receptors that are believed to be associated with Alzheimer’s symptoms. The drug is also suggested to have the potential to improve memory, awareness, and the ability to perform certain daily functions. This research suggested that patients with moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s receiving Aricept could improve in several areas if also treated with Namenda

Potential Alzheimer’s Treatments Moving Ahead and Breakthroughs Likely, Scientists Say

PhRMA — a group of major U.S. pharmaceutical companies — recently released a list of treatments currently in clinical development for Alzheimer’s, along with a “Medicines in Development 2017 Update” to reassure patients and caregivers that all failed trials have advanced disease understanding, and that this is reflected in new efforts. Among the most promising efforts, are immunotherapies — mainly, antibodies lowering amyloid (Aducanumab) or tau, which cause few side effects, and BACE inhibitors that reduce the formation of plaques. Previous studies have shown that Aducanumab can decrease the amyloid plaques in the brain to levels lower than that required for a PET scan to diagnose the disease. The hope is that by immunizing people early in life, they may never develop Alzheimer’s. Treatments that target neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s may also have an impact.

I hope that these top stories have helped to inform and raise hope among individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. Let us hope that 2018 will bring more news about treatments that may change the course of this devastating illness.

Padmaja Genesh, who holds a bachelor degree in medicine and surgery as well as a bachelor degree in Gerontology, has spent several years teaching and working with health care agencies. A past resident of Red Deer, and a past board member of Red Deer Golden Circle, she is now a Learning Specialist at the Alzheimer Society of Calgary. Please send your comments to

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