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How Excess Iron Can Effect the Aging Process

A recent study published by the Buck Institute in an online publication called Aging, has yielded some interesting findings on the links between aging and iron. We do know that as we age the human body accumulates metals in its tissues. While we originally thought that iron was produced as a result of aging, Dr Lithgow, the lead author of the Buck Institute’s study, has demonstrated that iron is in fact a major contributor to the aging process.

The research team were initially focused on iron because of its association with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Using nematode C. elegans, they observed that as the worms aged, the levels of metals increased. They observed that iron accumulated much more than other metals. The researchers then changed the nematode’s diet and discovered some interesting results. Four day old worms were given iron for two days, and following this they resembled worms that were 15 days old. Iron was identified as the reason for their accelerated growth.

The research team were expecting to observe oxidative stress in the nematodes. However they did not find this: in fact they observed a typical aging process. This led them to concur that iron was leading the aging process.

The researchers then tested the worms with a metal chelator that is normally used to treat lead poisoning in humans, called CaEDTA. This chelator decreased the iron build-up and lengthened the life of the worms. It also protected a variety of nematodes that were developed to produce protein aggregations’ normally linked to human disease.

The conclusions drawn by Dr Lithgow were that finding the correct balance of metals is important for good health, however this mix can be easily disrupted with age. Dr Lithgow stated that there is great potential for future research and exploration in this area, as it hasn’t been extensively studied to date.

How to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

The cognitive decline of an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer is heart-rending to family and friends. This disease is debilitating and as yet, has no certain cure. Although there is also no concrete way of predicting how Alzheimer’s will progress, recent studies show that lifestyle changes may play a significant role in deterring the disease. Preventing the onset of the disease requires therapeutic lifestyle modification early in life thereby reducing risk factors associated with the disease?

The Research

Several studies have been made in which it was concluded that lifestyle changes and social enhancement do indeed play a role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The Finnish Geriatric Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) conducted one such study with astounding results. All the participants selected for the study were at risk for developing Alzheimer’s due to factors like age and heart health not being optimal. Participants were given basic healthcare across the board.

Only half of the participants were given a complete lifestyle make-over and a social support system that included cognitive training, control of risk factors and social activities. When the study ended after two years, these participants were in much better health than their peers who did not benefit from an improved lifestyle and social support. These individuals not only made significant improvement in their chances of avoiding Alzheimer’s disease but also drastically enhanced their quality of life – a win-win situation.

How to Start Making Changes

Try to adapt your lifestyle to make as many of the following changes as possible:
• Decide on a daily exercise regime: Consult a physician to ensure that it is suitable to your current health status.
• Eat healthy: In recent years the so-called Mediterranean diet has become associated with optimum health and considerably lower risk of cognitive decline. It consists of fresh ingredients like vegetables, fish and uses olive oil as the main source of fat. Avoid processed foods, excessive sugar, salt and saturated fats.
• If you smoke, stop. Damaging the brain vessels in any way increases inflammation and the risk of Alzheimer’s as well as many other serious health threats.
• Get enough sleep: Sleep is good for learning and memory and lack of it can seriously impact on your mental functions.
• Take supplements, but not to excess: Deficiencies in Folate and Vitamin B12 have been proven to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. However, nothing has been conclusively proven in studies conducted on the effects of other vitamins, minerals and fatty acids.
• Finally, avoid impact to your head if possible: It is a known fact that Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) increases the likelihood of Alzheimer’s. Accidents happen but taking precautions like wearing protective headgear when engaging in sports and investing in anti-slip mats around the home is an excellent practice.

While we cannot as yet cure the disease, it is possible to lower the risk with a lifestyle overhaul. Remember the sooner you adopt a healthier lifestyle, the more likely it is to be an effective preventative measure. Programs like Sci-Brain  that is developed to primarily address an objective way to optimize cognitive outcome based on reducing risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease based on Research at the Roskamp Institute.

Reelin Protein: Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment? An Article By Emma Henson

ImageResearchers from the Department of Cell Biology at the University of Barcelona published a study in Nature Connections, on ReelinThis protein is crucial to adult brain plasticity, and it has been found to recover cognitive functions in mice with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disease characterized by cognitive defects, synaptic loss, and neuronal death, is mainly associated with the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and the presence of neurofibrillary tangles.  This new study demonstrates that an increase in Reelin brain levels helps avoid cognitive decline in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.  Reelin also delays amyloid-beta fibril formation in vitro, and reduces amyloid deposits in mice.

Instead of focusing efforts on therapeutic targets directed toward a certain processes within Alzheimer’s, the scientists analyzed Reelin’s dual pathway that regulates the amyloid precursor protein and tau protein.  Though researchers previously understood that Reelin played a part in a double regulating pathway of both amyloid beta and tau protein, it was difficult to pinpoint its exact role.  The study sheds light on a new mechanism that allows understanding of the link between these two crucial parts of Alzheimer’s disease, and also proves that Reelin overexpression may be beneficial.

 

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A Fascinating Alzheimer’s Research – Sleep and Glymphatic System / Dr. Michael Mullan

images (4)What does the new study on the role of sleep in the removal of toxic waste from the brain show?

The new study from scientists at the University of Rochester has shown that sleep has a different effect on the removal of potentially toxic waste products from our brain compared to the waking state. In the rest of the body, a system called the lymphatic system removes waste accumulated from most cell types. This system, which consists of an interconnected network of tubes and lymph nodes, allows the passage of toxins in lymph back into the blood circulation. From here, most toxins from metabolic processes are destroyed in the liver or are otherwise disposed of by the body. However, the brain lacks a lymphatic system that is separate from the vasculature. Instead, cerebrospinal fluid passes from the large stores in the brain (ventricles) where it is made and passes around the arteries which provide blood to the whole brain. Much of the waste produced in the brain mixes with this cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and passes around the outside of veins which leave the brain allowing the waste product to pass out of the brain also. This system has been called the glymphatic system and using new techniques, has now come under intense scrutiny from neuroscientists.

What is the main finding from the new study?

The new study suggests that during sleep, a much larger volume of CSF passes around the arteries and that consequently, there is a greater movement of waste products out of the brain. The researchers saw a very dramatic decrease in the influx of CSF around the arteries and into the brain when a mouse was awoken from a sleep state. Interestingly, researchers saw something similar when mice were anesthetized and therefore, unconscious. Again, there was a much greater influx of CSF around blood vessels and into the brain when the mice were unconscious. Interestingly, in order to explain why there was more CSF in the brain during sleep, the researchers showed that there was more space available to be occupied by CSF in the sleeping state. There seemed to be as much as a 60% increase in the space between brain cells during sleep allowing, the researchers suggest, more CSF to enter the brain during that time.

What is the significance of these findings for Alzheimer’s disease?

Previous studies have shown that the accumulation of the small protein amyloid in the brain is associated with damage to neurons if its accumulation goes unchecked. Previous studies have also shown that amyloid is cleared by the glymphatic system. In other words, neurons in the brain make amyloid but, these are normally taken out of the brain along the veins and harmlessly dealt with outside of the brain. The researchers showed that amyloid is cleared much more efficiently from the brain during sleep which is consistent with their findings of increased glymphatic flow during sleep. Essentially, the same finding was found during anesthesia that amyloid was cleared more rapidly from the brain. The scientists went on to show that certain brain neurotransmitters, particularly adrenaline [or norepinephrine (NE)] was responsible for reducing the amount of space available to CSF influx. They showed that by blocking receptors for adrenaline or NE, they could mimic in waking animals the increased clearance of CSF that was observed in the sleeping state.

What are the broad implications for this research for our understanding of sleep?

The reasons why all higher organisms have a need for sleep has been much debated over the centuries. It is well known that humans or animals deprived of sleep will eventually die. Fatal familial insomnia, an inherited disease caused by mutations in the prion gene leads to delirium, hallucinations, and subsequently death. Sleep may have many functions including the requirement for integration of new information acquired during the waking state. These new findings, however, suggest a more basic need for sleep (as even advanced Alzheimer cases who acquire no new memories still require sleep). The suggestion is that sleep is linked to the ability of the brain to allow additional high levels of CSF to enter and bathe the neurons and other cells in  fluid which can absorb many toxic substances including, importantly, amyloid. Future studies may look at ways to artificially manipulate the system to increase the clearance of amyloid from the brain, thus preventing its accumulation and toxic damage to neurons.

Read more about Alzheimer’s research by Michael Mullan

Ten tips to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease – part 2

3)  Mental Exercise.

 

There are many analogies between physical fitness and mental fitness. To stay adaptable and able to cope with stresses and body and mind must have an innate level of fitness. Just as we struggle to climb stairs if we are not physically fit, so we struggle to solve problems if we have not exercised our minds to do so. For both muscle and brain adaptability the old adage is true “use it or lose it”. Importantly, we also know that the more we have used our brains throughout life the more protected we are from developing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease.  We also know that the more we use our brains the more connections form between one neuron and the others around it. The more densely connected neurons are to each other the more they can find ways to continue to communicate when the brain is under attack for instance, from conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease and stroke.

So what should we do exactly to exercise our neurons? Essentially any use of one’s brain that requires effort is beneficial. And generally speaking, just like physical fitness, the more difficult and prolonged the task the more the brain has to physically change and grow to adapt. But also just like a physical fitness program – we are more likely to continue to work on something that is not too strenuous than if we over tax ourselves when we are more likely to abandon a program. And also just like a physical fitness program we are more likely to continue a mental fitness program if it is fun. So games of almost any description are good exercises for the brain – this includes card games, crossword puzzles, sudoku, on line games but preferably ones with elements of learning and novelty. Games in the context of social settings may be particularly stimulating because the parts of the brain engaged with social functioning are also active. More difficult but rewarding (from a cognitive fitness viewpoint) are pass-times like mathematics. Doing math mentally is particularly difficult for a lot of people but the constant mental arithmetic is a great way to expand neural connections in that part of the brain which subserves calculation. In general, it’s good to mix up mental tasks to give the brain a work out in different areas which tends to enrich connections between diverse parts of the brain – a phenomenon particularly associated with high performance. Different parts of the brain you may want to “work out” are those that deal with language (learn a new one or brush up on an old one you once learnt or just expand your mother tongue), memory (consciously memorize lists, names, news events and recall them later), visuospatial skills (mentally retrace your steps in places you’ve visited or lived in), music (take up an instrument) and attention (try several common tasks one in rapid succession forcing yourself to switch attention from one to the next).

Finally, be aware that there are more and more brain fitness programs coming available on line. Have fun exploring these but choose one that you think you will want to be using a year from now.

Ten tips to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease – part 1

by Michael Mullan

We are all likely to be touched by someone with Alzheimer’s Disease sometime in our lives and as we age we are at risk ourselves. Currently, medical research has a way to go before treatments are available which can prevent or cure the disease. So why we await such treatments is there anything we can do to reduce our risk for developing this feared disease? The answer is most definitely yes! The benefits of changes in lifestyle and medical care can be dramatic in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease in related dementias. Here are ten simple tips derived from the extensive medical literature on the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease which can be included in almost any lifestyle to significantly reduce your or your loved ones’ risk for the disease.

1) Stay physically active.

"Exercise" says Michael Mullan

Excellent scientific evidence suggests that we can reduce our risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease by increasing our daily activity. There is a direct relationship between the amount of exercise or physical activity we engage in and protection against Alzheimer’s Disease.

We do not have an exact formula for how much activity is required to reduce our risk by a given amount but in general longer and more strenuous activity confers more protection. However, we have to balance the benefits of exercise with the potential drawbacks such as the aggravation of pre-existing conditions like arthritis and heart disease. As with all new exercise routines a thorough medical examine is prudent. Also, any routine should be realistic and within the capabilities of the individual. It’s much better to have a moderate routine that is followed for months and years rather then a too strenuous one that is abandoned after a week. Finally, it’s worth remembering that simple exercises like walking and swimming can provide great protective benefit and require little preparation or equipment.

2)  Eat Well.

fruit and vegetable A mounting body of evidence points to diet as a key variable contributing to our risk for, or prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. In particular it’s becoming clear that diets which resemble the so called Mediterranean diet lower our risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. The Mediterranean diet consists of: high amounts of vegetables, fruit, legumes and cereals; low intake of saturated fats and relatively high intake of olive oil as the main source of unsaturated fat; moderate fish intake, low to moderate intake of dairy produce, and low consumption of meat; and, finally a low to moderate consumption of wine usually taken with meals. You may recognize this diet as being associated with other health benefits such as reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. In addition to these benefits, this diet has been associated with significantly lower rates of cognitive decline and dementia.

Alzheimer’s Awareness – Early Detection Signs | by Michael Mullan

Alzheimer’s disease can be detected earlier than you might think. Several signs and symptoms may alert you to the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease and prompt you to seek the counsel of a physician.

Early Detection Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Short Term Memory Loss: Memory loss is one of the biggest signs that Alzheimer’s may be present. It is not however, the only sign and some memory loss is to be expected as part of the aging process. Everyone forgets things, but with Alzheimer’s disease, the biggest sign is not being able to remember recent information and events.
  • Time and Date Confusion: People with Alzheimer’s disease often become confused about times and dates. Short-term memory loss causes them to lose track of time and even forget how they came to be in a certain place. They may not be able to remember an event unless it is happening in the present.
  • Struggling With Tasks: Alzheimer’s disease can cause people to struggle with completing ordinary tasks around the home as well as regular hobbies and activities. A person with Alzheimer’s disease will very often lose the ability to remember how to drive or how to complete a favourite hobby.

Early Detection Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

  • Personality Changes: If you are concerned that a loved one may have Alzheimer’s, one of the early detection symptoms is a personality change accompanied by a withdrawal from social activities. People with Alzheimer’s become frustrated very easily. They may also become suspicious, anxious and even depressed. Because Alzheimer’s sufferers very often lose the ability to remember where they placed items, they may accuse others of stealing from them.
  •  Language Struggles: Alzheimer’s can cause people to struggle with the formation of words when they are speaking. They literally forget how to say certain words and easily become frustrated with trying to hold a conversation. Very often, people with Alzheimer’s disease will repeat themselves time after time.
  • Impaired Judgement: People with Alzheimer’s will very often have lapses in judgement that are contrary to their usual behaviour. The inability to manage a budget, balance a checkbook or handle cash is a symptom that should not be dismissed.

If you are worried that a friend or member of your family may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the very best thing that you can do is to make an appointment with a specialist physician. There is not ONE specific sign or symptom that allows a person to diagnose Alzheimer’s because it is a progressive disease, which means that it gradually gets worse over time.

The Difference between the Aging Process and Alzheimer’s Disease

It is often easy to dismiss the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s as ‘normal aging’, but if the patterns continue and specific symptoms appear to increase in frequency and intensity, you should seek medical attention. Early diagnosis allows for effective support and treatment of many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
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