Alzheimer’s Disease in the Blogosphere, 2/28/08



Alzheimer’s disease is such a hot topic, it’s hard to keep up with everything that is being said about it. Here are some blog posts and articles that you may have missed earlier this month.

The February 7 issue of Nature, quoted by HealthCentral, reports that amyloid plaques, considered the main sign of AD, can form in one day in laboratory mice. At least one doctor cautions that, despite the headlines, this doesn’t mean that AD can form in one day. AD develops more slowly. The study also found that soon after the plaque appeared, specialized cells called microglia appeared. Doctors wonder if microglia might actually fight the growth of plaque.

The Alzheimer’s Association is reaching out to African-Americans, who are more susceptible to high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes and heart disease, problems that have been linked to increased Alzheimer’s symptoms. They offering a Healthy Heart and Brain Kit. Some assembly required?

Drugs called amyloid inhibitors, which were supposed to fight brain clumps and plaques, actually cause clumping themselves, according to a report last month in Nature Chemical Biology. HealthDay and Yahoo News quote the leader of the study as saying these drugs “seem to act not in the way people expect them to and want them to.”

Mona at The Tangled Neuron wonders if people with AD are steered into creative activities, whether the disease affects the brain in a way that actually makes people more creative, or whether people with AD just realize that they need to seize the moment. By the way, Mona’s blog includes a list of blogs written by people with dementia.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy wants to spend $2.4 billion to fight AD. That is, he wants to establish a research facility and a network of nursing homes.

Joanne at Writing After Dark takes care of her 84-year-old mother, and says that Seroquel (quetiapine) is helping her mother sleep through the night. The drug was intended to treat schizophrenia and the depression and manic episodes in bipolar disorder, but it’s given to many people with Alzheimer’s. Researchers say it can actually make cognitive functioning worse. But every drug works differently for different people, and a daughter ought to know when a drug seems beneficial for her mother. My grandmother tried to stay away from them all. She took only aspirin and Namenda, though I’m not certain that they helped her.

You’re supposed to ingest lots of antioxidants (such as leafy green vegetables) because oxygen can actually hurt our cells, make us older, and cause brain deterioration. The process, called oxidative stress, is being studied at the University of Michigan. It helps me to compare the process to rusting.

Some herbs not only make food taste good, they’re good for your health. Mint is said to be a natural antiseptic. Garlic, and to a lesser extent, leeks and onions, fights infection, possibly by making people want to stay away from you (just kidding). Now a component in rosemary may help prevent oxidative stress in the brain, which means that it may be good for people with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The active ingredient in rosemary is carnosic acid. Rosemary is good on fish, chicken and even asparagus.

If spending more on medicine makes people live longer, why do impoverished Albanians live almost as long as the socialized French, when Albania spends about $400 a year per capita on health care, and France spends ten times a much? That’s what Panda Bear, MD wants to know. If longevity were tied to health care spending, I calculate the French would live an average of 780 years.

I’m far from being a Tibetan Buddhist, but The Literate Kitten quotes from Living Without Regret: Growing Old in Light of Tibetan Buddhism by Arnaud Maitland: “Change is the dominant flavor of reality. What if we could take taste change as if it were a delicacy? No longer would be have to cling to the illusion that ignoring time lets us hold it at bay.” I’m convinced that many people can’t deal with Alzheimer’s disease because they can’t deal with aging. But what’s the alternative to aging? You tell me.

SharpBrains reports that the market for “brain fitness” software is expected to reach $227 million in 2007. Even Nintendo is developing these programs, and nursing homes (and baby boomers) are buying them. Clinical evidence shows they have a positive short-term effect, but the jury is still out about their long-term effects. Notice that Nintendo is not advertising BrainAge as a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Not yet.

Patrick Meade
gave a seminar on Alzheimer’s disease at Ohio State University this month, but he had to revise his notes pretty severely. He writes, “It’s interesting to look at my notes from two years ago and see how dated everything is. Two of the possible causes of Alzheimer’s are now discarded entirely and one other is questionable. Most of the drugs we were pushing back then are also history…”

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Comments

  1. Nice round-up of Alzheimer’s articles you have. I noticed them last week, too. I’m pleased you find those at Alzheimer’s Notes of interest for your readers. Thanks for linking to us (the Nicolas Sarkozy one this week).

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