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Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Studied in Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention
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Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Studied in Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

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Highlights:
  • Exercise leads to the transmission of neuronal messages more efficiently in older adults who stay physically active.
  • The research team is trying to identify whether cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension and high cholesterol could influence Alzheimer’s risk.
  • Exercise could play a key role in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Early onset Alzheimer's is one of the most dreaded diseases and Carol White was not alone when she feared the worst on hearing that one of her close relatives was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Ms. White was part of a study conducted by UT Southwestern Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, adding "I live with the possibility Alzheimer's might also touch my life. You just take a deep breath and wonder."

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The 69-year-old enrolled herself for the study that focused on maintaining brain function through aerobic exercise that controlled blood sugar and cholesterol. Dr. Rong Zhang is an Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern Medical Center and was the principal investigator in the 5 year study. Dr Zhang believed that factors that affected the heart were detrimental to brain function too, as in the body, both the organs are equally important for survival.

As a part of the study 600 older adults who were at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's will be included in the study. Various intervention strategies will be adopted to find out which strategy best helps retain brain function.
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Dementia:

Dementia is one of the most severe symptoms of Alzheimer's, where the patient will be unable to remember simple tasks or even to follow a recipe. The American Heart Association has found that hypertension is a risk factor for dementia which is an indication that risk factors for cardiovascular health could also influence brain function.

Dr. Zhang said "That's the point of this study. People are looking for a silver bullet to stop the disease. But Alzheimer's is a multi-factorial disease. You have to do A, B, C, and D together, which will hopefully make the difference."

The study by Dr. Zhang is based on two previous studies that stress the importance of a healthy lifestyle in delaying Alzheimer's.
  • In 2013, Dr. Zhang and colleagues carried out a study that focused on exercise and brain function. Neuronal messages were transmitted more efficiently in the brains of older adults who exercise regularly.
  • A UCLA study showed that healthy diet and exercise could prevent the buildup of protein in the brain that leads to Alzheimer's.
Toxic Proteins in the Brain:

Studies are underway to understand the effect of certain proteins that are considered toxic, like B-amyloid as well as Tau, which are found to lead to the death of neurons.

In the current study, Dr. Zhang and colleagues believe that exercise could be important intervention strategy that could delay the onset of Alzheimer's. Another aspect of the study of interest is the use of medications to lower cardiovascular risk which in turn will be studied for possible influence on Alzheimer's risk.

Ms. White who signed up for the study said "I'm just interested in doing anything that I can that might help in some small way to find a cure. It's not a pleasant thing to see your relatives go through."

Anxiety Associated with Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's triggers feelings of anxiety that can leave an emotional scar. Relatives of most patients are left distraught at having to watch their loved ones find it difficult to remember even simple tasks.

In order to help an individual with Alzheimer's and to lower their anxiety, here are a few tips
  • Ensure a peaceful environment: A person with Alzheimer's is at an increased risk of becoming agitated in a noisy environment where there are many people. To lower anxiety levels it would be better to move them to calm places and to lower the intake of caffeine.
  • Ask about Personal Discomfort, if any: In most instances, people with Alzheimer's will be unable to remember that they need to use the restroom or where the restroom is. This can lead to confusion and feeling of anxiousness. Asking them whether they need to go to the restroom and gently leading them will help alleviate anxiousness.
  • Exercise: Create interesting ways to make exercising fun. Take them to a group activity or garden together.
Alzheimer's is a severe form of dementia and is not a normal part of aging. It leads to a slow degeneration of thinking and behavior that can affect the quality of the life of an individual. Most people with Alzheimer's are over the age of 65 years. However, there have been instances of early-onset Alzheimer's.

Exercising the body as well as the brain is known to delay the onset of this neurodegenerative disease condition.

References:
  1. What Is Alzheimer's? - (http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp)
  2. Anxiety and Agitation - (https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-agitation-anxiety.asp)
Source: Medindia

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