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Dementia

Can you predict your own dementia risk?

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An online calculator has been created which empowers older people to better understand their brain health and how they can reduce their risk of being diagnosed with dementia in the next five years. 

The calculator, built and validated by Canadian researchers, enables individuals aged 55 and over to assess themselves using the online tool at projectbiglife.ca.

Dementia is the biggest cause of death in the UK and there are currently around 850,000 people living with the disease. This figure is projected to rise to 1.6million by 2040. 

While there is no cure for dementia, around a third of dementia cases may be preventable through lifestyle factors like physical activity, healthy eating, reducing alcohol and tobacco use, and managing conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

The new calculator, created by researchers at The Ottawa Hospital, the University of Ottawa, the Bruyère Research Institute and ICES, could help to play a role in better understanding of risk factors, and therefore could help prevention. 

Currently designed for use in Canada, it can be adapted for any of the 100 countries around the world that collect health survey data.

Factors in the Dementia Population Risk Tool (DemPoRT) include:

  • Age
  • Smoking status and lifetime exposure
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Physical activity
  • Stress
  • Diet
  • Sense of belonging
  • Ethnicity
  • Immigration status
  • Socioeconomic status of the neighbourhood
  • Education
  • Activities where assistance is needed
  • Marital status
  • Number of languages spoken
  • Health conditions

The calculator can be used by individuals to assess their dementia risk and help them modify their lifestyle. The researchers also have a goal for policy makers to use this algorithm to do the same thing for the general population.

Through this research, the team has developed the first predictive tool designed to predict dementia at a population level. It can predict the number of new cases in the community, identify higher-risk populations, inform dementia prevention strategies, and will be used to support Canada’s national dementia strategy. 

By using regularly collected health data and surveys, population health experts have all the information they need to use the algorithm.

“This tool will give people who fill it out clues to what they can do to reduce their personal risk of dementia,” says Dr Peter Tanuseputro, senior author of the study. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has also made it clear that sociodemographic variables like ethnicity and neighbourhood play a major role in our health. It was important to include those variables in the tool so policy makers can understand how different populations are impacted by dementia, and help ensure that any prevention strategies are equitable.”

“What sets this dementia risk calculator apart is that you don’t need to visit a doctor for any tests,” says Dr Stacey Fisher, the lead author of the study.

“People already have all the information they need to complete the calculator in the comfort of their home.”

The researchers based the dementia calculator on survey data from over 75,000 Ontarians.

The dementia calculator will be added to a list of existing calculators on Project Big Life that help Canadians estimate their own life expectancy based on habits and lifestyle choices.

Dementia

Could Viagra help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s?

A new study shows the impotence drug could support a 69 per cent reduction in the likelihood of developing the disease

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Erectile dysfunction drug Viagra could have a key role in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study has revealed. 

And through analysis of more than seven million patients, the Cleveland Clinic study has revealed that the drug is associated with a 69 per cent reduction in incidence of Alzheimer’s. 

“Recent studies show that the interplay between amyloid and tau is a greater contributor to Alzheimer’s than either by itself,” said Dr Feixiong Cheng, of Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute, who led the research team. 

“Therefore, we hypothesized that drugs targeting the molecular network intersection of amyloid and tau endophenotypes should have the greatest potential for success.”

In the study, it was established that sildenafil (Viagra) users were 69 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than non-sildenafil users after six years of follow-up. 

Specifically, sildenafil had a 55 per cent reduced risk of the disease compared to losartan, 63 per cent compared to metformin, 65 per cent compared to diltiazem and 64 per cent compared to glimepiride.

Drug repurposing – use of an existing drug for new therapeutic purposes – offers a practical alternative to the costly and time-consuming traditional drug discovery process, and could support the millions of people living with Alzheimer’s globally in accessing treatments more quickly.

Dr Cheng’s team has found that understanding subtypes (endophenotypes) of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease may help to reveal common underlying mechanisms and lead to discovery of actionable targets for drug repurposing.

The buildup of beta amyloid and tau proteins in the brain leads to amyloid plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles – two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s-related brain changes. The amount and location of these proteins in the brain may help define endophenotypes. 

However, no FDA-approved, anti-amyloid or anti-tau small molecule Alzheimer’s treatments currently exist, with many clinical trials for such treatments having failed in the past decade.

Dr Feixiong Cheng

Using a large gene-mapping network, researchers integrated genetic and other biologic data to determine which of over 1,600 FDA-approved drugs could be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. 

They pinpointed drugs that target both amyloid and tau as having higher scores compared to drugs that target just one or the other. 

“Sildenafil, which has been shown to significantly improve cognition and memory in preclinical models, presented as the best drug candidate,” said Dr Cheng.

“Notably, we found that sildenafil use reduced the likelihood of Alzheimer’s in individuals with coronary artery disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, all of which are comorbidities significantly associated with risk of the disease, as well as in those without.”

“This paper is an example of a growing area of research in precision medicine where big data is key to connecting the dots between existing drugs and a complex disease like Alzheimer’s,” said Dr Jean Yuan, program director of Translational Bioinformatics and Drug Development at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funded this research. 

“This is one of many efforts we are supporting to find existing drugs or available safe compounds for other conditions that would be good candidates for Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials.”

A phase II randomised clinical trial is now being planned to advance the study, as well as the approach also being applied to other neurodegenerative conditions. 

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Dementia

Support at your fingertips – new resources for family dementia carers

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Dementia Carers Count (DCC) is a national charity offering free, life-changing, practical support for families living with dementia.

The charity has just launched its new Virtual Carers Centre and runs regular online learning sessions, enabling carers to access essential support wherever they are.

DCC gives family carers the opportunity to understand more about dementia, to connect with others in a similar situation and to look after themselves while navigating the highs and lows of caring for someone with dementia.

It’s the ideal place to signpost carers to, for information and resources to help them with their day to day challenges.

 

Here is Stuart’s story.

Stuart met Roger in 1985, they’ve been in a registered partnership since 1995. Roger was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s when he was 57. 

Roger has deteriorated considerably since his diagnosis and, as well as caring for him full time, Stuart has had to take on more and more at home. 

L to R: Roger and Stuart Gibson

Although Roger’s interests have changed his mood has remained good. He’s always smiling, and people tend to be drawn to him. 

Stuart feels a bit frustrated now that he’s increasingly having to do more and more for Roger. He didn’t choose to be a carer and thought that by now, he would be enjoying my retirement and living happily ever after. 

At the start of the pandemic Stuart began using technology like Zoom. He first found out about Dementia Carers Count (DCC) in an online, young-onset support group. He registered for some of DCC’s online learning sessions.

“The online courses have been like gold dust and have increased my knowledge of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The people leading the sessions are easy-going, supportive and understanding…. They’ve been a lifeline for people like me during the pandemic.”

“DCC’s digital services are fantastic. They are very informative, accessible, and the content is presented in a way that is easy to understand. During the sessions, you can talk about your specific challenges and connect with the other people attending. “

Stuart says that the support DCC provides him has helped him immensely and is extremely useful to anyone in a caring situation. 

 “The information comes from people with experience and knowledge. It will help you understand what is going on for the person you care for and develop a better caring strategy. Everyone running the sessions is very patient and nurturing towards the people attending.” 

——————————————————————————————————

DCC is here to help families living with dementia.

DCC’s Virtual Carers Centre is a brand new resource for family or friends who are looking after someone with dementia. It’s accessible any time; day or night, complete with articles, videos, presentations and more.

Carers will find all the support they need, including:

✔️ Practical information about carers’ rights and benefits

✔️How to manage everyday emotions and changes in behaviour

✔️Wellbeing strategies for  carers and for the person they are supporting

✔️The opportunity to book on to Live Online Learning sessions covering various topics

http://www.dementiacarers.org.uk/vcc 

T: 020 3096 7895   E: support@dementiacarers.org.uk   

FB/Twitter: @DemCarersCount   

Insta:  @DementiaCarersCount               

Find us on LinkedIn

 

 

 

 

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Dementia

De-cluttering ‘may not help’ with dementia

People with moderate dementia performed better when surrounded by their usual clutter, a new study has revealed

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A clutter-free environment may not help people with dementia carry out daily tasks in the way that has traditionally been thought, a new study has revealed. 

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) studied whether people with dementia were better able to carry out tasks, such as making a cup of tea, at home – surrounded by their usual clutter – or in a clutter-free environment.

And they admit to being “surprised” to find that participants with moderate dementia performed better when surrounded by their usual clutter.

But the different environments made no difference to people with mild and severe dementia, who were able to perform at the same level in both settings.

Professor Eneida Mioshi, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “The majority of people with dementia live in their own home and usually want to remain living at home for as long as possible.

“So it’s really important to know how people with dementia can be best supported at home – one possible route would be by adapting the physical environment to best suit their needs.

“As dementia progresses, people gradually lose their ability to carry out daily tasks due to changes in their cognitive, perceptual and physical abilities. Participation in daily tasks could then be improved by adapting the person’s environment.

“To this end, we wanted to investigate the role of clutter in activity participation, given the potential to use de-cluttering to support people with dementia to continue to be independent.

“Environmental clutter has been defined as the presence of an excessive number of objects on a surface or the presence of items that are not required for a task.

“It is generally assumed that a person with dementia will be better able to carry out daily tasks when their home space is tidy and clutter free.

“However, there has been very little research to really test this hypothesis.

“We wanted to see whether clutter was negatively affecting people with dementia. So we studied how people at different stages of dementia coped with carrying out daily tasks at home, surrounded by their usual clutter, compared to in a clutter-free setting – a specially designed home research lab.”

Occupational therapist and PhD student Julieta Camino carried out the study with 65 participants who were grouped into those with mild, moderate and severe dementia.

They were asked to carry out daily tasks including making a cup of tea and making a simple meal, both at their own home and at UEA’s specially-designed NEAT research bungalow – a fully furnished research facility that feels just like a domestic bungalow.

The researchers evaluated performance of activities in both settings, and also measured the amount of clutter in the participants’ homes. Meanwhile, the NEAT home setting was completely clutter free.

Julieta, also from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “We thought that the complete absence of clutter in our research bungalow would play a beneficial role in helping people with dementia with daily living activities. But we were wrong.

“We were surprised to find that overall, people with moderate dementia, in particular, performed daily tasks better at home – even though their homes were significantly more cluttered than our research bungalow.

“And it didn’t seem to make any difference how cluttered the participant’s home was. The only factor that contributed to how well they could carry out tasks at home was their level of cognition – with those with severe dementia encountering the same difficulties to perform the tasks at home and in the research bungalow.”

This research received funding from the Alzheimer’s Society and National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration East of England (ARC EoE) programme.

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