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Alzheimer's Disease

Scientists Look for Ways to Prevent and Treat Alzheimer’s

Research reveals new ways to detect the disease

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— Frank Siteman/Science Faction/Corbis

  • Tea: Drinking tea could cut the risk of dementia by about a third, according to a large-scale study that followed 4,800 men and women age 65 and older for 14 years. Compared to non-tea drinkers, those who regularly drank tea had significantly less cognitive decline. It’s unlikely that the caffeine in tea is related to the benefit, researchers note, because coffee—which has twice as much caffeine as tea—did not produce a similar benefit except at much higher levels of consumption.


Read more in “Coffee or Tea? Yes, Please.”

  • Vitamin E: Eating more almonds and spinach—and other foods rich in vitamin E—does a better job of protecting against Alzheimer’s disease than popping a vitamin E supplement. Researchers in the Netherlands followed 5,400 men and women, age 55 and older, and found that those who had diets high in vitamin E were about 25 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who ate the least amount. Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, cooking oil, wheat germ and dark leafy green vegetables. In this study, published this week in the Archives of Neurology, the major sources for the nutrient were margarine, sunflower oil, butter, soybean oil and mayonnaise.


Detection

  • New Scan: A new radioactive dye, used in conjunction with a PET scan, gives doctors and scientists a clear picture of amyloid plaque, a protein that’s a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, in the brains of patients. The new “tracer” agent lasts longer than the current one and if approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it can be used in clinics across the country to track the effects of experimental drugs and to help diagnose the disease.


Read more in “New Test Could Help Detect Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Help for patients and families

  • Web Tool: The Alzheimer’s Association just launched a new personalized interactive tool to help Alzheimer’s patients find clinical trials for which they might be eligible. TrialMatch lets each person search more than 100 research trials and narrows the results to those where there is a reasonable chance that person might be accepted for enrollment.


Read more in “New Help for Alzheimer’s Patients Who Want Experimental Treatments.”

  • Latest information: The association also has unveiled a new website, the Research Center, with the latest information on Alzheimer’s disease research and science.


Science of the disease

  • Causes of Alzheimer’s: Scientists are striving to understand the science of Alzheimer’s disease, including brain plaques, the clumps and strands of protein that form when brain cells die. Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York have used newly discovered tracers to investigate genetic variations in the development of these substances. These gene variations may mean that some drugs will work better on Alzheimer’s patients with a certain genetic makeup, said Sam Gandy, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Mount Sinai.


Diagnosis

  • Proposed changes: For the first time in 25 years, medical experts have proposed major changes to update the ways to diagnose the disease. They want to use new tools and brain scans to detect the disease in its earliest stages, even before any symptoms appear. Some doctors question whether early diagnosis benefits patients when there are no drugs to slow the progression of the disease. Others say tracking the disease from its earliest stages will shed new light on this devastating dementia and enhance researchers’ chances of finding a cure.


Elizabeth Agnvall is a contributing editor of the
AARP Bulletin.

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