Research Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® 2015: disproportionate effect of Alzheimer’s on women; benefits of physical exercise
New research results presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® 2015 (AAIC® 2015) cover a wide range of Alzheimer’s and dementia studies. The data demonstrate a diversity of treatment-related findings, advances in early detection, risk factors in young people, and the impact of Alzheimer’s on the Baby Boomers.
Also reported at AAIC 2015 were study results highlighting the disproportionate effect of Alzheimer’s on women and the benefits of physical exercise for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
AAIC, an annual forum for presentation and discussion of the latest Alzheimer’s and dementia research, brought together approximately 4,500 leading experts and researchers from nearly 70 countries, and featured more than 2,200 scientific presentations.
Key Presentations/Finding included the following:
Women are at greater risk for cognitive decline and dementia. Women are at the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease. According to Alzheimer’s Association 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, almost two-thirds of American seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Women are also more likely to be caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s. The most recent data show that 63 percent of all unpaid Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are women.
At AAIC 2015, two studies revealed how the pace and impact of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline may be different between the sexes. One study of about 400 people with mild cognitive impairment (141 women, 257 men), mostly in their mid-seventies, showed that women deteriorate twice as fast as men with the condition in both cognitive and functional abilities. Additionally, women declined much more dramatically than men in cognition, function and brain size following surgery with general anesthesia, according to a separate study presented at the conference that reviewed 527 older adults from two different research program databases examining cognitive aging. There is a clear need to investigate why this is the case. Is it simply that women live longer than men, or is there something different in the anatomy, biology and/or genetics that contributes to higher prevalence and faster decline?
Promising new data results for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease . Results from more than a dozen experimental drug studies at AAIC show the research community attacking Alzheimer’s disease from multiple angles, targeting the underlying causes and some of the most pernicious symptoms. These advances show a clear maturation of the Alzheimer’s research field, a recognition of the need for a broader attack, and hint at future possibilities for combination therapy. New reports included advanced trials and new analyses in three drugs targeting the abnormal amyloid protein that forms plaques in the brain (one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s), plus three drug trials that target other pathways and symptoms in the disease, including psychiatric symptoms such as agitation.
Taking a longer term vision, another set of studies at AAIC 2015 reviewed early-stage results on three types of investigational drugs that suggest they have the potential to work across brain diseases that cause dementia, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lewy Body dementia, based on small preliminary studies in animal models and test tubes.
28 Million Baby Boomers will get Alzheimer’s disease. At AAIC 2015, projections reported by The Lewin Group for the Alzheimer’s Association show that 28 million American baby boomers will get Alzheimer’s by midcentury — a deluge that will consume nearly 25 percent of Medicare spending in 2040 — unless there are significant advances in treatment and prevention. A study by the same group released earlier this year suggested that a treatment that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years could save $220 billion within the first few years of its introduction.
Type 1 diabetes identified as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease . The first study of dementia risk, including Alzheimer’s disease, in older adults with type 1 diabetes (T1D) was reported at AAIC 2015. The study looking at a healthcare database of more than 490,000 people over 60 years old found that participants with T1D were 60 to 93 percent more likely to get dementia compared with people without diabetes, even when the diabetes is treated. More research is needed to validate this finding and investigate the biological reasons for the increased risk in T1D. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are rapidly increasing worldwide, and people with type 1 are living longer than ever before.
Early education impacts future risk for Alzheimer’s disease . Two studies from Sweden presented at AAIC 2015 suggest a correlation between childhood school performance (ages 9-10) and the development of late life dementia. Both studies analyzed the impact that early schooling, secondary education and occupational complexity have on the risk of developing dementia. In the first study of more than 7,500 individuals aged 65+, dementia risk was elevated 21 percent in people who were in the lowest 20 percent of childhood school grades, and dementia risk was reduced 23 percent among individuals in occupations characterized by high complexity with data and numbers. Importantly, high occupational complexity could not compensate for the effect of low childhood school marks. Results from the second study also found significant correlations between grades/work complexity and dementia risk. In this population of 440 men and women age 75 and older, dementia risk was elevated more than 50 percent in individuals over 75 with the lowest 20 percent of early-life school grades, even if they had more formal education or a job was associated with significant complexity. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Researchers report new ways to predict the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies reported at AAIC 2015 indicate that brain scans, memory tests and body fluids may hold the keys to understanding a person’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s, even among those who don’t have memory and thinking problems associated with the disease. Especially intriguing is a small study that suggests it could someday be possible to detect Alzheimer’s-like changes in saliva, which is simple to obtain, easily transportable and has been successfully used in diagnosing a variety of diseases and conditions. Another study suggests positron emission tomography (PET) scans of brain inflammation could one day be used to detect the disease and track the impact of treatment.
Physical exercise may be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. We know that regular physical activity may reduce the risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Three new research studies reported at AAIC 2015 demonstrated the value of moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, finding that this type of exercise may help them live better with the disease. One study of 200 people with Alzheimer’s age 50-90 showed that study participants who completed a 4-month high intensity aerobic exercise program had fewer psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, irritability and depression. Those who exercised hardest also had improvements on mental speed and attention. A second study of moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise in 65 sedentary adults 55-89 years old with mild cognitive impairment found that exercise may reduce levels of abnormal proteins in cerebrospinal fluid and increase blood flow in the brain’s memory and processing centers. This aerobic exercise program appears to improve attention, planning and organizing abilities. Finally, a six-month study of 71 adults 56-96 years old with vascular cognitive impairment found that participating in a supervised aerobic exercise program was associated with improvements in memory and attention. These studies highlight the potential value of non-drug therapies for Alzheimer’s and other dementias and remind us that research ought to adamantly pursue multiple approaches to Alzheimer’s therapy and prevention.
About AAIC. The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) is the world’s largest gathering of leading researchers from around the world focused on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. As a part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s research program, AAIC serves as a catalyst for generating new knowledge about dementia and fostering a vital, collegial research community.
SOURCE Alzheimer’s Association, http://www.alz.org
AAIC 2015 home page: www.alz.org/aaic/
AAIC 2015 newsroom: www.alz.org/aaic/press.asp
About the Alzheimer’s Association® The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. Visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Alzheimer’s Association, 312.335.4078, firstname.lastname@example.org; Niles Frantz, Alzheimer’s Association, 312.335.5777, email@example.com