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Issue 42 Alzheimer’s Insights by Curation Health 30 June 2015
Nobody with a chronic illness should be defined by their disease. This week we focus on several recent lifestyle stories that apply equally to everyone, including caregivers and the people they are caring for. Having a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s does not alter the reality that we all benefit from eating well, doing proper exercise and, critically, getting a good night’s sleep.
Most read stories this week
Is Alzheimer's disease preventable?
Glen Campbell refuses to succumb to Alzheimer's
The Doctor’s dementia review: ‘You live with dementia, you don’t suffer it’
Airlines unprepared for increasing number of travellers with dementia
Alzheimer's Disease Partnering 2010-2015
Lifestyle Issues
Sugar, guts and brains: not a great recipe
Researchers at Oregon State University in the USA have landed quite a smack in the face for the sugar-rich Western diet, with a study suggesting that it’s not only bad for our physical health but it also does us no favours in terms of mental health either. It may even be affecting our ability to think clearly. In research published last week in the journal Neuroscience and in popular media all over the internet – as here on the Huffington Post website – the conclusions are stark. A high-sugar, high-fat diet impairs brain function, decreasing cognitive flexibility and adaptability and adversely affecting long- and short-term memory. This is not good news for anyone with a sweet tooth, and certainly not for anyone who already has reason to worry about the health of their brain.

The Oregon State research reflects the emergence of a deeper understanding of, and growing interest in, the relationship between our brains and our stomachs. After decades of scepticism about the link among the neurologists community, a report at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in November suggested that there may be a sound scientific basis for the old saying that “We are what we eat”. This theme was explored in greater detail in a more recent piece in the New York Times, asking if gut bacteria could affect our mood. (The answer: you bet it can.)

For those tempted to replace sugar in their diets with artificial sweeteners, the Huffington Post counsels caution, linking to an article that appeared two months ago in the Scientific American, warning that these may be “affecting gut bacteria in dangerous ways”. This article cites Israeli research linking artificial sweeteners to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. This would be an unwelcome complication in a household already addressing the challenge of living with Alzheimer’s.

Aerobic exercise does the trick
Stories are appearing constantly on the importance of exercise in keeping chronic illness at bay. After research by Danish scientists, reported last week on the Medscape website, it seems that the value of a good workout extends beyond the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, and particularly where the exercise really got the heart working. In the words of the research team leader, a neurology professor at Copenhagen University Hospital, the significance of the study is that it has been “the first rigorously conducted study of moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.” Some 200 otherwise healthy patients recruited from eight memory clinics across Denmark participated in the trial, revealing broadly improved scores on cognitive tests among the group who participated in the higher intensity workouts.
Sleep and the twin challenges of pain and stress
There is something of a Catch-22 in the pursuit of a good night’s sleep, and this is particularly true in managing the lifestyle of anyone with dementia. While healthy sleep habits can help manage pain and minimise stress, it is harder to get that sleep if you are enduring pain and feeling stressed. An excellent article appeared last Saturday on Huffington Post – one of the best reviews we have seen on this subject – with advice of particular relevance to caregivers generally, everywhere.

With several links to other articles and supporting research, the article reviews the implications of pain and stress with tips on managing each and with the emphasis on reframing attitudes and taking control of the day-to-day factors that are there to be controlled. First and foremost are those factors that are wise for everyone to keep in mind if they are interested in waking up feeling refreshed. Is the bedroom truly sleep-friendly? Cool, dark and quiet, free of clutter and disengaged as much as possible from the frenzied noise of the Internet, mobile phones and television?

Alzheimer's Lifestyle Issues
Medical Information
Early diagnosis gets a possible boost with word study
“Word recognition” is being suggested as a tool to assist in the challenge of getting to an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Researchers at the universities of York, in the UK, and Oviedo in Spain have focused on one of the key early symptoms that present most often along the road to diagnosis: recognising, understanding and producing words. As reported here on the MedicalXpress website, the driving idea is that a better understanding of how people with Alzheimer’s recognise and manipulate words may assist in spotting the early signs of the disease in people who are experiencing similar symptoms but without yet having proceeded to a diagnosis.

Latest Alzheimer's Medical Info
Care Advice
And this week’s least helpful story…
People with dementia who are out driving cars are compared with “marauding gunmen” at risk of “mowing down a row of kids”, according to a GP looking to table a motion at the British Medical Association conference in Liverpool, according to an article appearing in the UK’s Telegraph. His point appears to be that the absence of more solid guidelines for diagnosing dementia, there is an inadequate protocol in place for revoking driving licenses and taking the riskier drivers off the streets. So far so confusing if not downright unpleasant (using that sort of language to make a point), but the article does not stop there. The GP is quoted as saying that “we would never want to be in the game (sic) of it being my say-so that they lose their licence. Medical revocations must be done by the DVLA.” Really?

We can only hope that this was a reporting error, or the BMA conference will have to refresh this GP’s memory as to the difference between what a doctor does and what a driver licensing authority does.

Alzheimer's Care Advice
Drugs & Clinical Trials
Diabetes medication lowers dementia risk
One of the exciting things about following global media on a story with global impact is seeing how stories of innovation in one area of the world are picked up in another. Here is a good example, involving a story picked up on a leading Chinese website and reporting on research completed at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Through an analysis of health insurance data, the researchers were able to establish that diabetic patients who were treated for at least two years with standard type 2 diabetes medications such as pioglitazone showed a diminished risk of developing dementia. This news is all the better given the emergence of data suggesting that diabetes itself is a risk factor for developing dementia: a happy case of “two birds, one stone…”

Drugs & Clinical Trials
And Finally…
“Living with it, not suffering from it” was something of a recurring theme in so many stories on the web over the past week, possibly reflecting the number of places in the world where June has featured as an awareness month. The inspiration behind this life-affirming quotation was UK doctor Dr Jennifer Bute, as reported in The Guardian and telling BBC Radio 4 what living with it means to her.

American network CNN put together a suite of television programming in support of a documentary it aired last weekend on country music legend Glen Campbell, now entering the final stages of his long tussle with the disease. The title of the documentary says it all: “I’ll be Me”.

And completing our determined trio of Alzheimer champions in rounding off this week’s edition of INSIGHTS, we look up – literally – to octogenarian daredevil Pat O’Riordan, whose fund-raising exploits on behalf of Alzheimer’s Research UK saw her perched on the wings of a biplane 500 feet above the Dorset countryside.
More Alzheimer’s Disease Feeds on CurationHealth
Depression, Stress & Coping with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s Care Advice
Alzheimer’s Lifestyle Issues
Latest Alzheimer’s Medical Info
Drugs & Clinical Trials
Medical Devices & Alzheimer’s
Tweets of the week twitter logo
Forbes (@Forbes)
Study suggests early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease could appear up to 18 years before the disease is diagnosed:
DementiaToday (@DementiaToday)
Anti-Rejection Medications for Transplant Recipients Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease - # alzheimer #dementia
Clare Walton (@cawalton)
@alzheimerssoc has £1m to support implementation ready research - apply now! #alzsocresearch
Medicalskeptic (@medskep)
The Terrifying Truth About Air Pollution and Dementia | Mother Jones Provocative
Ian Kremer (@LEAD_Coalition)
Will an #Alzheimers/#dementia cure ever be found? We say yes! Join @BrainHealthReg to help. @patsummitt @AAUW @nwlc
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About Alzheimer’s Insights
Alzheimer’s Insights is an online newsletter created for consumers -- primarily patients and carers -- who live with the challenge of Alzheimer’s disease. Based upon intelligent search algorithms that scour the Internet for the most read, relevant and useful stories from around the world, it is curated and published each Tuesday by a team of health and publishing experts.
Tam McDonald  
Tam McDonald Senior Curator
A publishing professional with three decades of experience in health, hospitality and financial services publishing. His interest in the human brain goes back to his university days of studying philosophy. His commitment to securing the very best information about health matters goes back to his decade as a carer.
Explain This!
Why is it that more women get Alzheimer’s than men? Is it just because they tend to live longer and are more vulnerable to diseases associated with age?
Click here to find out
Looking ahead…
Issue 43 7 July 2015
It is easy for caregivers to lose themselves in the present, dealing with the daily challenges of caring for someone else while holding their own lives together. It is important to think and plan ahead, too: and we will look at the whys and whats.
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