Category Archives: Dementia

Brain Benefits of Exercise Diminish After Short Rest, According to Gretchen Reynolds

Run, Spot, Run!

Run, Spot, Run!

Admittedly, Gretchen may not have written the headline to her article at Carlos Slim’s blog. The headline is wrong. The gist is that blood flow to the brain diminishes in older competitive runners if they stop exercising for 10 days. Tests of cognitive function showed no deterioration.

Click the link below to read Gretchen’s article, which is brief. A snippet:

Before you skip another workout, you might think about your brain. A provocative new study finds that some of the benefits of exercise for brain health may evaporate if we take to the couch and stop being active, even just for a week or so.

I have frequently written about how physical activity, especially endurance exercise like running, aids our brains and minds. Studies with animals and people show that working out can lead to the creation of new neurons, blood vessels and synapses and greater overall volume in areas of the brain related to memory and higher-level thinking.

Presumably as a result, people and animals that exercise tend to have sturdier memories and cognitive skills than their sedentary counterparts.

Exercise prompts these changes in large part by increasing blood flow to the brain, many exercise scientists believe. Blood carries fuel and oxygen to brain cells, along with other substances that help to jump-start desirable biochemical processes there, so more blood circulating in the brain is generally a good thing.

Source: Brain Benefits of Exercise Diminish After Short Rest – The New York Times

I believe regular physical activity does help preserve brain function over time. But there’s more involved than blood flow.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: I bet your brain blood flow increases, compared to watching Dancing With the Stars on Tell-a-Vision, if you read one of my books.

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Does Type 2 Diabetes Cause Alzheimer’s Dementia?

dementia, memory loss, Mediterranean diet, low-carb diet, glycemic index, dementia memory loss

“More basic research is critical.”

Several scientific studies, but not all, link type 2 diabetes with Alzheimer’s disease. Some go so far as to say Alzheimer’s is type 3 diabetes.

My Twitter feed brought to my attention a scientific article I thought would clarify the relationships between diabetes, carbohydrate consumption, and Alzheimer’s dementia (full text).

It didn’t.

Click the full text link to read all about insulin, amylin, insulin degrading enzyme, amyloid–β, and other factors that might explain the relationship between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s dementia. You’ll also find a comprehensive annotated list of the scientific studies investigating the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Bottom line: We still don’t know the fundamental cause of Alzheimer’s disease. A cure and highly effective preventive measures are far in the future.

Action Plan For You

You may be able to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by:

  • avoiding type 2 diabetes
  • preventing progression of prediabetes to diabetes
  • avoiding obesity
  • exercising regularly
  • eating a Mediterranean-style diet

Carbohydrate restriction helps many folks prevent or resolve obesity, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Schilling, Melissa. Unraveling Alzheimer’s: Making Sense of the Relationship Between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 51 (2016): 961-977.

LCHF Mediterranean diet

LCHF Mediterranean diet

 

 

 

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Seafood Linked to Lower Alzheimer Dementia Risk in Those Genetically Predisposed

…according to an article at the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study involved Chicago-area residents who had provided information about their eating habits. After death, their brains were biopsied, looking for typical pathological findings of Alzheimers Disease.

fresh salmon and lobsters

Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, herring, trout, and mackerel

Participants who ate seafood at least once a week had fewer Alzheimers lesions in their brains, but only if they were carriers of a particular gene the predisposes to Alzheimers. The gene is called apolipoprotein E or APOE ε4.

You’ve heard that seafood may be contaminated with mercury, right? The seafood eaters in this study indeed had higher brain levels of mercury, but it didn’t cause any visible brain damage.

The Mediterranean diet, relatively rich in seafood, has long been linked to a lower risk of dementia.

A weakness of the study is that the researchers didn’t report results of clinical testing for dementia in these participants before they died. You can have microscopic evidence of Alzheimers disease on a biopsy, yet no clinically diagnosis of dementia.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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From P.D. Mangan: Higher Altitude Means Much Lower Death Rates

Adult life is a battle against gravity. Eventually we all lose.

Adult life is a battle against gravity. Eventually we all lose.

I quote:

“Death rates from both of these cancers [breast in women, colon in men] were about half as high at an altitude of greater than 1000 meters (3300 feet).  The study also found about a 30% reduction in deaths from coronary artery disease at >1000 meters.

This accords well with a number of other studies. For example, “Lower Mortality From Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke at Higher Altitudes in Switzerland“. This study found 22% less heart disease death for every +1000 meters in altitude, and 12% less stroke death.

Association Between Alzheimer Dementia Mortality Rate and Altitude in California Counties“: This study found about half the death rate from Alzheimer’s at an altitude of 1600 meters vs that at sea level.

There’s less diabetes at high altitude.”

Source: Higher Altitude Means Much Lower Death Rates – Rogue Health and Fitness

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Filed under cancer, Causes of Diabetes, Dementia, Heart Disease

Preserve Your Hippocampus With Exercise

MRI scan of brain

MRI scan of brain

The NYT’s Well blog has the details. The brain’s hippocampus is a critical center for memory. Alzheimers disease is associated with a gene called apo-E4. Carriers of that gene who exercise regularly have less shrinkage of the hippocampus than non-exercisers.

To PROVE that regular exercise prevents dementia-related shrinkage of the hippocampus, you’d have to force some folks to exercise and stop others who wanted to exercise. A couple years later, scan their brains and compare the two groups. That study may never be done.

The Mediterranean diet also seems to prevent or forestall dementia.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Preserve Your Brain Function Despite Aging

There are ways of slowing or reversing losses in cognitive function. The most effective discovered so far is physical exercise, which protects the brain by protecting the body’s cardiovascular health. Mental exercise, often called brain training, is widely promoted, but it boosts only the particular skill that is practised – its narrow impact mirroring that of educational interventions at other ages. Various drugs are being investigated for their value in staving off normal cognitive decline, but for now preventive maintenance is still the best bet – avoid smoking, drinking to excess, head injuries and the like.

MRI scan of brain

MRI scan of brain

The quote above is from an Instant Expert paper on intelligence. It’s full of interesting facts such as the typical difference in IQ between strangers is 17 points. It answers the question whether an enriched school or home environment can increase intelligence.

Also, for preserving brain function, I think the Mediterranean diet helps, but it’s difficult to prove.

On a different note, the article mentions overload of patients’ brains when medical care is too complicated:

Given the complexity of self-care regimes, it is hardly surprising that some people make dangerous errors or fail to comply. The effective management of diabetes, for example, requires a person to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range, which means coordinating diet, exercise and medication throughout the day, which in turn requires planning for contingencies, recognising when blood sugar is veering too high or low, knowing how to regain control and conceptualising the imperceptible but cumulative damage caused by failing to maintain control. There is no set recipe for people with diabetes to follow – their bodies and circumstances differ. Moreover, they get little training, virtually no supervision and no days off. Effectively managing your diabetes is a cognitively complex job and poor performance has serious consequences, including emergency room visits, lost limbs or eyesight, and even death. The lower the diabetic person’s IQ, the greater the risks.

You’ll also learn about the Flynn effect and possible explanations for it:

Over the past century, each successive generation has answered more IQ test items correctly than the last, the rise being equivalent to around 3 IQ points per decade in developed nations. This is dubbed the “Flynn effect” after the political scientist James Flynn, who most thoroughly documented it. Are humans getting smarter, and if so, why? 

I’m more inclined to think Idiocracy describes our future.

Steve Parker, M.D.

h/t James Fulford

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Does Diabetes Drug Pioglitazone Prevent Dementia?

Nobody knows. A recent report out of Germany suggests that pioglitazone does prevent dementia, but it’s not a very strong linkage. If it works, I wonder if it’s simply related to better control of blood sugar, which could be accomplished with a variety of means. Pioglitazone (aka Actos) is a type 2 diabetes drug in the TZD class. You could call it an “insulin sensitizer.”

The best popular press report I’ve seen is at Bloomberg.

German researchers went fishing for associations in a huge database of patients and drug usage. Their formal report hasn’t even been published yet. A five-year study was recently initiated to further investigate the possibility that piogoitazone prevents dementia. I doubt this will pan out.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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