In this time of increased political divisiveness and lack of confidence in our congressional representatives to work together and make effective decisions to run the country, finding evidence of compromise on an issue brings hope.
On September 28, 2018 a bill was signed into law that allocated $2.3 billion dollars to be included in the 2019 budget for Alzheimer’s and dementia research under the auspices of the National Institutes of health (NIH) . The congressional members who sponsored the bill included four Republicans, and four Democrats.
Alzheimer’s is indeed the most expensive disease in the country, costing an estimated $277 billion–including $186 billion in direct costs to medicare and medicaid–in 2018. As the number of those afflicted increases, so will the cost. There are 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today; it is predicted this number will rise to 14 million by 2050. With the increase in funding, scientist are able to work at a faster pace to explore ways to reduce risks, develop drugs or other potential treatments to stop or slow the disease.
In 2011 the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) was passed which focused on the need for resources for research and the needs of family caregivers with a goal to find effective treatment of Alzheimers/dementia by 2025. Since that time, the federal government has continued to be supportive. The monies allocated to NIH from 2011 to the present have quadrupled, and continue to be spent on research and programs to help caregivers.
Among the many groups that keep congress aware of the need for funding for Alzheimer’s and dementia, one group stands out. Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM), the advocacy arm of the Alzheimer’s Association. The group is very active in keeping our representatives aware of what is needed to help those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them, as well and working with government agencies that oversee the research and programs that impact dementia and Alzheimer’s.
AIM federal goals are:
Increase the Commitment to Alzheimer’s Research
Build an Alzheimer’s Public Health Infrastructure
Educate Providers on Palliative and Hospice Care
State policy is also vital to the work that the Alzheimer’s Association is doing to meet the needs of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and their families. State officials determine regulatory and statutory standards for dementia training, control spending on state respite care dollars, designate spending for state long-term care services, and control Medicaid spending which can affect eligibility and scope of benefits – all of which can have a direct effect on families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.
AIM state goals are:
Implement and update state Alzheimer’s disease plans
Improve dementia training
Increase early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s
Educate the public about risk reduction
Aim was very active in the last election and seeks volunteers on a continuous basis to meet with local representatives, engage on social media, coordinate events, draft ‘letters to the editor’ or assist in other ways to bring awareness to the effects of Alzheimer’s.
To find out more about AIM or learn how you can volunteer go to alzimpact.org
A major discovery has been made in the research of Alzheimer’s disease, as reported in the July 2018 edition of JAMA Neurology. Researchers at Yale University Alzheimer’s Research center have been able to measure the density of neural synapses in living patients. Up until the present, measurement of synaptic density was only possible in brains of people after they died.
Levels of a certain protein, SV2A, found in the transmission of neurotransmitter chemicals from one neuron to another were measured with position emission tomography (PET). The participants with MCI or mild Alzheimer’s disease who were compared to cognitively unimpaired individuals were found to have significantly less SV2A in the neural synapses in the hippocampus indicating a decrease in synaptic binding. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that forms memories, and it has been established that there is a relationship to damage in that area and Alzheimer’s disease.
The PET scan results also correlated with scores on episodic (short term) memory tests as well as those for Alzheimer’s. Other brain imaging tests, though protein was measured, did not offer the correlation with tests for cognition, which is fundamental to the study.
This important breakthrough of a reliable test for synaptic density in living people can provide a better measure of disease progression and help in evaluation of treatment with drugs in clinical trials. Reference: Chen MK, et al. Assessing synaptic density in Alzheimer disease with synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A positron emission tomographic imaging. JAMA Neurology 2018 July 16.
A Swedish study that spanned four decades and involved 200 women discovered that those who have high levels of physical activity in middle age are 90% less likely to develop dementia as compared to women who are moderately fit. The women were tested for physical fitness by means of a bicycle test and were monitored and tested for evidence of dementia. They found that the average age for the onset of dementia was 90 for those highly fit and 79 for moderately fit women. Reference: Mind Report.newsmax.com
If that doesn’t make you want to get up and move, this next study will!
Multiple studies have shown that physical exercise helps to protect memory and cognitive function. It can also increase the size of the hippocampus, where memories are created. Research conducted at UCLA explored the impact of sitting and the brain’s hippocampal thickness. After recruiting 35 volunteers they recored how many hours they spent sitting each day the previous week. They then performed MRI scans to measure the medial temporal lobe where new memories are formed. There was a correlation between the number of hours of sedentary behavior and thinning of the lobe. Note: This was a small study and more research needs to be done and variables taken into consideration before general conclusions can be drawn. Reference: Mind Report.newsmax.com
Do you know anyone hard of hearing who doesn’t always wear their hearing aids? They may not want to bother or want to deliberately tune people out. Let them know: Loss of hearing is a significant risk factor for dementia.
Experts don’t know yet what links hearing loss to dementia, but it is suggested that it may be due to the decrease in social interaction. If you don’t understand what is being said and don’t participate fully in conversations, you may lose the benefits that come from that type of mental stimulation. Reference: Alzheimer’s Association
Excellent sites to see what is being done currently in research for dementia and Alzheimer’s and opportunities to participate in clinical trials:
National Institute on Aging www.nia.nih.gov
Bright Focus Foundation www.brightfocus.org
Alzheimer’s Association alz.org