When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, any news on progress fighting the disease is welcome news. The statistics explain why.
- Nearly six million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, a number that is expected to rise to 14 million by the year 2050. In addition:
- Every 65 seconds someone in the US develops the disease
- Alzheimer’s disease kills more people than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined
- 1 in 3 seniors dies with dementia or Alzheimers disease
The fight to find a cure takes place every day. Recently, scientists announced two new findings regarding the role of cholesterol and artificial intelligence in detecting risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
A recent study conducted at the University of Cambridge in the UK discovered that high levels of “bad cholesterol”, known as LDL, could help clusters of protein to grow in the brain. These clusters, called plaque, are known to be a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease. The protein is called “amyloid-beta” and scientist have long known that it forms plaque that kills off brain cells. The University of Cambridge researchers found that when high levels of lipids found in bad cholesterol are in the brain, they create a “microscopic pathway” that dramatically increases the clusters of plaque.
However, more work needs to be done to understand this finding. For example, scientists are not sure if dietary cholesterol plays a role. Controlling cholesterol levels are good for the heart and keep the arteries healthy. However dietary cholesterol does not travel through the bloodstream and into the brain. Scientists also want to understand in more detail how to control the interaction of cholesterol and the protein amyloid-beta. The study indicates that the interaction of the two is the problem, rather than merely the existence of cholesterol in the brain.
Artificial intelligence was also in the news recently, regarding the role it can play in detecting risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Artificial intelligence (AI) has the capacity to process and analyze massive amounts of data in a short period of time; more than the human brain. Using AI, scientists at Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study which, to date, has studied three generations of participants. They used AI to crunch the data to find health factors that could be modified to help prevent the onset of dementia. Scientists wanted to find the indicators that physicians could easily identify to determine “future potential risk of dementia”. As it stands today, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses are reached by specialists who conduct specific neurologic tests. However, primary care physicians and advanced level providers like physician assistants and nurse practitioners see the patients much more regularly.
AI and the scientists discovered the following risk factors for dementia:
- As we get older our risk of dementia increases.
- A marital status of widowed
- Lower BMI (body mass index)
- Not getting enough sleep
Scientists hope that by aggregating this data and giving it to front line providers, like primary care physicians, it can help them determine who might have a higher risk of developing dementia and implement strategies to deter it. One example would be a widow who is older and has sleep interruptions. The physician might counsel her to have a sleep study to address the problem. Another example would be a middle aged widow who is underweight. The physician might counsel her on nutrition. These early steps could delay the onset of dementia by helping to keep the brain healthy.
Today, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and many other types of dementia. However, as scientists work to unlock the puzzle of dementia and find its causes, a cure gets closer.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.