Alzheimer’s disease disproportionately affects more women than men. And while the exact reasons for this have always been unclear, it has been suggested that this is because women tend to live longer. In the UK alone, there are approximately 500,000 women with Alzheimer’s, compared to 350,000 men. But now new research presented at an international conference suggests that differences in brain connectivity and sex-specific genes could explain why women are at greater risk of Alzheimer’s than men. Presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Los Angeles, the two separate pieces of research – one from Vanderbilt University Medical Centre and the other from the University of Miami – could lead The Vanderbilt University Medical Centre study looked at proteins called tau and amyloid in the brain, which can cause brain cells to die. It found that women’s brains had better connectivity between the regions where tau protein builds up and this can lead to faster cognitive decline. The University of Miami study found that genetics could play a part, with genes found only in women presenting a specific dementia risk. Speaking about the University of Miami research, Dr Jana Voigt, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “We don't yet know why certain genes are linked with Alzheimer's risk in one sex and not the other - but unravelling this could provide some answers as to why more women are living with dementia than men.”
New research shows that some drugs commonly prescribed for treating depression, epilepsy and other conditions may increase a person’s risk of dementia. The drugs, which belong to a family of medicines called anticholinergics, have previously been lined to short-term problems with thinking. According to the new study of patients in the UK, the findings of which are published in Jama Internal Medicine, using such drugs could lead to possible long-term brain side effects. However, experts are stressing that the study findings do not prove there is a direct risk and that patients already taking these drugs – literally millions of people in the UK - should not stop doing so. Anticholinergic drugs block the action of a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the brain which controls signals around the body. They are used to treat a variety of conditions, including depression, epilepsy, psychosis, overactive bladder, Parkinson’s disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some allergies. For the study, researchers looked at nearly 300,000 patients (58,000 with dementia) and their use of medication going back more than 20 years. They found a strong link between the use of certain anticholinergic drugs – namely ones used to treat depression, Parkinson’s, psychosis, bladder conditions and epilepsy - and an increased risk of dementia in individuals aged 55 and over. Anticholinergic drugs used to treat asthma, muscle problems, heart rhythm issues and gastrointestinal problems were not found to pose a dementia risk. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Jana Voigt, from Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “There is a growing body of evidence that suggests certain anticholinergic drugs are linked to an increased dementia risk. “While finding a link between certain strong anticholinergic drugs and an increased risk of dementia, it doesn’t tell us if these drugs cause the condition.”
A new study has revealed that half of UK adults cannot name a single dementia risk factor. If asked, how many could you name? The study by Alzheimer's Research UK found that just 1% of UK adults could name the seven known dementia risk or protective factors. Heavy drinking, smoking, genetics, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes are the six dementia risk factors, while physical exercise is a protective factor. According to the study, more than half of UK adults know someone with dementia, yet only half also recognised that the disease is a cause of death. Furthermore, a fifth of people quizzed for the report incorrectly said that dementia is an inevitable part of getting old. Right now, there are more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and that number is expected to top one million by 2025. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for around two-thirds of all cases. Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It is a sad truth that more people are affected by dementia than ever before and half of us now know someone with the condition. Yet despite growing dementia awareness, we must work harder to improve understanding of the diseases that cause it.” You can read the full Alzheimer’s Research UK report here: https://www.dementiastatistics.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Dementia-Attitudes-Monitor-Wave-1-Report.pdf#zoom=100
Genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors are all thought to play a role in causing Alzheimer’s disease. And it’s now looking increasingly likely that we can add certain strains of the herpes virus to that list too. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health, the results of which were recently published in the journal Neuron, found that people with Alzheimer’s disease had higher levels of herpes strains 6A and 7 – two common forms of the virus, but not the ones responsible for genital herpes or cold sores. Alzheimer’s – also commonly referred to as dementia – causes people to lose their memory and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States today. The authors of the study hope their research could one day lead to exciting new Alzheimer’s treatments and help better determine just who is at risk of developing the disease. "The hypothesis that viruses play a part in brain disease is not new, but this is the first study to provide strong evidence based on unbiased approaches and large data sets that lends support to this line of inquiry," National Institute of Aging Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D., said in a statement. The findings of the study reignite an old theory that suggests viruses could impact brain functions long term.