Archives for November 2014

10 Things You Should Know about Lewy Body Dementias

(Lewy Body Dementia Association) Lewy body dementias (LBD) affect an estimated 1.3 million individuals and their families in the United States. At the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA), we understand that though many families are affected by this disease, few individuals and medical professionals are aware of the symptoms, diagnostic criteria, or even that LBD exists. There are important facts about Lewy body dementias that you should know if you, a loved one, or a patient you are treating may have LBD.

  1. Lewy body dementias (LBD) are the second most common form of degenerative dementia; LBD is widely under-diagnosed: The only other form of degenerative dementia that is more common than LBD is Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Many individuals who have LBD are misdiagnosed, most commonly with Alzheimer’s disease if they present with a memory disorder or Parkinson’s disease if they present with movement problems.
  2. LBD can have three common presentations:  Some individuals will start out with a movement disorder leading to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and later develop dementia.  Another group of individuals will start out with a memory disorder that may look like AD, but over time two or more distinctive features become apparent leading to the diagnosis of ‘dementia with Lewy bodies’ (DLB).  Lastly, a small group will first present with neuropsychiatric symptoms, which can include hallucinations, behavioral problems, and difficulty with complex mental activities, leading to an initial diagnosis of DLB. Regardless of the initial symptom, over time all three presentations of LBD will develop very similar cognitive, physical, sleep and behavioral features, all caused by the presence of Lewy bodies throughout the brain.
  3. The most common symptoms of LBD include: Dementia: problems with memory and thinkingHallucinations: seeing or hearing things that are not really presentCognitive fluctuations: unpredictable changes in concentration and attentionParkinson-like symptoms: rigidity or stiffness, shuffling gait, tremor, slowness of movement (bradykinesia)Severe sensitivity to neuroleptics (medications used to treat hallucinations)REM Sleep Behavior Disorder: a sleep disorder where people seemingly act out their dreams
  4. The symptoms of LBD are treatable: Currently there are no medications approved specifically for the treatment of LBD. All medications prescribed for LBD are approved for a course of treatment for symptoms related to other diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease with dementia and offer symptomatic benefits for cognitive, movement and behavioral problems.
  5. Early and accurate diagnosis of LBD is essential: Early and accurate diagnosis is important because LBD patients may react to certain medications differently than AD or PD patients. A variety of drugs, including anticholinergics and some antiparkinsonian medications, can worsen LBD symptoms.
  6. Traditional antipsychotic medications may be contraindicated for individuals living with LBD: Many traditional antipsychotic medications (for example, Haldol, Mellaril) are commonly prescribed for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to control behavioral symptoms. However, LBD affects an individual’s brain differently than other dementias. As a result, these medications can cause a severe worsening of movement and a potentially fatal condition known as neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS). NMS causes severe fever, muscle rigidity and breakdown that can lead to kidney failure.
  7. Early recognition, diagnosis and treatment of LBD can improve the patients’ quality of life: LBD may affect an individual’s cognitive abilities, motor functions, and/or ability to complete activities of daily living. Treatment should always be monitored by your physician(s) and may include: prescriptive and other therapies, exercise, diet, sleep habits, changes in behavior and daily routines.
  8. Individuals and families living with LBD should not have to face this disease alone: LBD affects every aspect of a person – their mood, the way they think, and the way they move. LBD patients and families will need considerable resources and assistance from healthcare professionals and agencies. The combination of cognitive, motor and behavioral symptoms creates a highly challenging set of demands for continuing care. LBDA was formed to help families address many of these challenges.
  9. Physician education is urgently needed: An increasing number of general practitioners, neurologists, and other medical professionals are beginning to learn to recognize and differentiate the symptoms of LBD from other diseases. However, more education on the diagnosis and treatment of LBD is essential.
  10. More research is urgently needed! Research needs include tools for early diagnosis, such as screening questionnaires, biomarkers, neuroimaging techniques, and more effective therapies. With further research, LBD may ultimately be treated and prevented through early detection and neuroprotective interventions. Currently, there is no specific test to diagnose LBD.

© 2003-2014 Lewy Body Dementia Association, Inc. All Rights Reserved – See more at:


Do You Have a Disability? Here are Some Great Resources

Dear Readers: is the U.S. federal government website for information on disability programs and services nationwide. The site connects people with disabilities, their families and caregivers to helpful resources on topics such as how to apply for disability benefits, find a job, get health care or pay for accessible housing. You can also find organizations in your community to help you get the support you need. Check it out!

~ Jennifer

 ( According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a recent study showed that 29 percent of people with disabilities said that they didn’t have all of their health care needs met, compared to 12 percent of people without disabilities.

Besides access to quality health care, people also need the tools and knowledge to help them stay healthy. For persons with disabilities, this also means knowing that conditions secondary to their disability–from pain to depression to urinary tract infections–can be treated successfully.

Most importantly, staying healthy means being able to access health care that meets the needs of the whole person–not just his or her disability.

Here are some “quick links” to get you started:’s Health section also has a lot of good resources addressing topics such as health insurance, healthy living and finding health care.

Whether you’re looking for information about where to find health care services in your community; the Affordable Care Act and how it can help you find health insurance that best suits your needs; or Medicare and Medicaid and the difference between the two, you’ll find information on those topics and much more.

Also, be sure to check out Disability.Blog, which regularly publishes posts on many important health-related topics.

For more information, check out these sections of “’s Guide to Health Information & Resources” for answers to your questions about many important health-related topics, including:



One of the Healthiest Things You Can Do

( As you grow older, an active lifestyle is more important than ever. Regular exercise can help boost energy, maintain your independence, and manage symptoms of illness or pain. Exercise can even reverse some of the symptoms of aging. And not only is exercise good for your body, it’s also good for your mind, mood, and memory. Whether you are generally healthy or are managing an illness, there are plenty of ways to get more active, improve confidence, and boost your fitness.

Exercise is the Key to Healthy Aging

Starting or maintaining a regular exercise routine can be a challenge as you get older. You may feel discouraged by illness, ongoing health problems, or concerns about injuries or falls. Or, if you’ve never exercised before, you may not know where to begin. Or perhaps you think you’re too old or frail, or that exercise is boring or simply not for you.
While these may seem like good reasons to slow down and take it easy as you age, they’re actually even better reasons to get moving. Exercise can energize your mood, relieve stress, help you manage symptoms of illness and pain, and improve your overall sense of well-being. In fact, exercise is the key to staying strong, energetic, and healthy as you get older. And it can even be fun, too.

No matter your age or your current physical condition, you can benefit from exercise. Reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t require strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. It’s about adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. Whether you are generally healthy or are managing an illness—even if you’re housebound—there are many easy ways to get your body moving and improve your health.

Five Myths about Exercise and Aging

Myth 1: There’s no point to exercising. I’m going to get old anyway.

Fact: Exercise and strength training helps you look and feel younger and stay active longer. Regular physical activity lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Myth 2: Older people shouldn’t exercise. They should save their strength and rest.

Fact: Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy for adults over 50. Inactivity often causes older adults to lose the ability to do things on their own and can lead to more hospitalizations, doctor visits, and use of medicines for illnesses.

Myth 3: Exercise puts me at risk of falling down.

Fact: Regular exercise, by building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, actually reducing your risk of falling.

Myth 4: It’s too late. I’m already too old to start exercising.

Fact: You’re never too old to exercise! If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while, start with light walking and other gentle activities.

Myth 5: I’m disabled. I can’t exercise sitting down.

Fact: Chair-bound people face special challenges but can lift light weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics to increase range of motion, improve muscle tone, and promote cardiovascular health

The Whole-body Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults

As you age, regular exercise is more important than ever to your body and mind.

Physical health benefits of exercise and fitness for older adults

  • Exercise helps older adults maintain or lose weight. As metabolism naturally slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories. When your body reaches a healthy weight, your overall wellness will improve.
  • Exercise reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease. Among the many benefits of exercise for adults over 50 include improved immune function, better heart health and blood pressure, better bone density, and better digestive functioning. People who exercise also have a lowered risk of several chronic conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and colon cancer.
  • Exercise enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance in older adults. Exercise improves your strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, coordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Strength training also helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis.

Mental health benefits of exercise and fitness as you age

  • Exercise improves your sleep. Poor sleep is not an inevitable consequence of aging and quality sleep is important for your overall health. Exercise often improves sleep, helping you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply.
  • Exercise boosts mood and self-confidence. Endorphins produced by exercise can actually help you feel better and reduce feelings of sadness or depression. Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident and sure of yourself.
  • Exercise is good for the brain. Exercise benefits regular brain functions and can help keep the brain active, which can prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Exercise may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise and Fitness as You Age: Tips for Getting Started Safely

Committing to a routine of physical activity is one of the healthiest decisions you can make. Before you get moving, though, consider how best to be safe.

  • Get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting condition. Ask if there are any activities you should avoid.
  • Consider health concerns. Keep in mind how your ongoing health problems affect your workouts. For example, diabetics may need to adjust the timing of medication and meal plans when setting an exercise schedule. Above all, if something feels wrong, such as sharp pain or unusual shortness of breath, simply stop. You may need to scale back or try another activity.
  • Start slow. If you haven’t been active in a while, it can be harmful to go “all out.” Instead, build up your exercise program little by little. Try spacing workouts in ten-minute increments twice a day. Or try just one class each week. Prevent crash-and-burn fatigue by warming up, cooling down, and keeping water handy.
  • Commit to an exercise schedule for at least 3 or 4 weeks so that it becomes habit, and force yourself to stick with it.
  • Stay motivated by focusing on shortterm goals, such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss, which can take longer to achieve.
  • Recognize problems. Exercise should never hurt or make you feel lousy. Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you feel dizzy or short of breath, develop chest pain or pressure, break out in a cold sweat, or experience pain. Also stop if a joint is red, swollen, or tender to touch.

Exercise and Fitness as You Age: Tips for Building a Balanced Exercise Plan

Staying active is not a science. Just remember that mixing different types of exercise helps both reduce monotony and improve your overall health. The key is to find activities that you enjoy. Here is an overview of the four building blocks of senior fitness and how they can help your body.

The 1st building block of fitness as you age: Cardio endurance exercise

  • What is it: Uses large muscle groups in rhythmic motions over a period of time. Cardio workouts get your heart pumping and you may even feel a little short of breath. Cardio includes walking, stair climbing, swimming, hiking, cycling, rowing, tennis, and dancing.
  • Why it’s good for you: Helps lessen fatigue and shortness of breath. Promotes independence by improving endurance for daily activities such as walking, house cleaning, and errands.

The 2nd building block of fitness as you age: Strength and power training

  • What is it: Strength training builds up muscle with repetitive motion using weight or external resistance from body weight, machines, free weights, or elastic bands. Power training is often strength training done at a faster speed to increase power and reaction times.
  • Why it’s good for you: Strength training helps prevent loss of bone mass, builds muscle, and improves balance—both important in staying active and avoiding falls. Power training can improve your speed while crossing the street, for example, or prevent falls by enabling you to react quickly if you start to trip or lose balance. Building strength and power will help you stay independent and make day-to-day activities easier such as opening a jar, getting in and out of a car, and lifting objects.

The 3rd building block of fitness as you age: Flexibility

  • What is it: Challenges the ability of your body’s joints to move freely through a full range of motion. This can be done through stationary stretches and stretches that involve movement to keep your muscles and joints supple so they are less prone to injury. Yoga is an excellent means of improving flexibility.
  • Why it’s good for you: Helps your body stay limber and increases your range of movement for ordinary physical activities such as looking behind while driving, tying your shoes, shampooing your hair, and playing with your grandchildren.

The 4th building block of fitness as you age: Balance

  • What is it: Maintains standing and stability, whether you’re stationary or moving around. Try yoga, Tai Chi, and posture exercises to gain confidence with balance.
  • Why it’s good for you: Improves balance, posture, and quality of your walking. Also reduces risk of falling and fear of falls.

Types of activities that are beneficial to older adults:

  • Walking. Walking is a perfect way to start exercising. It requires no special equipment, aside from a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and can be done anywhere.
  • Senior sports or fitness classes. Keeps you motivated while also providing a source of fun, stress relief, and a place to meet friends.
  • Water aerobics and water sports. Working out in water is wonderful for seniors because water reduces stress and strain on the body’s joints.
  • Yoga. Combines a series of poses with breathing. Moving through the poses works on strength, flexibility and balance. Yoga can be adapted to any level.
  • Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Martial arts-inspired systems of movement that increase balance and strength. Classes for seniors are often available at your local YMCA or community center.

Exercise and Fitness as You Age: Tips for Frail or Chair-bound Adults

Even if you are frail or chair-bound, you can still experience the mood-boosting effects of exercise. Chair-bound adults can improve fitness with strength training, flexibility, and even some cardio activities. If being chair-bound has prevented you from trying exercise in the past, take heart knowing that when you become more physically active, the results will amaze you. Like any exercise program, a chair-bound fitness routine takes a little creativity and personalization to keep it fun.

Chair-bound Exercise and Fitness

  • Strength: Use free weights (“dumbbells”) to do repetitive sets of lifting. Don’t have weights? Use anything that is weighted and fits in your hand, like soup cans.
  • Resistance: Resistance bands are like giant rubber bands designed to give your muscles a good workout when stretched and pulled. Resistance bands can be attached to furniture, a doorknob, or even your chair. Use these for pull-downs, shoulder rotations, and arm and leg-extensions.
  • Flexibility: By practicing mindful breathing and slowly stretching, bending, and twisting, you can limber up and improve your range of motion. Some of these exercises can also be done lying down. Ask your doctor or search online for chair-yoga possibilities.
  • Endurance: Check out pool-therapy programs designed for wheelchair-bound seniors. Also, wheelchair-training machines make arm-bicycling and rowing possible. If you lack access to special machines or pools, repetitive movements (like rapid leg lifts or sitting pushups) work just as well to raise your heart rate.

Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about chair-bound exercise programs or see Chair Exercises & Limited Mobility Fitness.

Exercise and Fitness as You Age: Tips for Getting More Active—and Liking It

If you dread working out, it’s time for a mental makeover. Consider physical activity part of your lifestyle instead of a bothersome task to check off your “to do” list. There are plenty of ways for seniors to make exercise a pleasurable part of everyday life—here are just a few.

Choose activities and exercises you enjoy

Think about activities that you enjoy and how you can incorporate them into an exercise routine.

  • Listen to music while lifting weights
  • Window shop while walking laps at the mall
  • Get competitive while playing tennis
  • Take photographs on a nature hike
  • Meet new people at a yoga class
  • Watch a favorite movie while on the treadmill
  • Chat with a friend while walking, stretching, or strength training

Find easy ways to add more physical activity to your day

Being active doesn’t have to be limited to your workout times. There are plenty of ways to become more active as you go about your day.

  • Active on the go: Always choose stairs over the elevator, park at the far end of the parking lot when arriving at appointments and meetings, walk down every isle of the grocery store while shopping, practice balancing skills while standing in line, do neck rolls while waiting at a stoplight.
  • Active at home: Do a set of wall pushups while waiting for water to boil, vigorously vacuum, tend to the garden, sweep the sidewalk, rake leaves, lift weights while watching the news, try toe-raises while talking on the phone, do knee bends after sitting for a long period of time.

Focus on the benefits in your daily life

The most rewarding part of beginning a fitness routine is noticing the difference it makes in the rest of your life. Even if you begin exercising with a few simple stretches while seated or a short walk around the block, you’ll notice an improvement in how you feel as you go about your day.

  • House cleaning, gardening, shopping, and errands. Want to feel less winded while vacuuming or rushing to and from appointments? Doing just 15 to 20 minutes of heart-healthy cardio each day, such as walking, biking, swimming, or water aerobics will help give you the stamina you need.
  • Lifting grandchildren, carrying groceries, household chores. Building muscle mass a few times each week through weight lifting, resistance exercises, and weight machines will help give you more strength.
  • Crossing the street before the lights change, catching yourself before you fall. Power exercises such as tricep dips, chair stands, or other strength exercises performed quickly, can improve strength, speed, and reaction times.
  • Tying shoes, looking behind you while driving, navigating steps. Incorporating basic stretching—even while seated—into your fitness routine will make the most ordinary movements easier. Try yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong to limber up.

Exercise doesn’t have to break the bank

An exercise plan does not depend on costly gym memberships and fancy exercise equipment. Like the best things in life, staying fit can be completely free. Work out the wallet-friendly way:

  • Do neck rolls and light stretching while watching TV
  • No weights? Use food cans or water bottles
  • Rent exercise videos from the library
  • Mow the lawn, rake leaves, and weed
  • Climb stairs
  • Enjoy a walk in a new park or neighborhood

Exercise and Fitness as You Age: Tips for Staying Active for Life

The more you exercise, the more you will reap the benefits, so it’s important to stay motivated when life’s challenges get in the way.

  • Keep a log. Writing down your activities in an exercise journal not only holds you accountable, but also is a reminder of your accomplishments.
  • Stay inspired. Reading health magazines or watching sports shows can help remind you how great it feels to take care of your body.
  • Get support. It’s easier to keep going with support. Consider taking a class or exercising with your spouse or a buddy.
  • Exercise safely. Nothing derails an exercise plan like an injury. Use common sense and don’t exercise if you are ill. Wear brightly colored clothing to be visible on the roads. When the weather brings slippery conditions, walk at a mall indoors to prevent falling.


How To Stay Fit When Your Routine Changes

Adapted from the National Institutes on Aging
You’re on vacation
  • Many hotels now have fitness centers. Check out the facilities where you’ll be staying, and bring along your exercise clothing or equipment (resistance band, bathing suit, or walking shoes).
  • Get out and see the sights on foot rather than just by tour bus.
Caring for an ill spouse is taking up much of your time
  • Work out to an exercise video when your spouse is napping.
  • Ask a family member or friend to come over so you can go for a walk.
Your usual exercise buddy moves away
  • Ask another friend to go with you on your daily walk.
  • Ask other older adults in your area where they go for walks or what physical activity resources are available nearby.
  • Join an exercise class at your local community center or senior center. This is a great way to meet other active people.
You move to a new community
  • Check out the fitness centers, parks, and recreation associations in your new neighborhood.
  • Look for activities that match your interests and abilities.
  • Get involved!
The flu keeps you out of action for a few weeks
  • Wait until you feel better and then start your activity again.
  • Gradually build back up to your previous level of activity.
You are recovering from hip or back surgery
  • Talk with your doctor about specific exercises and activities you can do safely when you’re feeling better.
  • Start slowly and gradually build up your activities as you become stronger.


The best thing about working out is that it gives you energy for more activities. When it becomes habit, you’ll never want to give it up.

More Help for Exercise and Fitness as You Age

Healthy lifestyles for older adults

Resources and References

General information about exercise for older adults

Keep Active for a Longer, Healthier Life – Discusses value of exercise and provides tips to help you get started. (AARP)

Fitness plans and exercise instruction for older adults

NIHSeniorHealth: Exercise for Older Adults – Covers the benefits of exercise for seniors, safe exercises to try, an FAQ, and charts to track your progress. (National Institute of Health)

NIH Exercise Guide – Sample exercises and charts. (National Institute of Health)

The Water Well – Discusses the benefits of water exercise for people with medical conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, and back problems. (Aquatic Exercise Association)


Authors: Sarah Kovatch, M.F.A., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: November 2014.

© All rights reserved.


Alzheimer’s Treatments: What’s on the Horizon?

(Mayo Clinic) Alzheimer’s treatments currently work by temporarily improving symptoms of memory loss and problems with thinking and reasoning.

These Alzheimer’s treatments boost performance of chemicals in the brain that carry information from one brain cell to another. However, these treatments don’t stop the underlying decline and death of brain cells. As more cells die, Alzheimer’s continues to progress.

Experts are cautiously hopeful about developing Alzheimer’s treatments that can stop or significantly delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. A growing understanding of how the disease disrupts the brain has led to potential Alzheimer’s treatments that short-circuit fundamental disease processes.

Future Alzheimer’s treatments may focus on combinations of medications like those used for many cancers and AIDS rather than a single compound. The following treatment options are among the strategies currently being studied.

Taking aim at plaques

Some of the new Alzheimer’s treatments in development target microscopic clumps of the protein beta-amyloid (plaques). Plaques have long been considered a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Two strategies aimed at beta-amyloid include immunizing the body against it and blocking its production:

  • Immunization strategies may prevent beta-amyloid from clumping into plaques and help the body clear the beta-amyloid from the brain. An early Alzheimer’s vaccine to reach clinical trials mobilized a person’s own immune system to attack beta-amyloid.Researchers stopped this study ahead of time when some participants developed acute brain inflammation. Although the trial ended before researchers could fully assess the vaccine’s effectiveness, the study demonstrated that beta-amyloid immunization could have a powerful effect on the brain.Most current immunization studies focus on administering antibodies against beta-amyloid from outside sources instead of enhancing a person’s immune system.

    One large research effort is exploring the value of intravenous (IV) infusions of a product derived from donated blood. This product contains naturally occurring anti-amyloid antibodies from the donors. Other studies are investigating laboratory-engineered (monoclonal) antibodies.

  • Production blockers may reduce the amount of beta-amyloid formed in the brain. Research has shown that beta-amyloid is produced from a “parent protein” in two steps performed by two different enzymes. Several experimental drugs aim to block the activity of the two enzymes.

Keeping tau from tangling

A vital brain cell transport system collapses when a protein called tau twists into microscopic fibers called tangles, which are another common brain abnormality of Alzheimer’s. Researchers are looking at a way to prevent tau from forming tangles.

Reducing inflammation

Alzheimer’s causes chronic, low-level brain cell inflammation. Researchers are studying ways to treat inflammatory processes at work in Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies in nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have had varying results, but haven’t confirmed that these drugs prevent or delay progress of Alzheimer’s.

Researching insulin resistance

Researchers are studying the effects of insulin on the brain and brain cell function, and insulin changes in the brain that may be related to Alzheimer’s. A trial is testing an insulin nasal spray to determine if it slows the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Studying the heart-head connection

Growing evidence suggests that brain health is closely linked to heart and blood vessel health. Your arteries nourish your brain. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s appears to increase as a result of many conditions that damage the heart or arteries. These include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol.

In addition, a strong genetic Alzheimer’s risk factor is one form of a gene for a protein that carries cholesterol in the blood (apolipoprotein E).

A number of studies are exploring how best to build on this heart-head connection. Strategies under investigation include:

  • Current drugs for heart disease risk factors. Researchers are investigating whether drugs now used to treat high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol may also help people with Alzheimer’s or reduce the risk of developing the disease.
  • Drugs aimed at new targets. Additional projects are looking more closely at how the connection between heart disease and Alzheimer’s works at the molecular level to find new drug targets.
  • Lifestyle choices. Researchers have explored whether lifestyle choices with known heart benefits, such as exercising on most days and eating a heart-healthy diet, may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease or delay its onset.

Researching thinking and social activities

Studies research whether thinking (cognitive) activities, such as memory training, may help prevent or delay Alzheimer’s.

Researchers also are studying whether social interaction may positively affect cognitive function.

Speeding treatment development

Developing new medications is a slow and painstaking process. The pace can be especially frustrating for people with Alzheimer’s and their families who are waiting for new treatment options.

To help accelerate discovery, the Coalition Against Major Diseases (CAMD), an alliance of pharmaceutical companies, nonprofit foundations and government advisers, have forged a first-of-its-kind partnership to share data from Alzheimer’s clinical trials.

Researchers anticipate that sharing these data from more than 4,000 study participants will speed development of more-effective therapies.


Mayo Clinic Staff

© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.


Calling All Caregivers: Do You Know About the Health-eBrain Study?

(BrightFocus Foundation) A pioneering online health study to assess the cognitive toll of Alzheimer’s and dementias caregiving using online brain performance tests was officially announced today at a ReACT/AARP event. Employers from more than 75 corporations, academic institutions, non-profits and government attended the event, which was held at AARP’s Washington, DC headquarters.

The 21CBT®/Caregiver Health-eBrain Study is the first of its kind to characterize the brain health profile of caregivers as measured by Lumosity’s cognitive assessment, Brain Performance Test (BPT), in caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, compared with aggregate scores of the general population. This one-time, online self-assessment takes less than 30 minutes to complete.

The virtual study brings together three Alzheimer’s non-profits that form the 21st Century BrainTrust® (21CBT), Lumosity, a leading brain training program, and AnthroTronix, an innovator in the field of mobile health technology as well as other prominent Alzheimer’s-serving organizations.

Open to the first 10,000 caregivers, the 21CBT/Caregiver Health-eBrain Study can be accessed via the websites of the 21st Century BrainTrust partners or directly through

Join the health-eBrain study

Are you one of the 15 million caregivers looking after a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia? Caregiving has been shown to have a negative effect on the mental and physical health of the caregiver. Help scientists understand how the caregiving lifestyle impacts brain performance.  Join the Caregivers’ Health-eBrain project and participate in an online study to assess your cognition.

Changes in cognitive efficiency are closely linked and can occur with depression, fatigue, stress, and long-term chronic illness. This impact is particularly severe for caregivers of individuals with complex chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s and other dementias, two-thirds of whom are women. The physical, mental and emotional burden over time can take as much as ten years off a family caregiver’s life.  It also can increase the caregiver’s own risk for dementia.

“Over fifteen million unpaid individuals provide care to the 5.4 million victims with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. We form the backbone of all unpaid long-term care in the U.S. What happens to our loved ones if something happens to us?” said Meryl Comer, President of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative, founding partner of the 21st Century BrainTrust, and the author of Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s.

“We believe the 21CBT/Caregiver Health-eBrain Study serves to support the caregiver community and advance research at the same time,” said Stacy Haller, CEO of BrightFocus® Foundation and founding partner in the 21st Century BrainTrust. “This is a new avenue of science, one that begins to engage caregivers in the research process for themselves and their loved ones.”

George Vradenburg, co-founder of USAgainstAlzheimer’s, and convener of the CEOi (Global CEO Initiative Against Alzheimer’s Disease) added, “Our 21CBT mission is to stimulate a three-way connection between a new generation of technology innovation, the scientific community, and public support for virtual research to design successful mobile health interventions for caregiver and patient support.”

Outreach partners include: National Alliance for Caregiving, Home Instead Senior Care,, Leeza’s Care Connection, Caregiver Action Network (CAN), ReACT, CEOi, and WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s,


The 21st Century BrainTrust® (21CBT®) consists of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative, BrightFocus® Foundation, USAgainstAlzheimer’s, and its scientific advisor, Cleveland Clinic/Lou Ruvo Brain Institute.

Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative: Catalytic donor philanthropy that promotes innovation in early diagnosis and AD prevention. Funded by the Geoffrey Beene Foundation since 2008, it has launched major innovation challenges, national public service campaigns and led the formation in 2012 of the non-profit partnership, 21st Century BrainTrust.

USAgainstAlzheimer’s: Leader in marshaling political will toward combating Alzheimer’s. One of only 12 non-governmental members of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act Advisory Council, USAgainstAlzheimer’s is also co-convener of the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease, and Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease (LEAD Coalition), a coalition of 67 organizations from the business and civic sectors.

BrightFocus® Foundation: Cure in Mind. Cure in Sight. A non-profit organization supporting research and public education to help eradicate brain and eye diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. BrightFocus supports innovative, catalytic scientific research around the globe.

Lumosity: America’s leading brain training company with more than 60 million members, and paying subscribers from 180 countries. Founded in 2005 and launched in 2007, Lumosity offers more than 40 games that are designed to challenge core cognitive abilities. Lumosity games are based on neuroscience, with continuing independent third-party studies being conducted by researchers at academic institutions around the world. Lumosity is headquartered in San Francisco, CA.

AnthroTronix: An award-winning research and development company with a broad base of patented Intellectual Property and innovative product offerings in the health IT sector. Founded in 1999 by biomedical engineering and robotics experts, AnthroTronix develops advanced technologies that are defining the future of mobile health technology.

National Alliance for Caregiving: A national, non-profit coalition of nearly 50 nationwide organizations focused on advancing family caregiving through research, innovation and advocacy. Through supporting public policy research, coalition building, and education, the Alliance has supported America’s nearly 66 million family caregivers since 1996.

Home Instead Senior Care: Home Instead Senior Care is the world’s leading provider of in-home care services for seniors with more than 1,000 independently owned and operated franchises. The network is estimated to provide more than 50 million hours of care annually throughout the United States and 16 other countries. On top of in-home care, Home Instead Senior Care provides online support and education to millions of visitors to help enhance the lives of aging adults and their families. With more than two million unique visitors per month, is a leading senior care resource and flagship resource for Alzheimer’s caregiving (the first of its kind when it launched in October 2010): A Bankrate company, is headquartered in San Mateo, CA.

Caregiver Action Network: Serving a broad spectrum of family caregivers ranging from the parents of children with special needs, to the families and friends of wounded soldiers; from a young couple dealing with a diagnosis of MS, to adult children caring for parents with Alzheimer’s disease. Non-profit organization providing education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers free of charge.

Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease (LEAD Coalition): Sixty-seven member-organization national coalition including patient advocacy and voluntary health non-profits, philanthropies and foundations, trade and professional associations, academic research and clinical institutions, home and residential care providers, and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Co-convened by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and USAgainstAlzheimer’s. Working collaboratively on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias to accelerate transformational progress in research, detection and diagnosis, care and support. More information is available at:

Leeza’s Care Connection. We connect caregivers to the resources, programs and support services needed to adjust to, and thrive on the ever-changing path presented by caring for a friend or family member. We teach caregivers to call on their courage and summon their strength; encouraging and coaching our guests to be Warriors of Wellness (WoW), those who take ownership of their intellectual, physical, and emotional health. Our services are free.


© 2000 – 2014 BrightFocus Foundation. All rights reserved.


Top 10 Healthy Aging Tips

(BrightFocus Foundation) Aging is one of the main risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and glaucoma (the primary open angle type). That means your chance of developing one of these diseases goes up as you grow older.

imagesQOE7U5W1Obviously, you can’t stop time, but you can lower your risk by adopting healthy behaviors that include a good diet, exercise, no smoking, and a beneficial mix of “alone time” and social activity. The sooner you do so, the better your chance of enjoying good health, protecting your vision, and improving your well-being into old age.

Top 10 Healthy Aging Tips

  1. Eat healthy food. A varied, nutritious diet that contains whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and is low in fat and sugar can reduce the incidence of many chronic diseases.
  2. Exercise regularly. Working out or even just walking will help you maintain a healthy weight, stay strong, and improve your immune system, blood pressure, and eye and brain health.
  3. Keep your blood pressure at a normal level. Hypertension and other cardiovascular risks have been linked to an increased risk for macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. Don’t smoke. Toxins found in first-, second- and third-hand smoke are linked to an increased risk for a number of diseases, including respiratory diseases and cancer.
  5. Get enough sleep. Research has linked poor sleep to an increased risk for mild cognitive/memory issues.
  6. Prevent overexposure to sunlight. Use sunglasses, hats and sunscreen to lower your risk not only for cancer, but also macular degeneration and other eye diseases.
  7. Schedule regular check-ups with healthcare practitioners, including your primary care physician, eye doctor, and other specialists. Make sure that includes a regular, comprehensive eye exam.
  8. Keep your mind active. Lifelong learning and mental stimulation are beneficial to cognitive health. The human brain generates new neurons in response to new experiences and activities like reading, doing puzzles, and acquiring new knowledge and skills.
  9. Be social. Social connectedness has a beneficial impact on cognitive, psychological, and physical health.
  10. Alleviate stress. Chronic or ongoing stress can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. If you are under stress, find ways to deal with it like yoga, exercise, talking to friends, or taking time out to listen to music or treat yourself to another healthy pastime.

© 2000 – 2014 BrightFocus Foundation. All rights reserved.


MP3 Players Support Family Carers of People Living with Dementia at Home

Int Psychogeriatr. 2014 Sep 23:1-9. [Epub ahead of print]

A study of the effectiveness of MP3 players to support family carers of people living with dementia at home.

Lewis V1, Bauer M2, Winbolt M2, Chenco C2, Hanley F1.

Author information 



Music can be therapeutic to people with dementia; however, little is known about its effect on the family carers. This project aimed to (1) assess the effects of MP3 player use by a person with dementia on caregivers‘ mental health and wellbeing, including their self-care and health-promoting behavior and (2) determine whether MP3 player use increases caregivers‘ self-reported capacity to cope with their role.


A pre-post quantitative and qualitative design was used. Carers completed a survey prior to commencing and four weeks after using the player. The survey included validated measures to assess the level of stress and coping among carers. Carers also kept a diary of the way they used the MP3 player. Half of the carers were interviewed about their experiences at the end of the study.


Of 59 people who started using the MP3 player, 51 carers completed the four-week study period and surveys. Use of the MP3 player significantly decreased psychological distress, significantly improved the mental health and wellbeing of carers, significantly increased caregiver self-efficacy to manage symptoms of dementia, and was reported to provide valued respite from the high level of vigilance required for caring for a person with dementia.


An MP3 player loaded with music can be a low cost and relatively simple and effective additional strategy to support families caring for people with dementia in the community.



Toxic Tau of Alzheimer’s May Offer a Path to Treatment

(National Public Radio) After years of setbacks, Alzheimer’s researchers are sounding optimistic again. The reason: a brain protein called tau.

tautangles_wide-bf8316d1f561830e54e0203297d23a841531a93e-s1400-c85A tangle of protein (green) in this scanning electron micrograph of a brain cell of an Alzheimer’s patient lies within the cytoplasm (blue) of the cell. The tangle consists of clumps of a toxic form of tau. Credit: Thomas J. Deerinck/Corbis

At this year’s Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington, D.C., there are more than 100 papers on tau, which is responsible for the tangles that form in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. In the past, tau has received less attention than another protein called amyloid beta, which causes the sticky plaques associated with Alzheimer’s.

“Many people focused on amyloid beta for many years,” says Julia Gerson, a graduate student in neuroscience at the University of Texas Medical Branch, who presented a paper on tau at the neuroscience meeting. “Now it’s coming out that tau might be more important.”

“Clearly both are working together, conspiring if you will, to bring down cell functions and cell survival over the years as the disease unfolds,” says Dr. Lennart Mucke, a neurologist who directs the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease, a research center affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco.

In the past decade, several promising drugs that merely lower amyloid have failed to stop Alzheimer’s. Those failures, Mucke says, helped persuade scientists to take a closer look at tau, which has produced some surprising findings.

“Initially it was thought that tau was purely inside brain cells,” he says. “But now we recognize that it can actually exist outside of cells and even transfer from one cell to the next.”

The idea that tau can spread from cell to cell like an infection suggests a new way to treat Alzheimer’s, Mucke says.

“If we could figure out how to stop that spread, maybe one could limit the disease to just some brain regions, instead of having it go everywhere.”

Some researchers are already trying to interrupt the process, using the immune system to mop up toxic forms of tau. A similar strategy has proved effective for reducing amyloid.

The closer look at tau also revealed that the protein comes in different forms. In its most common form, tau actually helps brain cells function, Gerson says.

“But in disease, for various reasons that we don’t entirely understand yet, it takes on this other, toxic form,” she says.

This toxic tau, known as a tau oligomer, occurs not only in Alzheimer’s patients but also in people with traumatic brain injury. In both groups, Gerson says, the protein appears to build up over time and lead to memory problems.

To find out more about this process, Gerson and a team of scientists injected tau oligomers from people with Alzheimer’s into the brains of healthy mice. Within a week the mice developed memory problems; tissue samples showed toxic tau throughout the animals’ brains. “What we believe is happening is that the toxic form [of tau] induces the healthy form in the brains of these mice to take on that toxic conformation,” Gerson says.

The new research suggests that treating Alzheimer’s will require drugs that affect both tau and amyloid, and perhaps other factors that are less well understood, Mucke says. That means doctors will need a lot of different tools.

“The problem,” he says, “has been that the toolbox was nearly empty.” Thanks to the sort of research presented at this year’s neuroscience meeting, Mucke says, that toolbox is starting to fill up again.


By Jon Hamilton

© 2014 NPR