As science continues to evolve, researchers are unlocking more and more valuable information related to the prevention and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. The first description of Alzheimer’s came in 1906 after Dr. Alois Alzheimer examined the brain of a woman who passed away after experiencing symptoms that we now recognize as dementia. Over 100 years later, scientists have continued to identify many different potential causes and risk factors associated with this progressive disease. Let’s take a look at three interesting developments that have been underway in dementia research over the last decade.
Research Finds Social Isolation Can Increase Risk Of Alzheimer’s
In June of 2022, one research team published their study on the effects of social isolation as it relates to the potential risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The study was conducted over 12 years and was finalized before the spread of COVID-19.
Results from this study identified a link between social isolation and shrinkage in parts of the brain critical for learning and thinking. Ultimately, this research team found that being socially isolated was tied to a 26% increased risk of dementia. In addition, the study’s author, Dr. Jianfeng Feng, noted how the impacts of the pandemic have since increased the implications of social isolation on our communities, with older adults continuing to be cut off from their once usual and familiar social networks.
Healthy Diets Are An Ongoing Focal Point For Dementia Research
Mushrooms are a great source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants – but did you know they could also potentially lower your risk of dementia? One study in Singapore found that incorporating mushrooms into a regular diet could reduce the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in older adults. This study lasted for over six years and included routine memory and thinking skill evaluations. Researchers found that those who ate one to two portions of mushrooms a week experienced a 43% reduced risk for developing MCI.
The Fisher Center For Alzheimer’s Research Foundation notes that, while this study does not prove cause and effect, it does demonstrate an association between consuming healthy foods (like mushrooms) and reductions in memory loss. Ongoing studies are finding that foods high in antioxidants may be helpful in protecting the brain’s cells against some of the damages associated with Alzheimer’s disease, as described by the Alzheimer’s Society.
Looking Deeper Into The Brain’s Waste Disposal System
From 2020 to 2021, the Alzheimer’s Society awarded a grant to a research project focusing on exploring the waste disposal system in brain cells, otherwise known as the glymphatic system. We know that our bodies need protein in order to function, and every cell in the human body contains some form of protein. However, having too much protein concentrated in one or more areas can pose a big problem, especially when it comes to the brain’s health and ability to flush out surplus protein.
The goals of this project are to develop a better understanding of the glymphatic system, what might cause it not to function properly and therefore lead to damage caused by a buildup of proteins, and how problems within this system might lead to disease progression from cell to cell.
Through Research And Beyond!
Every day, significant discoveries are being made through developments in dementia research. Because of these studies, scientists and physicians are able to gain a greater understanding of what dementia is, how different forms of the disease may vary, and what new methods may be available for obtaining a diagnosis earlier on. While an exact cause or cure has yet to be discovered, we are optimistic that each new study will bring us just one more step closer to designing more innovative treatments for the future!
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