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Dementia, Alzheimer’s is not an inevitable part of aging: A study

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may not be an inevitable part of aging, according to a recent Dutch study that identified 100-year-olds with high cognitive performance despite risk factors for decline.

This six-year study of centenarians – people over the age of 100 – found that despite high levels of a brain marker associated with cognitive decline called amyloid beta, these centenarians are still acute and perform well in cognitive tests. The researchers concluded that these adult subjects may have resilience mechanisms to protect them from memory loss.

In fact, they said that the risk of dementia may not necessarily increase after you turn 100.

“A person between the ages of 70 and 95 is at the same risk of dementia as a person between the ages of 1

00 and 102,” said Henne Holstege, MD, of the University Medical College Amsterdam in the Netherlands, who was involved in the study. .

These results provide hope for some that although dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to occur with age, this will not be the fate of everyone.

“Age is the number one factor in Alzheimer’s disease, but these findings show that centenarians can thrive despite their advanced age,” said Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine. New York. Presbyterian Hospital, which led the study.

Although these findings shed light on aging and cognitive function, it still remains a complex phenomenon that needs more research, according to some experts.

“Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are usually multifactorial conditions, which means a combination of genetics, age, environment, lifestyle behaviors and medical conditions that coexist and can lead a person to or far from cognitive decline,” he said. Isaacson.

Researchers are still unsure why some people are protected from cognitive decline while others are spared. The researchers in the study suggest that some of these protective factors related to cognitive performance may be education, frequent cognitive activity, and even IQ. But there may be more to the game.

“There may be protective immunological and cardiovascular risk factors that help keep your brain elastic and cognitively functional even in old age,” said Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist and psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

The role that brain markers analyzed in the study play on memory, including a sticky plaque called amyloid beta, which is commonly found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, is now being discussed among experts. The different presence of these markers in this study further contributes to this complex process.

“It’s important to understand that the presence of amyloid in the brain does not mean that a person will develop dementia,” Isaacson said. “There are other lifestyle factors and behaviors that can make us resilient and resistant to cognitive decline.”

Importantly, there are some caveats to this study. For example, brain markers were analyzed in only 44 of the participants, so the findings may not apply to everyone and more research needs to be done to learn about the complexity of aging.

Other studies have examined the prevention of cognitive decline. According to the Commission’s Lancet report for 2020, 40% of dementia cases can be prevented based on modifiable risk factors. Some of these previous studies have been successful in improving cognitive function and reducing risk.

A study by the Isaacson team at the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic found that it is possible to improve cognitive function and reduce risk, especially in those who follow lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet, vascular risk and medication. .

Although more is being discovered and discussed, experts still recommend maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, exercise and doctor’s visits to maintain knowledge during aging.

“It is essential that people at risk visit their doctors regularly and consider cognitive screening tests,” Isaacson said.

Alexis E. Carrington, MD, is a researcher in dermatology at the University of California, Davis and a contributor to the Medical Unit of ABC News.

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