It is well established that having a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s increases a person’s risk of developing the disease. A new, NIA-supported study shows that even in the absence of close family members with Alzheimer’s, having extended family members with the disease increased a person’s risk. The findings, published April 9 in Neurology, could have implications for assessing risk using a broader view of family history.
A team of researchers from the University of Utah School of Medicine, Huntsman Cancer Institute, George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Utah State University, and Brigham Young University mined the Utah Population Database. This record of Utah founders from the 1800s and their descendants, was used to identify individuals with genealogy data for at least 12 ancestors in the last three generations. The resulting pool of more than 270,000 individuals included 4,436 with Alzheimer’s as the primary or contributing cause of death.
To measure relative risk, the researchers compared the actual number of people who had Alzheimer’s with the expected number of Alzheimer’s cases based on various family histories of the disease. The analysis included first-degree relatives (parents, children, and siblings), second-degree relatives (grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews), and third-degree relatives (great-grandparents, great-grandchildren, grand nieces, grand nephews, great aunts and uncles, and first cousins).
In line with previous studies, the researchers found that having one or more first-degree relatives with Alzheimer’s put people at significantly higher risk for the disease. People with one first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s were 1.73 times more likely to develop the disease. Looking further into the family tree, people with two first-degree relatives with Alzheimer’s were nearly four times more likely to develop the disease. Those with three first-degree relatives were nearly two-and-half more times likely, and those with four were almost 15 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
But even people whose parents or siblings did not have Alzheimer’s were at higher risk in most cases if they had second- or third-degree relatives with the disease, the researchers found. For example, people with three or four second-degree relatives who had Alzheimer’s were more than twice as likely to develop the disease. People who had only third-degree relatives with Alzheimer’s had a 43 percent increased risk when they had three or more such relatives with the disease.
(BPT) - If you have a senior family member who depends on you for care, you don’t have time to do extra housework. The good news is, advanced technology and new products have focused attention on making housework easier — or taking it completely out of our hands. Did you know you can leave many chores to technology, or use new products that make them easier?
Here are some examples:
Everyone’s seen robot vacuum cleaners, which help keep your floor free of dust and debris without you having to lift a finger. The latest technology uses Wi-Fi to control your robot vacuum, making the job even easier. You can also find robotic mops to clean your non-carpeted floors without you.
If you “don’t do windows,” you'll be happy to hear that the next step up from robot vacuums is of course robotic window cleaners. While some models currently on the market appear to be easier to use and more effective than others, this technology will likely be perfected in years to come.
The unpleasant task of cleaning up cat messes has inspired a few different types of self-cleaning litter boxes, some of which have a pretty high price point. It may be worth it, however, if you’re a cat owner and this is your least favorite chore.
Cognitive health—the ability to clearly think, learn, and remember—is an important component of brain health. Others include motor function, emotional function and sensory function.
Use the following room-by-room checklist to alert you to potential hazards and to record any changes you need to make to help keep a person with Alzheimer’s disease safe. You can buy products or gadgets necessary for home safety at stores carrying hardware, electronics, medical supplies, and children's items.
Keep in mind that it may not be necessary to make all of the suggested changes. This article covers a wide range of safety concerns that may arise, and some modifications may never be needed. It is important, however, to re-evaluate home safety periodically as behavior and abilities change.
Throughout the Home
- Display emergency numbers and your home address near all telephones.
- Use an answering machine when you cannot answer phone calls, and set it to turn on after the fewest number of rings possible. A person with Alzheimer's disease often may be unable to take messages or could become a victim of telephone exploitation. Turn ringers on low to avoid distraction and confusion. Put all portable and cell phones and equipment in a safe place so they will not be easily lost.
- Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in or near the kitchen and all sleeping areas. Check their functioning and batteries frequently.
- Avoid the use of flammable and volatile compounds near gas appliances. Do not store these materials in an area where a gas pilot light is used.
- Install secure locks on all outside doors and windows.
- Install alarms that notify you when a door or window is opened.
- Hide a spare house key outside in case the person with Alzheimer's disease locks you out of the house.
- Avoid the use of extension cords if possible by placing lamps and appliances close to electrical outlets. Tack extension cords to the baseboards of a room to avoid tripping.
- Cover unused electrical outlets with childproof plugs.
- Place red tape around floor vents, radiators, and other heating devices to deter the person with Alzheimer's from standing on or touching them when hot.
- Check all rooms for adequate lighting.
- Place light switches at the top and the bottom of stairs.
Cognitive impairment is when a person has problems remembering, learning, concentrating, or making decisions that affect everyday life. Millions of people in the U.S. show some sort of cognitive impairment. People with cognitive impairment are at higher risk for developing dementia, which is the loss of cognitive functioning. Alzheimer's disease is the most common dementia diagnosis.
Researchers have been looking for ways to test for early signs of cognitive impairment and dementia. Early detection could open the door to strategies that prevent disease progression. Potential biomarkers include changes in the size and function of the brain and its parts, as well as levels of certain proteins seen on brain scans, in cerebrospinal fluid, and in blood. People with Alzheimer’s disease, for example, have abnormally high levels of plaques made up of beta-amyloid and tangles made of tau proteins.
To look for earlier biomarkers of cognitive decline, a team led by Dr. Berislav V. Zlokovic at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, examined two markers involved in the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier. This barrier controls the movement of cells and molecules between the blood and the fluid that surrounds the brain’s nerve cells. Past studies have found that abnormalities in the small blood vessels (capillaries) of the brain often contribute to dementia.
The team enrolled more than 160 people with and without cognitive impairment. They measured levels of the soluble form of a protein called platelet-derived growth factor receptor beta (PDGFRβ). PDGFRβ is found in the capillaries that maintain the blood-brain barrier’s integrity. Levels of the soluble form rise in cerebrospinal fluid when the blood-brain barrier is compromised. The team also tracked the integrity of the blood-brain barrier in 73 participants using an MRI-based technique they’d previously developed. The study was supported in part by NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Results were published online on January 14, 2018, in Nature Medicine.