March 26th, 2013
10:04 AM ET
The virus causing your cold sore may put you at risk for something more insidious: Lower cognitive abilities.
In a study of 1,625 people, researchers at Columbia University measured specific antibodies to common infectious agents in each person's blood, and using this information, created an "infectious burden index." Participants higher on the infectious burden index were more likely to have worse cognition, or cognitive abilities.
The study, published Monday in the journal Neurology, further suggests a link between cognitive decline and herpesviridae viral infections in particular, which previous studies have also linked to Alzheimer's disease and risk of stroke, an accompanying editorial notes. Herpesviridae is a family of viruses including HSV-1 or herpes simplex virus-1, which causes cold sores and can cause genital herpes, and HSV-2, which commonly causes genital herpes.
January 7th, 2013
07:17 PM ET
If you take drugs to lower your blood pressure, your medication may also lower your risk of dementia, according to a new study released Monday by the American Academy of Neurology.
According to the study, people taking beta blockers, a class of drugs used to treat a number of conditions including high blood pressure, glaucoma and migraines, were less likely to have less cognitive impairment than those that did not. Beta blockers cause the heart to beat slower and with less force, which reduces blood pressure. They also open up blood vessels to increase blood flow.
November 28th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
That cigarette may be doing more damage than meets the eye. If you’ve been smoking for an extended period of time, you’re likely familiar with at least some – if not all – of the bodily symptoms associated with smoking, including but certainly not limited to: Cravings, coughing, shortness of breath and changes to teeth, hair and skin. Coronary heart disease and/or lung cancer might not be far behind.
But a new study published in the journal Age & Ageing concludes that smoking can damage your mind, too. A consistent association was observed between smoking and lower cognitive functioning, including memory.
The bottom line: Smoking and long-term high blood pressure appear to increase the risk of cognitive decline. FULL POST
October 24th, 2012
06:01 PM ET
A decade ago, researchers shocked women around the world when they abruptly halted a landmark clinical trial on hormone therapy, a drug regimen widely used to relieve hot flashes, night sweats, and other unpleasant symptoms of menopause.
Just five years in, the study results suggested that hormone therapy increased the risk of several serious health conditions, including breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke. A follow-up study soon added Alzheimer's disease to the list, after finding that women taking hormones had higher rates of dementia than women taking placebo.
Since then, however, doctors have begun to reexamine hormone therapy and the conclusions of the trial, known as the Women's Health Initiative. In the latest such study, published today in the journal Neurology, researchers report that taking hormones may actually lower, not raise, the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
October 23rd, 2012
04:11 PM ET
One of the sad realities about Alzheimer's disease is that there's no way of preventing it – at least not yet. We know some people are genetically or biologically at greater risk than others, but researchers want to find out how we can fight it off, or at least delay it.
The strongest evidence for a lifestyle choice associated with Alzheimer's prevention is exercise. A new study in the journal Neurology supports that, and also suggests that working out is more effective at protecting the brain than cognitive challenges such as games and puzzles.
Researchers studied a group of nearly 700 participants from Scotland, all born in 1936, who reported their leisure and physical activity levels at age 70. They rated physical activity on a scale from "moving only in connection with necessary (household) chores" to "keep-fit/heavy exercise or competitive sport several times per week," the study said. Participants also rated how often they engaged in various social and intellectual activities.
October 17th, 2012
09:32 AM ET
Everyone has had one of those days where a night of choppy or short sleep leads into a morning of mental haze. New research presented at the Neuroscience 2012 conference suggests that sleep deprivation might be worse for you than you think.
For starters, sleepiness in the elderly could be an indication of Alzheimer's risk, says Andrew Ward, researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Ward and colleagues did a study involving 84 elderly adults without memory problems, ranging from age 66 to 87. Researchers gave them a questionnaire about how likely they were to fall asleep during various daily activities, as a way to measure sleepiness. They also measured brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
July 17th, 2012
03:38 PM ET
Finding drugs that can halt or reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease is one of the holy grails in pharmaceutical research.
While the already-approved Aricept and Namenda medications have shown promise for temporarily easing symptoms, what’s desperately needed are treatments that will reverse or prevent the brain decline produced by Alzheimer’s.
Researchers are seeing promising results of the first long-term clinical trial that measured stabilization of Alzheimer’s symptoms, including thinking, memory, daily functioning and mood. The early stage results were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, this week.
July 16th, 2012
07:45 AM ET
It’s well-known that exercising to maintain a healthy heart also helps create a healthy mind. But several new studies suggest that when it comes to preventing dementia, not all forms of exercise are created equal.
Studies presented at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference found that resistance training was particularly beneficial for improving the cognitive abilities of older adults.
While the studies were small, all including 150 participants or less, they did seemed to indicate that resistance training – such as weight lifting or using resistance bands – could possibly be an intervention for dementia in older adults.
July 11th, 2012
06:27 PM ET
With more than 5 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, the race is on to surface clues about causes and prevention.
An important breakthrough for the research field comes in the journal Nature this week. Researchers say they found a rare genetic mutation in Iceland that appears to protect against Alzheimer's disease.
The mutation appears to slow the production of the beta-amyloid protein, long considered to be a cause of Alzheimer's. This mechanism helps validate the theory that beta-amyloid plaques – an accumulation of the protein - cause this form of dementia for which no cure has been found. The research team was led by Dr. Kari Stefansson, chief executive of the Icelandic company DeCode Genetics. They studied data from the genomes of nearly 1,800 Icelandic people.
July 2nd, 2012
05:13 PM ET
In what's being described as the largest, most complete genetic mapping project for a single disease, scientists Monday announced a plan to obtain the genetic make-up of more than 800 individuals enrolled in an Alzheimer’s research study.
The research will determine all 6 billion letters in each individual’s DNA. The new data – vast and shared worldwide with eligible researchers – may explain how genes cause changes in the body that lead people to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s probably dozens or scores of genes that are contributing to whether you get it and how severe it is in you,” said Dr. Robert Green, a physician-scientist at Harvard Medical School who is tasked with coordinating the genetic sequencing. “The genome is a complicated place. It’s not just about identifying a gene that puts you at risk. It’s about identifying other genes that modify those genes. It’s about identifying genes that protect you.”
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.