Alzheimers Association International Conference Round Up – Part 2

Aug 7, 2017 | Blog

In the second part of our round-up of research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) last week, we look in particular at the issues of prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Further information on all of the research noted below can be found on the conference website.

Prevention

Once identified, certain dementia risk factors can naturally be reduced in an attempt to prevent further cognitive decline. Two of the major findings to emerge from last week’s conference were in the areas of diet and sleep.

A range of studies provided evidence that eating more healthily led to reduced rates of dementia in old age. One study found that those strictly following a Mediterranean diet designed to combat high blood pressure were up to 35% less likely to show signs of cognitive impairment, but even those only moderately following the diet had an 18% risk reduction. Another Swedish study saw similar effects from a healthy Nordic diet.

Those with Sleep-Disordered Breathing (SDB) – a term which covers a range of conditions, including Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – were found to have increased build-up of one form of the Alzheimer’s-related protein, beta amyloid, in a study at Wheaton College, Illinois. This applied equally to those with and without existing cognitive impairment, suggesting that treating sleep problems could help with both prevention and alleviation of Alzheimer’s-related cognitive decline.

The AAIC also saw the publication of a report by The Lancet International Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care (ICDPIC). The report’s most widely noted recommendation was the potential for lifestyle changes to prevent dementia developing. The report suggested that up to 35% of dementia cases were the result of modifiable risk factors, which fell into nine main areas: childhood education; high blood pressure; obesity; hearing loss; depression; diabetes; physical inactivity; smoking; social isolation. With 131 million people predicted to be living with Alzheimer’s by 2050, any efforts to encourage risk-reducing lifestyle changes could result in millions of fewer cases developing.

Treatment

Ultimately, it remains the case that there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but evidence continues to grow that supports the role of certain activities and therapies in alleviating the symptoms of dementia, slowing the rate of decline, or otherwise making life more comfortable for sufferers. In particular, two studies led by staff at the University of Exeter pointed to aspects of personal care that were particularly beneficial.

Over 800 elderly people with dementia in 69 care homes in the UK were involved in one study that demonstrated the beneficial effects of social activities and increased personal interaction with carers on well-being and happiness. The lead researcher, Professor Clive Ballard, concluded: “Our outcomes show that good staff training and just one hour a week of social interaction significantly improves quality of life.”

Another study led by Dr Ola Kudlicka looked at the possibility of halting the decline of – or even improving – certain mental functions in early-stage dementia. A group of dementia sufferers were given ten ‘cognitive rehabilitation’ sessions over three months, followed by four top-up sessions over the next half-year. These sessions were planned in discussion with the individuals to target three specific goals regarding mental functioning, which ranged from remembering names to using household appliances or keeping safe at home and outside. These sessions resulted in “significant improvement” in the target areas, resulting in greater levels of independence and also happiness.

The ICDPIC report published by The Lancet also supplied a range of recommendations on care and treatment, including better support for caregivers and more information for and discussion with sufferers and their families whilst planning care, as well as more personalisation. This emphasis is heartening for us at Greenwood Homecare, as these aspects have always been central to our approach and all our carers are trained to provide both personal and personalised care to every one of our clients.

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