Category Archives: News & Discoveries

Pilot Study Tests Drug that Reverses Parkinson’s and Dementia Symptoms

In a pilot study at Georgetown University Medical Center, researchers found that small doses of the cancer drug nilotinib (used in the treatment of leukemia), appear to dramatically reduce symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease with dementia or the related condition, Lewy body dementia. In all eleven patients who completed the six month trial, movement and mental function improved, in some cases the changes were dramatic and ‘life-changing.’

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Hearing Loss and Dementia

Assistive Listening Devices 2The estimates for people who are hard of hearing and/or deaf across America vary from 22 million to 36 million. The figures are based on statistics from The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. Census Bureau. There is no statistic showing the cause for hearing loss amongst these groups, but based on other western counties, age related hearing loss, as well as noise induced hearing loss are likely to be the two main reasons.

What Is Age Related Hearing Loss

Most adults will experience some degree of deterioration in hearing as they age – hence the term age-related hearing loss. The extent of the loss will differ from one person to the next.

It is a natural process that can start as early as age 40, but the vast majority of those found to have age related hearing loss are over the age of 65. Our ability to hear sound is dependent in part by tiny hair-like structures that are found within the cochlea of the inner ear. These hair-cells carry information from the incoming sound waves to the nerves responsible for hearing. As we age and often over many years, these tiny hairs die or are damaged, and the direct result is hearing loss. Both ears are usually affected in a similar way.

Symptoms Of Age Related Hearing Loss

The severity of hearing loss varies across individuals as it also depends on many other factors such as exposure to loud sound during our lifetime. While hearing loss is not life threatening, it can reduce one’s quality of life. It may lead to social exclusion, depression, anxiety and other associated psychological issues. Interaction with others often becomes difficult, and may be tempting to avoid.

Common telltale signs include:

  • Struggling to hear within background noise
  • Having to have words or sentences repeated
  • Having the TV turned up more than others in the same room
  • Mens’ voices are easier to hear than womens’ voices
  • Feeling exhausted after having conversations
  • Inability to hear, or confusion over high-pitched speech sounds such as “s” and “th”

The Danger Of Unmanaged Hearing Loss

In the past it was usually assumed that not doing anything about a hearing loss unmanaged would have a negative impact on quality of life in terms of some social interactions and listening to music and television but that there wouldn’t be anything else more complicated to consider. We now know however, thanks to research by Johns Hopkins and Harvard, that unmanaged hearing loss can have far reaching effects on an individual’s mental health.

It is the relationship between reduced auditory stimuli and patterns of reclusiveness that is causing concern. The Johns Hopkins University study determined that socially isolated individuals are more likely to develop dementia. Out of 639 participants, researchers found that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were significantly more likely to develop dementia by the end. The risk of developing dementia over time was believed to increase by as much as fivefold. Lack of cognitive stimuli alongside social withdrawal due to difficulty hearing, were posited as defining characteristics in this profile. Whilst hearing loss may not be the cause of dementia there are certainly signs that, untreated, it can accelerate the rate of progression.

Treatment Options

Before considering options it is important to get a diagnosis as to the cause of hearing loss and have a hearing test to evaluate the extent of any hearing loss.

First consult with your family doctor or book a hearing test at your local hearing center.

Age related hearing loss is an irreversible condition and no cure currently exists. The effects of hearing loss can however be managed through the use of modern technology – most commonly in the form of hearing aids. These aids aim to amplify external sounds, and deliver more sound where needed to the inner ear. Hearing aids vary in their design, they are either worn behind the ear or inside the ear. Additional aids such as extra loud phones and cell phones, loop systems, TV listeners and other alerting devices are also available to match individual needs. Check with your physician for a referral to a local audiologist, who can check what is the best device for you.

Bio: Information by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology. Joan works for Hearing Direct a company that offers assistive listening devices.

Pilot exercise program may help dementia patients

silhouettes-278791_640Researchers at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have developed and tested a pilot exercise program for dementia patients. The program, called PLIÉ (Preventing Loss of Independence Through Exercise), combines elements of exercise methods such as tai-chi, yoga, Feldenkrais, and dance movement therapy and focuses on basic functional movements, developing  mindful body awareness and promoting social connection. A clinical trial of eleven adult participants over an 18-week period yielded  positive qualitative results indicating that the exercise program provides functional, emotional and social benefits for patients with mild to moderate dementia.

Read more about the study

Preventing Loss of Independence through Exercise (PLIÉ): qualitative analysis of a clinical trial in older adults with dementia, published in Aging & Mental Health, 2014

New Study – Alzheimer’s disease can be slowed through mental exercises and social interaction

figures-96101_640Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible thing. It destroys a patient’s mind, memory, and personality, leaving them just a shadow of the person they once were. It is a degenerative disease, and once someone receives this dreaded diagnosis, there is nothing that medicine can do to prevent the decline. A new study does provide some hope, however. Though we still cannot stop the disease, it may be possible to slow its progression.

Lifestyle changes

Patients in the study were all between the ages of 60 and 77. The study showed that making lifestyle changes, even this late in life, can help to slow down the disease. This study provides the strongest evidence to date that physical and mental exercise, together with social interaction and a healthy diet, can slow the deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s.

The research study’s lead investigator, Miia Kivipelto, presented the group’s findings at the annual Alzheimer’s Association meeting. Kivipelto said that this message is very important, because it shows that people can still do something to protect their brain functions, even when they are beyond 70 years old.

The study on preventing cognitive impairment and disability followed over 1,200 patients in Finland. These people had either average cognitive performance for their age, or cognitive skills which had been worse for two years. They were all deemed to be at high risk of dementia. Patients were randomly split into two groups. The control group received regular cognitive testing, along with the best medical advice that was available. The second group had a number of interventions.

  • They had intensive exercise sessions, with muscle building workouts one or two times per week. At the beginning of the study, they did cardiovascular workouts two to four times per week, ramping this up to five or six sessions each week.
  • They had cognitive training exercises, done in eleven group sessions during the study, together with significant independent training.
  • They had both group and individual sessions on improving nutrition, with a focus on adding vegetables, fruit and fish to the diet, while avoiding most saturated fats.
  • They also saw a nurse at three-month intervals, to monitor for high cholesterol and high blood pressure.


Progress of patients in the two groups was measured with a series of tests covering memory, thinking speed, and executive functions. After two years of this treatment, the study showed that the test group had a statistically significant improvement compared to the control group. When researchers examined memory, the benefit to the test group was clear. For tests of psychomotor speed and executive function, Kivipelto said that the control group stayed stable, perhaps because of their level of medical care. However, the patients in the test group significantly improved.

Physical exercise (defined as at least three 30-minute sessions per week), has proven to be as good as, or better than, any type of pill that can be prescribed for people at risk of cognitive decline. He said that he was prepared to believe that other interventions beyond exercise could also yield benefits. There are still questions to be answered, but this study offers reason for hope.

Coping with Alzheimer’s disease

Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease is tough, especially for seniors who don’t want to lose their independence. Mental and physical changes will become inevitable, so it’s paramount to accept the illness. Try not to lose your temper, and don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Social isolation, anxiety and depression may also kick in. Rather than allow the disease to destroy your good mood, you should get as much support as possible from your loved ones. They will help you make the transition a lot faster.

Alzheimer’s is particularly common in seniors, who are in their 60s and 70s. The disease doesn’t have a cure, although many studies have been performed over the years. Some physicians argue that there are treatments that provide visible results; other on the other hand, recommends patients to enjoy life and not let this illness get to them. In some other circumstances, a patient may consider palliative care, which is an excellent type of medical care that offers relief from all the symptoms.


By Edward Francis and!

Dangers of Common Painkillers: There’s mounting evidence that regular use is risky for older people

pills-71574_640A recent article on AARP states that “…Most of us don’t think twice about taking a nonprescription pain reliever to ease a headache or soreness that might follow a game of tennis, but there is growing evidence that commonly used painkillers such as Advil can trigger heart attacks or strokes in some people.” Read the article and read about some drug free alternatives to pain management.

“IF I ever need to go to a nursing home, kill me first”

You do not need to leave your home

Aging in Place: You do not need to leave your home!

Given that 89% of people do not want to leave their homes, this statement featured on the article The Technology for Monitoring Elderly Relatives on The New York Times (July 28, 2010) about new technologies to help people stay at their home, makes total sense.

The purpose of many of these technologies is to provide enough supervision to make it possible for elderly people to stay in their homes rather than move to an assisted-living facility or nursing home — a goal almost universally embraced as both emotionally and financially desirable.

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