Archive for Dementia Prevention

How High Blood Pressure Affects Brain Health

On our Cognitive Therapeutics Method blog, we have often noted the link between heart and brain health, highlighting the importance of exercise in promoting blood flow and keeping aging brains healthier for longer. On October 10th, 2016, the American Heart Association issued a scientific statement emphasizing that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for cognitive impairment, once again solidifying the link between heart health and cognitive functioning, including the risk for developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

The statement was issued after reviewing multiple studies on the association between blood pressure and the risk for cognitive impairment, concluding that high blood pressure, especially in middle age, is linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Although the warning is founded upon multiple studies, the American Heart Association does acknowledge that it is not clear yet as to whether reducing and controlling high blood pressure will decrease an individual’s likelihood of developing dementia. It will benefit the heart in reducing the risk of heart attacks, stroke and other heart diseases, but further studies are needed on the exact cause and effect of high blood pressure on the brain to determine its role in Alzheimer’s and dementia.

High blood pressure is not the sole cause of dementia – diet, drinking and smoking habits, race, gender and countless other factors have been said to play a role in the incidence of dementia.

For the time-being, it is important to live a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle. The Cognitive Therapeutics Method™ focuses on a healthy diet, physical activity and mentally-engaging activities to promote long-term brain health. To learn more about the Method, visit


Caffeine May Reduce Risk of Dementia in Older Women

Coffee has been proven to have positive effects on the brain, even going so far as to protect the brain against mild cognitive impairment when consumed in moderate, consistent amounts. A new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee has added to the growing body of research supporting the brain health benefits of coffee, specifically in women over the age of 65.

Published in the Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, the study found that higher caffeine intake in older women was associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia or other forms of cognitive impairment.

The study analyzed data from 6,467 post-menopausal women who reported some level of caffeine consumption; all women were participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Caffeine intake was estimated from self-reported answers to questions on intake of coffee, tea and cola, including frequency and serving size.

Assessments of cognitive function were performed annually for up to 10 years. Of the participants, 388 women received a diagnosis of probable dementia or another form of cognitive impairment. Self-reported consumption of over 261 milligrams of caffeine per day was associated with a 36 percent reduced risk of dementia. That amount of caffeine is equivalent to two to three eight ounce cups of coffee, five to six eight ounce cups of black tea or seven to eight 12 ounce cans of cola.

After adjusting for risk factors such as hormone therapy, age, race, medical conditions and more, the research team found that individuals who consumed more caffeine than the median amount had lower rates of diagnosis compared to those that consumed less than the median amount. Although the team cannot make a direct link between caffeine consumption and cognitive impairment, their findings add to the growing body of research.

Considering that caffeine is easily incorporated into any diet, these findings are exciting for the field of dementia research. For now, we recommend 1 to 2 cups of coffee daily, as it is best enjoyed in moderation!


Potential Reversal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Dale Bredesen, professor at both the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and at the Easton Laboratories for Neurodegenerative Research at UCLA, announced that he may have found a potential treatment for the reversal of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The push for a cure for Alzheimer’s is strong as over 5.4 million Americans currently live with the disease.

Published in the journal Aging, Bredesen and his research team studied ten people who were experiencing age-related memory loss. Nine of the ten participants had genetic mutations in the APOE4 gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease, putting them at high risk. Participants used a technique called metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration (MEND), a 36-point personalized regimen focused on a healthy diet, exercise routine, brain stimulation, sleep improvements, medication and vitamins for 5 months to 2 years.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans and neuropsychological testing, the team was able to assess the success of the customized programs for each individual. They found that the MEND technique drastically improved the lives of the participants: those that had to leave work due to their memory decline were able to return, and others who had reported struggling with work saw an improvement in performance.

The hippocampus, a critical brain region for learning and memory, often shrinks in individuals with Alzheimer’s. At the beginning of the study, one patient’s hippocampal volume was in the 17th percentile for his age range, but after following the MEND program for 10 months, this specific participant’s hippocampal volume increased drastically to the 75th percentile.

Health care professionals agree that a personalized approach to brain health is the best way to prevent and delay signs of cognitive decline. However, not all scientists support the MEND approach, as it includes treating conditions that could be associated with Alzheimer’s, such as inflammation, and incorporates supplements that are not well studied or do not require FDA approval.

Bredesen hopes to further prove that treating the underlying causes and mechanisms of the disease will help reverse symptoms. So far, his efforts have proved valid, though a larger sample size and longer study would further validate the effectiveness of the program.

In line with Bredesen’s approach, the Cognitive Therapeutics Method™ is a personalized, one-on-one program designed to keep aging minds sharp. The Method is customized to each client’s unique needs and offers a range of activities that are fun yet just challenging enough to keep the brain engaged, thereby possibly delaying symptoms of cognitive decline. The Method has been an integral part of Home Care Assistance’s approach to brain health for seniors over the past three years.

To learn more about the Method, visit today.


Cognitive Function May Be Impacted by Work Environment

Researchers from Florida State University studied the effects of the workplace on cognitive function and found that an unstimulating or unkempt workplace negatively impacts memory and reasoning skills. The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, expands on previous research examining the effects of one’s occupation on deficits in cognitive function later in their life.

Led by Joseph Grzywacz, the Norejane Hendrickson Professor of Family and Child Science, the research team analyzed data from 4,963 adults between the ages of 32 and 84 years old. Participants were part of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, which aims to improve the understanding of how Americans age, including long-term brain health.

Data from the study included the participants’ employment status, place of work, job complexity, physical hazards in the workplace and workplace conditions, such as cleanliness. Cognitive function was assessed using the Brief Test of Adult Cognition by Telephone, which tests episodic memory (memory of events and experiences), self-perceived memory and executive functioning (higher-level reasoning, problem-solving and more).

After analysis, results showed that both men and women working in unclean environments where mold, solvents or other work exposures were present, had an increased risk of cognitive decline. Their workplace environment negatively impacted both their episodic memory and executive functioning skills.

Researchers also found that more stimulating workplaces that offered employees the opportunity to learn new skills or take on new challenges enhanced the brain health of their employees. Greater occupational complexity resulted in better self-perceived memory among both men and women, while the association between a stimulating environment and greater episodic memory and executive functioning was strongest for women.

Whether at work or at home, a clean environment is important for brain health, as well as physical health. And stimulating activities, such as learning a new language, hobby or occupational skill, keep the brain engaged and help prevent cognitive decline associated with aging. The Cognitive Therapeutics Method™ offers activities specifically developed to keep aging minds sharp. Learn more about the Method at


Popular Heartburn Drugs Linked to Dementia Risk

woman holding heartburn medicationPopular heartburn drugs, such as Prilosec and Nexium, were recently linked to an increased risk of dementia in a study published in JAMA Neurology. Heartburn drugs are known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) because they reduce acid production by blocking the enzyme in the stomach that produces it. PPIs have long been linked to kidney problems, bone fractures and more, and now research has uncovered that PPI drugs are associated with cognitive decline as well.

A group of German researchers studied the use of PPIs in 73,679 men and women aged 75 and older using data from 2004 to 2011. At the beginning of the study, all participants were free of dementia. Of the total participants, 2,950 took PPIs to treat heartburn, reflux or ulcers.

At the end of the study, 29,510 participants had developed dementia. The research team found that participants receiving regular PPI medication were 44 percent more likely to have developed dementia compared with patients not using any PPIs. Regular use of PPIs increased the risk for dementia in men by 52 percent and in women by 42 percent compared to the group that did not use PPIs.

Three PPIs were most often used by participants: Prilosec (omeprazole), Protonix (pantaprazole) and Nexium (esomeprazole). Of these three, the highest risk for dementia was associated with Nexium.

This study simply proves a link between PPIs and an increased risk of dementia, but it does not prove that the heartburn medication directly caused the dementia. As with all medications and medical decisions, consult your primary physician. For non-pharmacological ideas to boost your brain health, visit our blog “2016 Brain Health Resolutions”.


Singing Proves Beneficial in Early Stages of Dementia

senior singing

Many experience that a familiar tune can jog an old memory, which is why music is often used as a type of therapy for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. A recent study by the University of Helsinki in Finland looked more in-depth at the benefits of music and found that singing – as opposed to simply listening to music – can boost the brain function of individuals in the early stages of dementia.

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, split 89 people with mild to moderate dementia and their caregivers into three separate groups: one group underwent a music intervention program involving singing, another group underwent an intervention involving listening to familiar songs, and the last group received only standard care with their caregiver and no music intervention. All three of the programs ran for ten weeks. To see who benefited the most from each type of intervention, the researchers evaluated the cause of dementia, the impact of the dementia’s severity, the individual’s age, care situation and previous musical hobbies.

They found that singing was the most beneficial for working memory, which is used to retain new information, executive function, which includes reasoning and judgment, and orientation. They also found that it worked best for individuals with mild dementia who were eighty years old or younger. Listening to familiar songs was only associated with cognitive benefits in individuals with advanced dementia, while both singing and listening to music together were the most effective at alleviating depression in participants with mild dementia.

Interestingly, the participants’ previous musical hobbies had no effect on how well the music intervention programs worked, so people from a variety of musical backgrounds could benefit from the power of music, making it widely applicable. The research team hopes that these results will support the notion that musical activities can be easily used in Alzheimer’s and dementia care as well as memory care facilities. Singing has proven to be a very engaging way for individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia to maintain their memory and other important cognitive functions.

Along with exercise, a balanced diet, and social activities, singing can be a fun way to boost your mood and strengthen your memory. Whether you are in the shower, in the car or at home, sing your favorite songs — involve kids or grandkids and make it an event! We recommend karaoke, which is a great way to exercise your vocal chords and your brain while having fun. Happy singing!