Alzheimer's Watch

Published Online: Thursday, January 13, 2011
Alcohol Consumption Levels Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia
The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a new study on alcohol consumption that offers an interesting look at how individuals who binge drink— and those who don’t touch alcohol at all— are somehow in the same boat. The study, conducted at the University of Turku, University of Helsinki, and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland, revealed that midlife consumption of alcohol is related to the risk of dementia some 20 years later. Researchers found that both abstainers and heavy drinkers have a greater risk for cognitive impairment than light drinkers.

The level of drinking was defined as heavy when an individual drank a bottle of wine on a single occasion on at least a monthly basis. This level of drinking doubled the risk of cognitive impairment, according to the research. Passing out because of a heavy binge episode also increased the risk of developing subsequent cognitive impairment.

The study concluded that the pattern by which alcohol was consumed had an effect on the risk of cognitive impairment. Researchers will continue to look at the relationship of no alcohol consumption as well as heavy alcohol consumption as it relates to health risks later in life.


Alzheimer’s Risk May Be Greater Due to Pesticide Exposure
People who work with pesticides for a living are at risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) later in life due to the repeated exposure, according to a study reported last spring in Neurology. The occupations that utilize organophosphate and organochlorine pesticides, which inhibit acetylcholinesterase at synapses in the somatic, autonomic, and central nervous systems and may have lasting effects on the nervous system, put individuals at greater risk than the general population. The study covered 14- plus years, with information collected from participants regarding a wide range of factors that potentially modify the risk for AD.

Connections to both dementia and AD were uncovered in the study, conducted by Kathleen M. Hayden, PhD, Duke University Medical Center, using data from the Cache County Study of Memory Health and Aging. Residents in an agricultural community in Cache County, Utah were the subjects of this study, which was designed to study the environmental and genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

More research is needed in this new area of study where the exposure to pesticides and its effect on the potential risk for dementia or AD is examined, according to the researchers.

Computers Can Enhance Memory for Early and Middle Stage Alzheimer’s Patients
Melabev Centers in Jerusalem, Israel, provide day care for older patients with Alzheimer’s symptoms. A recent innovation in a computer program here shows new promise for those patients who display early and middle stage Alzheimer’s.

There is considerable interest in this computer program, as a delegation from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is scheduled to visit one of the centers this month to observe the computer innovation as well as other art and sensory therapy that the facilities have been working on to enhance the quality of life of their patients.

The computer program was based on a decade of testing and refining. A recent study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev showed that using the system—called “Savion”—for 30 minutes twice daily over 4 weeks improved the participants’ global cognition, language skills, memory, and organizational aptitude. The program focuses primarily on stimulating and stabilizing long-term memory skills.

“Through memory-enhancing training, Savion slows down the mental deterioration associated with Alzheimer’s, with overall improvements made to the patients’ memory and information processing skill, “ said Motti Zelikovitch, general director of Melabev.

Melabev gerontologist Rakel Berenbaum noted, “We now suspect that a certain level of neuron plasticity does exist in Alzheimer’s patients, enabling people to acquire new computer skills.” The program is available in a range of languages, including English, Hebrew, Russian, and Greek, with Arabic and French interfaces to follow.


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