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Tag Archives: Dementia

Chart: Europe Is Facing a Dementia Problem

Source : Statista

Is Slowed Walking a Sign Dementia Is Near?

If you’re a senior and walking to the mailbox takes longer than it used to, new research suggests you might want to ask your doctor to check your thinking skills.

The study included nearly 17,000 adults over 65 and found those who walk about 5% slower or more each year and also had memory declines were the most likely to develop dementia.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

“These results highlight the importance of gait in dementia risk assessment,” corresponding study author Taya Collyer, a research fellow at Peninsula Clinical School at Monash University in Victoria, Australia, told CNN.

The findings echo those of a 2020 study of nearly 9,000 U.S. adults that found an association between slowed walking speed and memory decline and future risk of dementia.

Research suggests the link between walking speed and decreasing mental function may be due to shrinking in the right hippocampus, a part of the brain that handles learning, memories and the ability to find your way around, CNN reported.

At the same time, previous studies have also found that aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling and dancing can enlarge the hippocampus and improve some areas of memory.

And just because someone has what’s called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) doesn’t mean they’ll go on to develop dementia. Only 10% to 20% of those 65 and older with MCI develop dementia within a year, according to the U.S. National Institute on Aging, which also states that in “many cases, the symptoms of MCI may stay the same or even improve.”

Source: HealthDay

Heart Risk Factors Can Be Recipe for Dementia

The faster you pile up heart disease risk factors, the greater your odds of developing dementia, a new study suggests.

Previous research has linked heart health threats such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity with mental decline and dementia.

Amassing those risk factors at a faster pace boosts your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, according to findings published online in the journal Neurology.

“Our study suggests that having an accelerated risk of cardiovascular disease, quickly accumulating more risk factors like high blood pressure and obesity, is predictive of dementia risk and associated with the emergence of memory decline,” said study author Bryn Farnsworth von Cederwald, of Umeå University in Sweden.

“As a result, earlier interventions with people who have accelerated cardiovascular risks could be an effective way to help prevent further memory decline in the future,” he said in a journal news release.

The study included more than 1,200 people (average age: 55) who did not have heart or memory problems at the outset and were followed for up to 25 years.

By the end of the study, about 6% had developed Alzheimer’s disease and 3% developed dementia from vascular disease.

At the outset, participants’ average 10-year risk of heart disease was between 17% and 23%. As time went on, heart disease risk remained stable in 22% of participants, increased moderately in 60%, and rose rapidly in 18%.

Compared to those with a stable heart disease risk, those with an accelerated risk were three to six times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, three to four times more likely to develop vascular dementia, and up to 1.4 times more likely to have memory decline, the study found.

“Several risk factors were elevated in people with an accelerated risk, indicating that such acceleration may come from an accumulation of damage from a combination of risk factors over time,” Farnsworth von Cederwald said.

“Therefore,” he added, “it is important to determine and address all risk factors in each person, such as reducing high blood pressure, stopping smoking and lowering BMI, rather than just address individual risk factors in an effort to prevent or slow dementia.”

Source: Healthday

New Research Identifies Blood Biomarker for Predicting Dementia Before Symptoms Develop

New research from NUI Galway and Boston University has identified a blood biomarker that could help identify people with the earliest signs of dementia, even before the onset of symptoms.

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The researchers measured blood levels of P-tau181, a marker of neurodegeneration, in 52 cognitively healthy adults, from the US-based Framingham Heart Study, who later went on to have specialised brain PET scans. The blood samples were taken from people who had no cognitive symptoms and who had normal cognitive testing at the time of blood testing.

The analysis found that elevated levels of P-tau181 in the blood were associated with greater accumulation of ß-amyloid, an abnormal protein in Alzheimer’s disease, on specialised brain scans. These scans were completed on average seven years after the blood test.

Further analysis showed the biomarker P-tau181 outperformed two other biomarkers in predicting signs of ß-amyloid on brain scans.

Emer McGrath, Associate Professor at the College of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway and Consultant Neurologist at Saolta University Health Care Group was lead author of the study.

“The results of this study are very promising — P-tau181 has the potential to help us identify individuals at high risk of dementia at a very early stage of the disease, before they develop memory difficulties or changes in behaviour,” Professor McGrath said.

The research team said the identification of a biomarker also points to the potential for a population screening programme.

Professor McGrath said: “This study was carried out among people living in the community, reflecting those attending GP practices. A blood test measuring P-tau181 levels could potentially be used as a population-level screening tool for predicting risk of dementia in individuals at mid to late-life, or even earlier.

“This research also has important potential implications in the context of clinical trials. Blood levels of P-tau181 could be used to identify suitable participants for further research, including in clinical trials of new therapies for dementia. We could use this biomarker to identify those at a high risk of developing dementia but still at a very early stage in the disease, when there is still an opportunity to prevent the disease from progressing.”

Source: National University of Ireland Galway

How Music Affects Memory in Those with Dementia

Most people aren’t connected to music the way Tony Bennett is, but virtually everyone has songs they love. And music can reengage a person with dementia.

“When my father was in hospice in the last weeks of his life, he had been unable to speak for a while and wasn’t responding to us,” says Daniel Potts, MD, FAAN, a neurologist at VA Tuscaloosa Health Care and author of A Pocket Guide for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver. “We’re a singing family, so we called everybody who used to sing with us. Most of them came, and we just sat around his bedside and sang…and he sang with us. We’ll never forget that.”

Over the past two decades, a substantial body of research has demonstrated that music in all its forms arouses, stimulates, and organizes many areas of the brain. “Songs of personal meaning stimulate memories, even for people who have trouble accessing their memories, because of the various ways networks that form information in the brain get recruited,” says Concetta Tomaino, DA, executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in New York City. “Imaging studies have shown that there is an area of convergence in the medial prefrontal cortex [a region that holds onto and retrieves memories] that lights up in the brain when we hear music that’s important to us.

“Music that’s personal has many elements that help us recall information. It affects us emotionally, it connects us to people and places, and we tend to relive it and listen to it many times throughout our lives, which strengthens those connections even more,” Dr. Tomaino says.

In a study published in Brain in 2015, European researchers examined a group of people with Alzheimer’s disease by using brain imaging technologies and compared them with young, healthy participants. The scientists found that the areas of the brain that encode musical memory show very little damage in Alzheimer’s.

And researchers at the University of Utah, who published their results in the Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2019, found that playing personally meaningful music for people with Alzheimer’s disease stimulated those areas of the brain and improved mood. “We had patients and their families identify music they liked. Then we used an MP3 player to develop a playlist and asked them to listen to it over several weeks,” says Norman L. Foster, MD, FAAN, professor of neurology at the University of Utah and one of the lead authors of the study. They then used functional MRIs to see which regions of the brain were activated when patients listened to their favorite music.

They found that several key regions of the brain—including the visual network, the salience network (regions that decide which stimuli deserve our attention), the executive network (which performs high-level cognitive tasks such as reasoning and problem-solving), and the cerebellar and corticocerebellar network pairs (for visual attention and working memory)—showed significantly higher-level functional connections. “Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses, but personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment,” Dr. Foster says.

That kind of reconnection produces tangible results. Music & Memory, a nonprofit organization in Mineola, NY, helps nursing homes and family caregivers create and manage playlists. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association in March 2020 found that the Music & Memory program significantly reduced the need for anti-anxiety, antipsychotic, and antidepressant medications in nursing home residents. It also led to significant declines in aggressive behavior, depressive symptoms, pain, and falls.

To make the most of the power of music for someone with dementia, consider these four expert-recommended strategies.

Make it personal. Find out what music is meaningful to the person, says Dr. Potts. Songs from the “reminiscence bump”—between the ages of 10 and 30, when emotion tends to be heightened—have extra staying power. “Those songs really stoke the autobiographical memory,” Dr. Potts says. (This is why general “music therapy” groups in long-term care facilities may not be as helpful; if people listened to different types of music when they were younger, they might not respond to the same music.)

Participate. “In our support groups, we find that it isn’t just putting on music that people like; it’s also engaging with them—singing along, keeping the beat with them,” says Jonathan Graff-Radford, MD, division chair of behavioral neurology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. “See which songs trigger more engagement—people may clap their hands, sing, or tap their feet—and then play those songs more frequently and eliminate ones that don’t seem to do the trick.”

Add it to the routine. “Don’t just play the music once in a while; make it a regular part of their days,” Dr. Graff-Radford says. “But avoid overdoing it, keep the volume at an appropriate level, and take a break if they seem to be overstimulated.”

Use it strategically. “Music can be very helpful when the person gets difficult or is agitated,” says Dr. Tomaino. “Don’t fight with the person; instead, find a piece of music and see if you can engage the person.” Dr. Tomaino remembers a couple who loved big-band and swing music and used to go out dancing. After the wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she became obstinate when it was time for bathing and personal care. To budge her from the chair, her husband would put on a Duke Ellington album and extend a hand as if asking her to dance. She recognized that and would take his hand, and he’d gently dance her over to the bathroom. “It’s the context, the feelings, the personal connections embodied in music that stay with us forever.”

Source: Brain&Life

Self-administered Cognition Test Predicts Early Signs of Dementia Sooner

Many people experience forgetfulness as they age, but it’s often difficult to tell if these memory issues are a normal part of aging or a sign of something more serious. A new study finds that a simple, self-administered test developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, College of Medicine and College of Public Health can identify the early, subtle signs of dementia sooner than the most commonly used office-based standard cognitive test.

This earlier detection by the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE test) is critical to effective treatment, especially as new therapeutics for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are being developed and approved.

“New disease modifying therapies are available and others are currently being evaluated in clinical trials, and we know that the earlier cognitive impairment is detected, the more treatment choices a patient has and the better the treatments work,” said Dr. Douglas Scharre, director of the Division of Cognitive and Memory Disorders in the Department of Neurology at Ohio State and lead author of the study published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy.

While the test does not definitively diagnose problems like Alzheimer’s, it allows doctors to get a baseline of their patients’ cognitive functioning, and repeat testing allows them to follow their memory and thinking abilities over time. “Often primary care physicians may not recognize subtle cognitive deficits during routine office visits,” Scharre said.

The eight-year study followed 665 consecutive patients in Ohio State’s Center for Cognitive and Memory Disorders. Researchers found that the SAGE test accurately identified patients with mild cognitive impairment who eventually progressed to a dementia diagnosis at least six months earlier than the most commonly used testing method called the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).

Among the 164 patients with baseline mild cognitive impairment, 70 patients converted to dementia. This is a 43% conversion rate over three to four years which is similar to rates from other academic center-based studies, Scharre said. The distribution of dementia diagnoses included 70% Alzheimer’s disease dementia, 7% Lewy body dementia, and 9% pure or mixed vascular dementia.

The test can be taken anywhere whenever there are cognitive concerns. It takes only about 10-15 minutes to complete, and the four interchangeable forms are designed to reduce learning effects from recurrent testing over time. The cognitive domains tested with the 11-item test include orientation, language, calculations, memory, abstraction, executive function, and constructional abilities. The MMSE does not test abstractions or executive function abilities.

“Any time you or your family member notices a change in your brain function or personality you should take this test,” Scharre said. “If that person takes the test every six months and their score drops two or three points over a year and a half, that is a significant difference, and their doctor can use that information to get a jump on identifying the causes of the cognitive loss and to make treatment decisions.”

Scharre has worked closely with BrainTest Inc SEZC to develop a scientifically validated digital version of the SAGE test called BrainTest that can be taken anywhere on a tablet or touch screen computer. This digital version will also be integrated with the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s electronic medical records system to better facilitate self-testing, storing and reviewing results for patients and their health care providers. Frank Rupnik looks at family photos with his wife, Nancy, in their Delaware, Ohio home. Frank was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and takes the digital Brain Test on a tablet every six months that informs his neurologist about any changes in cognition or needed adjustments in treatment.

“Based on cognitive score changes, clinicians and families may decide it is time to act on safety and supervision needs. This might include, for example, medication oversight, financial assistance, driving limitations, setting up durable Powers of Attorney and other legal arrangements/trusts, change in living arrangements, and enhanced caregiving support,” Scharre said.

More than 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and those numbers are expected to rise to more than 13 million by 2050. Deaths from Alzheimer’s and other dementias have increased 16% during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Source: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Cataract Surgery Might Lower Your Odds for Dementia

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

People who undergo surgery to treat cataracts may have a lower likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

Of more than 3,000 older adults with the eye disease, those who had surgery were about 30% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the coming years, researchers found.

The findings cannot prove cataract surgery helps protect against Alzheimer’s, said lead researcher Dr. Cecilia Lee. However, it provides strong evidence that that could be the case.

Lee and her colleagues were able to account for numerous other factors that might explain the finding. And even after doing so, cataract surgery was still linked to a reduction in Alzheimer’s risk.

“This evidence might be as good as we can get,” said Lee, chair of ophthalmology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens that can cause symptoms such as blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night, and seeing “halos” around lights. Cataracts are very common among older people — affecting more than half of Americans by age 80, according to the U.S. National Eye Institute.

Surgery to remove the cataract, and replace it with an artificial lens, can improve vision problems.

Past studies have linked cataracts, as well as other visual impairments, to an increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. That, Lee said, raised the obvious question: Can treating cataracts lower that risk?

It’s a tricky question to tackle, however.

“There are so many confounding variables,” Lee said, “especially for older people who have other health conditions.”

Even if older adults who had cataract surgery show a lower dementia risk, that could be because healthier people are more likely to opt for surgery — or because those people have better access to health care.

Lee’s team addressed those issues by using data on a large group of patients in the Kaiser Permanente health system. All had access to health care, and the researchers had detailed information on their health history.

They focused on 3,038 adults age 65 and older who had cataracts and were free of dementia at the outset. Just under half underwent cataract surgery.

Over an average eight years, 853 patients were diagnosed with dementia, most often Alzheimer’s. But the risk was 29% lower among those who’d undergone cataract surgery, compared to those who hadn’t.

That reduction was seen after Lee and her team accounted for all the other variables they could — including whether people had physical disabilities or medical conditions like heart disease, stroke or diabetes. They also factored in body weight, exercise habits, education levels and smoking history — all of which have been tied to dementia risk.

Beyond that, researchers found no reduction in dementia risk among patients who underwent surgery for the eye condition glaucoma — a procedure that does not improve vision.

Why would cataract surgery, and subsequent vision improvement, sway dementia risk? Lee said it’s plausible, in part, because vision problems limit older adults’ engagement with the world.

“If you can’t see well, you may not want to go out and socialize,” she said. “Or you may not want to exercise because you’re worried about safety.”

Like physical exercise, social and mental stimulation are thought to support healthy brain aging.

Another theory, Lee said, relates to blue light. Over time, cataracts can yellow, and that specifically blocks blue light. Certain specialized cells in the eye’s retina are very sensitive to blue light, Lee noted, and they have been linked to both sleep cycles and cognition (memory and thinking skills).

Claire Sexton, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association, agreed that those theories are plausible.

Given that cataracts are so common, she said, there is great potential in targeting the condition as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

Sexton pointed to a limitation of the study, however: Most patients were white. She said the findings should be replicated in a diverse group of older adults, to confirm the association holds true for people of color, too.

A bigger-picture message, Sexton said, is that people should be aware that their general health — including heart health, vision and hearing — may impact their odds of dementia.

Lee encouraged older adults who are having vision problems to see an ophthalmologist, a physician who diagnoses and treats eye diseases.

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Source: HealthDay

Elevated Heart Rate Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

Having an elevated resting heart rate in old age may be an independent risk factor of dementia, according to a study at Karolinska Institutet published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. Since resting heart rate is easy to measure and can be lowered through exercise or medical treatment, the researchers believe that it may help to identify people with higher dementia risk for early intervention.

The number of people living with dementia is expected to increase to 139 million globally by 2050, from 55 million in 2020, according to the organisation Alzheimer’s Disease International. Currently, there is no cure for dementia, but growing evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and cardiovascular health could help delay the onset of dementia and ease symptoms.

In this study, the researchers examined if resting heart rate in 2,147 individuals 60 years old or older and living in Stockholm could be linked to dementia and cognitive decline independent of other known risk factors, such as cardiovascular disease.

The study, which followed the participants for up to 12 years, showed that individuals with a resting heart rate of 80 beats per minute or higher on average had 55 percent higher risk of dementia than those with a heart rate of 60-69 beats per minute. The association remained significant after adjusting for potential confounders such as various cardiovascular diseases. Still, the researchers caution that the result may have been affected by undetected cardiovascular events and the fact that more participants with cardiovascular disease died during the follow-up period and thus didn’t have time to develop dementia.

Several plausible explanations

The study cannot establish a causal relationship, but the researchers offer several plausible explanations for the association, including the effect of underlying cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular risk factors, stiffened arteries, and imbalance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve activities.

“We believe it would be valuable to explore if resting heart rate could identify patients with high dementia risk,” says the study’s leading author Yume Imahori, a researcher at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet. “If we follow such patients’ cognitive function carefully and intervene early, the onset of dementia might be delayed, which can have a substantial impact on their quality of life.”

Source: Karolinska Institutet

What Are the Links between COVID-19, Brain Harm and Dementia Risk?

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Headaches, brain fog and that peculiar inability to smell or taste things. By now most people know these symptoms as a few of the hallmarks of COVID-19. Researchers say they are a clear indication the virus impacts neurological functions.

But what that impact means to long-term brain health remains unclear. With preliminary research hinting at a relationship between COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s susceptibility, investigators are eager to learn whether the neurological damage caused by COVID-19 will be short-lived, or if it could lead to greater cognitive decline in an aging population.

Thus far, said Dr. Eliezer Masliah, director of the division of neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging, “we don’t know a lot.”

Investigators hope to gain insight through a massive multidisciplinary research project announced earlier this year by the National Institutes of Health, which committed $470 million to study the long-term health consequences of COVID-19, including how it affects brain health. The Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative will fund large-scale studies of a wide range of populations through grants to more than 100 investigators at 30 institutions nationwide.

To assist with this research, NIH is building a national database of neurological symptoms, complications and outcomes experienced by people infected with COVID-19 – as well as biological specimens collected from doctors’ offices and research sites.

Investigators are looking at the relationship between COVID-19 and the brain from two perspectives, Masliah said. “One is what happens during an acute infection and the other is what are the long-term consequences after the infection.”

Since the pandemic began, research shows more than 90% of people infected with the virus have reported at least one neurological symptom, with many reporting more. What’s troubled health experts is these symptoms often linger long after the infection clears.

Cognitive impairment covers a range of issues, including memory, language and attention. It can affect how people interact with others and their environment.

Jaqueline Becker, a New York City neuropsychologist, led research published in JAMA Network Open in October that found cognitive problems among people with a wide range of COVID illness severity. One of the most common was a decline in executive function skills, which allow people to plan, focus, follow instructions and multitask.

The risk for cognitive impairment rose as people got sicker, said Becker, an associate scientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

“We found those who were hospitalized were more likely to have cognitive impairments in the area of attention, executive function, memory coding and memory recall than those who were treated as outpatients,” she said.

Poor executive function also can impact memory and the speed at which the brain can process information, Becker said.

Because executive function impairment is associated with the development of dementia, “there is concern about later neurodegeneration in the post-COVID population,” she said. However, whether it will persist over time – or whether one could recover those skills – remains to be seen. Becker’s study of middle-aged adults includes data up to one year post-COVID, but she and the researchers at Mount Sinai will continue collecting this data for at least another four years.

“There are implications for neurodegenerative disorders,” she said. “We hope that, at least in healthy, young patients, this will resolve over time. But we still don’t know.”

Some scientists believe one way to reduce the potentially higher risk for dementia may be through COVID-19 vaccinations – and not simply because they protect against infection and serious illness.

Prior studies suggest inoculations such as the flu vaccine may offer some protection against dementia because they help strengthen the immune system. Masliah said researchers involved in RECOVER will be looking at whether COVID vaccines likewise reduce dementia risk.

“It would not be an outlandish hypothesis to think that would be protective as well, but we don’t have data yet,” he said.

In the meantime, Becker said people experiencing post-COVID neurological symptoms should not jump to conclusions about the long-term consequences. They should, however, visit a primary care physician if problems persist to rule out other causes.

For example, she said, “depression can affect cognition function, and oftentimes, as depression lifts, so does the cognitive impairment.”

Another mystery is why the virus is harming the brain. It could happen in multiple ways.

There’s some controversial evidence to suggest the virus might be infecting the brain. Other studies suggest changes in blood vessels may be responsible for cognitive disruption.

“Either the blood vessels are retracting, or being obstructed, or there are other types of vascular changes,” Masliah said. He pointed to studies that found damage to the brain’s white matter caused by vascular changes from COVID infection.

Others are looking into whether inflammation in the brain is responsible for the neurological symptoms, he said.

One study published early this year in the journal Cells suggests inflammation persists after COVID recovery and may alter important proteins associated with dementia. The findings in participants recovering from infections showed increased amyloid beta and tau – two proteins responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s disease generated by neuroinflammation.

Another avenue of investigation looks at the genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease and how it aligns with greater susceptibility to severe COVID-19. Research published in October in the journal Brain showed a gene associated with inflammation and a higher susceptibility for Alzheimer’s was being expressed in response to COVID-19 infection.

“This is something quite dramatic,” Masliah said. “But it is still very preliminary. What is the relationship between Alzheimer’s and COVID-19 at the moment is not really known. There is a tremendous amount of work going on there.”

Source: American Heart Association

Want to Avoid Dementia? Add Some Color to Your Plate

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Cara Murez wrote . . . . . . . . .

Something as simple as having a glass of orange juice in the morning or an apple at lunch could be one of the keys to protecting your brain health.

People who consumed just a half serving a day of foods high in a naturally occurring compound called flavonoids had a 20% lower risk of mental decline, according to a new study.

“We think it may have important public health implications because based on what you’re seeing in the current study, it could be that just by making some simple changes to your diet, that is, by adding these flavonoid-rich foods into your diet, you could potentially help prevent cognitive decline,” said study co-author Dr. Tian-Shin Yeh, a research fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Besides bananas, apples, pears and sweet peppers, the list of flavonoid-rich foods includes celery, citrus fruits, cherries and berries. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant, the researchers said.

In the absence of effective treatments for dementia, the impact of risk factors that people can control, such as changing their diets and building in regular exercise, is getting more attention. Cognitive, or mental, decline is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors, Yeh said.

Researchers examined the diets and perception of subjective cognitive decline in about 77,000 U.S. adults enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study or the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The women had an average age of 48 and the men an average age of 51 at the start.

Participants completed several questionnaires over 20 years of follow-up that asked how often they ate certain foods. Researchers calculated their flavonoid intake.

Those who ate the most flavonoids had an average of 600 milligrams (mg) daily. Those who ate the least had 150 mg on average. To put that in context, an apple has about 113 mg of flavonoids, while there are roughly 180 mg in about two-thirds of a cup of strawberries.

Flavones, a particular flavonoid found in some spices and yellow or orange fruits and veggies, had the strongest protective qualities, researchers said. They were associated with a 38% reduction in risk of cognitive decline.

Another type of flavonoid, called anthocyanins, was associated with a 24% reduced risk of cognitive decline. This is found in darker fruits such as cherries, blueberries and blackberries.

Twice during the study, participants also assessed their own cognitive abilities, answering questions such as, “Do you have more trouble than usual remembering recent events?” and “Do you have more trouble than usual remembering a short list of items?”

Researchers said these types of questions can catch early memory problems, at the point that a person notices them and before they can be detected on a screening test.

Exactly why these foods might make a difference in brain health remains an open research question, said Dr. Darren Gitelman, a neurologist and senior medical director for the Advocate Memory Center in Chicago. Gitelman was not involved in the study.

Some theories suggest antioxidant foods reduce amyloid deposition, which is a factor in the start of Alzheimer’s disease, or neuroinflammation.

“There are a lot of hypothesized effects on the neuronal environment that may be beneficial with these foods,” Gitelman said. “I will say it’s also possible, and it’s not mentioned, that it may be that if you eat these foods, you may generally have a healthier approach to diet and to your physical being than if you don’t eat these foods.”

Yeh said a colorful diet rich in flavonoids is a good bet for promoting long-term brain health — and that it’s never too late to start. Even study participants who began eating more flavonoids later saw benefits.

A healthy lifestyle is important for overall health and for brain health, Yeh said. “And the combination of diet and exercise appears to offer a more comprehensive benefit than either one of them alone,” she noted.

The study adjusted for many dietary and non-dietary factors, include socioeconomic factors, physical activity and other nutrients. The findings on flavonoids were independent of these other factors, but future studies are still needed to confirm the findings, Yeh said.

The results appear in the online issue of Neurology. Study limitations include that people were recalling their own diets. Also, the study doesn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship, merely an association between diet and lower risk of dementia.

Gitelman added, “This study was important in showing the potential advantages of these types of foods on our brain health, but it must be extended to other populations before we know its true impact.”

Source: HealthDay