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Science and Research Questions

Latest Questions and Answers
How long should a patient with Alzheimer's disease continue taking galantamine and Namenda? Is there any time limitation for taking these medications? My father has taken them for more than two years. Thank you for your advice. [ 05/03/13 ]

Although the therapeutic effects of galantamine and memantine (Namenda) may be modest for many patients, other patients may derive a longer and/or greater degree of benefit. The benefits may extend beyond helping memory and other cognitive functions. For some patients, the benefits include delayed deterioration of “activities of daily living,” delayed emergence of “non-cognitive behavioral symptoms,” and diminished “caregiver burden” (less time per day needed for caretaking). When addressing this concern with families, I ask them what they think the patient’s wishes would be at this stage of illness if he or she were able to make the decision. For some people, withdrawal of supportive treatment might be the appropriate choice. But keep in mind that patients taken off these medications even in a late stage might then deteriorate more quickly.

Is it ordinary, or possible that a 55-year-old person with early-onset Alzheimer's disease can move from normal cognition and behavior to anger, violence, lack of self-identity or awareness, and then move back to normal again? While in a state of abnormality, is it possible that the person can function effectively (drive a car, make phone calls, etc.) but not understand his own abnormal behavior and that his actions may have paranoid qualities? Thanks for your reply. [ 05/03/13 ]

Fluctuation of cognitive functioning definitely can occur with Alzheimer’s disease, though it’s even more common with Lewy Body dementia.  In many cases, such sudden behavioral and emotional changes are due to medical conditions such as a urinary tract infection or unrecognized pain difficulties.  If the person you are describing is driving a car when very cognitively impaired, I hope you’ll consider obtaining a formal driving evaluation or taking this potentially dangerous driver off the road for his or her own safety as well as that of others.

How long does an Alzheimer’s patient live once they stop eating? [ 05/03/13 ]

The human body is able to go for as long as eight weeks without food, so long as adequate water is taken. Without water, life is unlikely to persist longer than five days. Overall health, activity level, and climate are among the factors that can affect these estimates.

Are scientists looking at the impact statins might have on memory? My husband has permanent memory damage from statins and experiences episodes of global amnesia. [ 05/03/13 ]

Researchers have evaluated more than 50 reports from consumers and health care providers regarding the relationship between statins and memory. Indeed, there are reports of amnesia with these cholesterol-lowering medications.  Some scientists attribute the memory complaints to the lowering of cholesterol while others attribute memory problems in these patients to other effects of the statins themselves.  Memory problems are usually reversible once the statin is stopped, and they are probably infrequent; however, there have been complaints of persistent memory loss. Whether global and persistent amnesia can be caused by statins is still an area of controversy.  Interestingly, epidemiologic evidence suggests that taking statins in midlife to control cholesterol reduces dementia risk later in life.  There is no convincing evidence, however, that taking statins in later life improves cognition.

My great-grandma suffered with Alzheimer’s disease. My grandma (her daughter) is showing the early signs of this condition too. I am worried that my mum and I will suffer from Alzheimer’s at some stage in our life. My mum did an Alzheimer’s test and the results said that she was unlikely to get it. I know my great-grandma married a cousin and there can be genetic health risks associated with that. I just wondered whether there is anything to suggest that this is a hereditary disease or is a disease that can result when blood relatives marry. [ 07/25/12 ]

Only a small percentage of Alzheimer's disease (AD) cases are considered strongly heritable, but research shows that there is also a limited increase in the likelihood of AD in people who have multiple affected relatives. This increase in risk is small, however.

The marriage of blood relatives reduces the opportunity to bring new and different genes into a family, and it slightly increases the likelihood that they might share a disease gene. Although your family's lineage does not seem especially risky, you may want to consult a genetic counselor, who can give you a more detailed risk assessment, if you have concerns about disease inheritance.

What does empirical research suggest the prognosis is for a person with Alzheimer’s disease when he or she lives at home versus an assisted living or nursing facility? [ 04/27/12 ]

Not every home environment is suitable or safe for providing care to persons with dementia, and many long-term care facilities provide attentive service; nonetheless, one often hears of Alzheimer's disease patients who have survived for years in a home environment and one might wonder how much the loving care at home contributed to the extended survival. One study that looks empirically at this question was reported by McClendon and colleagues in the Journal of Gerontology, Behavior, Psychology, and Social Sciences in 2006. This study followed 258 persons with Alzheimer's disease and their family caregivers, and found evidence supporting the idea that delayed institutionalization was associated with prolonged survival. The decision for any specific family to seek institutional care, of course, depends on many factors associated with their personal circumstances.

How can you tell if someone is showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease? [ 02/13/12 ]

The earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease, according to the National Institute on Aging, are characterized by brain accumulation of beta amyloid without obvious behavioral or cognitive changes. The earliest cognitive changes, detectable only on careful neuropsychological testing, may be subtle changes in memory storage. When Alzheimer's disease produces actual cognitive changes, some of the first ones are non-diagnostic (that is, they could just be signs of normal aging). The affected person feels like he or she is not remembering things as well as as they used to, but nobody else notices. The next stage in progression toward Alzheimer's, is “mild cognitive impairment,” and at that point the memory difficulties start to attract others' attention. The affected person has trouble recalling words or names, performing complex tasks, remembering what he or she has read, or planning and organizing things. This usually, but not always, progresses to Alzheimer's disease, which in its mild phase is noticeable to friends and family and even to people who did not previously know the patient. Early-stage Alzheimer's disease includes more obvious cognitive changes including forgetting significant recent events, and having greater difficulty with complex tasks such as calculating the tip in a restaurant or balancing the checkbook and paying bills. Emotional changes such as those seen in depression may also be more apparent at this stage.


I am 48 years old and have had symptoms of throbbing, tension, stress, and a gripping tightness inside my head or brain for the past 25 years. The feeling is like a balloon or rubber tube trying to expand or tighten. I have consulted several psychologists and neurologists, and recently had an MRI scan. No physical problem has been diagnosed. I also have difficulties in concentration and remembering things. I would appreciate if you could advise me. [ 12/23/11 ]

Seeking an explanation of these distressing feelings for 25 years must have been an extremely frustrating experience. I don't think I can provide the definitive answer you've been looking for, but I can suggest a course of action. There are many things that can contribute to the symptoms that you have been experiencing; however, they appear to be consistent with an anxiety condition. Over the years, I'm sure you have noticed various things that make it better or worse, such as sleep, caffeine, exercise or stress, and if you haven't already done this you might make a careful list of the factors that affect your symptoms. Then, find a doctor who has expertise in treating anxiety disorders. The assessment of your symptoms will include consideration of atypical headaches, focal seizures, nutritional deficiencies, toxicities, and sleep disorders among other problems. If, after a thorough evaluation, it seems that anxiety is the most probable explanation, you may be given medication and encouragement to participate in cognitive/behavioral psychotherapy. Don't give up—there is probably a clinician who can help you feel better!

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional; it is not intended to constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy. All medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. Also, although we make every effort to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the posted information reflects the most up-to-date research.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

Last Review: 04/29/13

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