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Science and Research Questions

Latest Questions and Answers
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 mom was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease seven years ago, but many family and friends saw the signs about 15 years ago. Now mom has had three different cancers and brain surgery too. Is it possible that the surgeries or treatments could have contributed to her getting Alzheimer’s? [ 05/03/13 ]

This is so unfortunate. Your question is one that caregiving families, clinicians and scientists are continuing to ask and investigate. In an older adult, cancer surgery should not cause dementia, but sometimes surgical complications such as lack of oxygen during anesthesia can increase the likelihood of later cognitive problems. If your mom has had chemotherapy, cognitive problems may be more likely.  Evaluation by a dementia expert will be necessary if you wish to understand the relationships among her difficult disorders.


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.


My 65-year-old husband has progressed beyond mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease and he is not able to be alone anymore, so I am his full-time care partner. For several months now he gets debilitating diarrhea every time he eats (usually within one hour of eating). It is difficult for him to explain how he is feeling, but he does not appear symptomatic beyond the diarrhea. My question is whether this is related to his Alzheimer’s condition? I am sure his medication isn’t causing this as he has been taking it for quite some time. [ 07/25/12 ]

Although his medications may not be relevant, it's worth considering whether they are playing a role. The cholinesterase inhibitors are known for causing diarrhea. Your husband's primary care physician will also want to check him for other causes of diarrhea including impaction, infection (including parasites), and nerve problems that can be associated with diabetes.


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!


Are there any health benefits of tomato juice for someone with Alzheimer’s disease? [ 09/21/11 ]

Tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant that has been shown to fight a variety of cancers in experimental protocols. Levels of lycopene, along with levels of some other antioxidant chemicals, have been shown to be depleted in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. The chemical form of lycopene that appears to be most useful to the human body is more plentiful in cooked than raw tomatoes, but even if tomato juice is not the richest source for usable lycopene it is nonetheless a nutritious drink that is unlikely to cause harm.

A number of preliminary studies suggest that how we eat may raise or lower our risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Eating a diet that is high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and that is low in sugar and fat can reduce the incidence of many chronic diseases, and researchers are continuing to study whether these dietary modifications are also applicable to Alzheimer's disease. However, the strongest research supporting these modifications has been performed in animal studies, and remains to be rigorously established in randomized and controlled human clinical trials. Further research will provide clarification on the role of diet in the prevention and/or treatment of Alzheimer's disease.


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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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