April is National Minority Health Month!

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Older black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias than older white Americans, the Alzheimer’s Association revealed in their 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report. “Genetic factors do not appear to account for the large prevalence differences among racial groups,” the report stated. Instead, “variations in health, lifestyle and socioeconomic risk factors across racial groups most likely account for most of the differences in risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias by race.”

April is National Minority Health Month, a time to recognize disparities in health such as the increased prevalence of dementia, diabetes, and stroke in minorities. The theme for 2017 is “Bridging Health Equity Across Communities,” which aims to emphasize the importance of our communities in moving towards equal opportunities for maximum health, or health equity. Want to take action? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health recommends four steps to get started:

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Diamond in the Rough World of Neuroscience

We have the ability to change our brains. Throughout life, even into old age, new neural connections can be formed. However, the idea the brain can change, called brain plasticity, is relatively new. Before 1963, scientists theorized that the brain remained static after birth and environment played no role in its potential.

The woman who changed the conversation around brain plasticity, Marian Diamond, professor emerita of integrative biology, University of California, Berkeley, was the subject of “My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond,” a documentary that aired this week on PBS.

Diamond focused on proving that the brain is shaped by environment, not just genetics. She performed an experiment where one group of rats were kept in enriched cages, with toys and other rats to socialize with, while another group lived in impoverished cages, with no other rats or objects to interact with. Rats housed in enriched cages had brains that were six percent larger than the rats in impoverished cages. She reacted to this finding by running across the campus to tell her research partner the results. “This will change science,” he told her. And it did.

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Photo courtesy of Luna Productions

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When is the Brain “Mature”?

In the New York state budget just passed by Albany, legislators will raise the age to be tried as an adult from 16 to 18 years. New York was one of only two states left in the US that prosecuted youth as adults when they turned 16–now North Carolina stands on its own.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock

In the US, law and policy have struggled to determine an accurate age to judge people mature and accountable, but new scientific findings regarding the brain, adolescence, and neurodevelopment counter the idea that we can pinpoint one age for everyone.

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Celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month with Brain Healthy Steps

There are approximately 46 million people living with dementia, costing $818 billion worldwide. By 2050, this number is estimated to rise to over 131 million people, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). With so many people living to be older, dementia is becoming one of the world’s most urgent healthcare issues.

This September marks the fifth annual World’s Alzheimer’s Month, with people around the world hosting events to raise awareness. The theme for 2016 is “Remember Me,” with people sharing memories on social media using the hashtags #RememberMe and #WAM2016. Alzheimer’s disease, along with vascular dementia, is one of the most common forms of dementia.

Recently released in honor of World’s Alzheimer’s Month is ADI’s annual Alzheimer Report. This year’s report emphasizes the importance of transferring responsibilities to primary care services from more specialized services, such as geriatrics, and psychiatrists. “As the numbers of people affected and the demand for services increase, it is unlikely that full coverage of dementia healthcare services can be attained or afforded using the current specialist care model,” the report states.

With all this worrisome news about the rise in dementia, the most important thing we can do is lead a brain-healthy lifestyle. Small changes can significantly delay the onset of dementia, reducing costs and strain on our health care system, and more importantly increasing quality of life for seniors. The Dana Foundation has a new set of four steps, based on research by the Institute of Medicine, to help keep the brain functioning into old age:

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New Successful Ageing Video Discusses Advances in Geriatric Research

Global life expectancy has gone up 39 years since 1900 and is predicted to rise at least another six years by 2050, according to a United Nations forecast. With people living longer than ever, geriatric research is of vital importance.

London’s annual Successful Ageing program, titled “Live Longer, Live Well – Seize the Day!” focused on the history of geriatric research and new, promising advances. The event was jointly organized by the European Dana Alliance for the Brain and the University of the Third Age.

Professor Richard Faragher, University of Brighton, briefed the audience on topics from genes that may lengthen life to senescent cell elimination, which could slow the effects of aging. We have come a long way in understanding the aging process and are moving towards higher quality, longer lives, he said.

Check out the full video for information on the latest advances:

For more resources on the aging brain, go to our Successful Aging & Your Brain YouTube playlist or view our Successful Aging and the Brain booklet.

– Ali Chunovic

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