Unlocking the Diseases of the Brain

Guest blog by Carl Sherman

One evening last week, I met the mini-brain.

I was introduced to this intriguing concept by three scientists who know it intimately, at a presentation on “Unlocking Diseases of the Brain with Stem Cells,” at the headquarters of the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF).

Melissa J. Nirenberg, M.D., Ph.D., NYSCF’s chief medical officer, introduced the subject from the perspective of a neurologist with 20 years’ experience, primarily with patients with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.

“It was frustrating,” she said. While treatment can attenuate some symptoms for some patients, “we don’t have anything to offer them to halt or even slow disease progression.” The same goes for Alzheimer’s. “That’s why I’m here. At NYSCF, we’re focusing on treating the underlying disorders.”

Science Laboratory

Image: Shutterstock

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April is National Minority Health Month!


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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Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts

In the United States, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every minute; around the world, it’s every four seconds. “It is the biggest epidemic we have in this country,” says Harvard University’s Rudolph Tanzi, “I’m shocked that people aren’t panicked about what this disease is going to do to the country or to their families.”

This Wednesday (January 25) at 10 pm ET, PBS is premiering “Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts,” an urgent wake-up call about the national threat posed by the disease. The documentary includes interviews with doctors, caregivers, and longtime researchers of the disease, such as Dana Alliance member Tanzi.

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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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May 25th is National Senior Health and Fitness Day!

Senior Health & Fitness

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Today seniors around the country are getting active to celebrate the 23rd National Senior Health and Fitness Day. Exercise is one of the best ways to improve brain health at every stage of life, but is especially important for seniors as a way to reduce the risk for common age-related health problems such as stroke, heart attack, depression, high blood sugar, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive aging.

A part of Older Americans Month and National Fitness and Sports Month, Senior Health and Fitness Day is a celebration of older Americans’ commitment to an active lifestyle. This year’s theme is “Improve Your Health for a Better Self,” and over 100,000 seniors at more than 1,000 locations across the country will participate in events ranging from health fairs to flash mobs.

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