Scientists shocked by massive Alzheimer’s breakthrough – Morning Ticker

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Scientists shocked by massive Alzheimer’s breakthrough

A major new discovery by scientists could pave changes in how we treat the deterioration of the mind in older people.

A groundbreaking new discovery by scientists at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine could lead to a major change in how we deal with aging brains to prevent cognitive decline resulting in dementia and Alzheimer’s. A new report says that a combination of exercise, controlling blood pressure, and some form of brain training may drastically reduce mental decline.

Scientists cautioned that more research is needed before doctors begin prescribing the routine to patients who may be at risk of Alzheimer’s, but it’s an exciting new finding. Currently, there aren’t any proven ways to prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Also, those three strategies don’t do any harm, and two of them are certainly beneficial. Scientists pursued this study because of a belief in scientific circles that the changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s begin early on, and therefore may be able to be prevented.

The full statement from NASEM is below.

Cognitive training, blood pressure management for people with hypertension, and increased physical activity all show modest but inconclusive evidence that they can help prevent cognitive decline and dementia, but there is insufficient evidence to support a public health campaign encouraging their adoption, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Additional research is needed to further understand and gain confidence in their effectiveness, said the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report.

“There is good cause for hope that in the next several years much more will be known about how to prevent cognitive decline and dementia, as more clinical trial results become available and more evidence emerges,” said Alan I. Leshner, chair of the committee and CEO emeritus, American Association for the Advancement of Science. “Even though clinical trials have not conclusively supported the three interventions discussed in our report, the evidence is strong enough to suggest the public should at least have access to these results to help inform their decisions about how they can invest their time and resources to maintain brain health with aging.”

An earlier systematic review published in 2010 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and an associated “state of the science” conference at the National Institutes of Health had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to make recommendations about any interventions to prevent cognitive decline and dementia. Since then, understanding of the pathological processes that result in dementia has advanced significantly, and a number of clinical trials of potential preventive interventions have been completed and published. In 2015, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) contracted with AHRQ to conduct another systematic review of the current evidence. NIA also asked the National Academies to convene an expert committee to help inform the design of the AHRQ review and then use the results to make recommendations to inform the development of public health messaging, as well as recommendations for future research. This report examines the most recent evidence on steps that can be taken to prevent, slow, or delay the onset of mild cognitive impairment and clinical Alzheimer’s-type dementia as well as steps that can delay or slow age-related cognitive decline.

Overall, the committee determined that despite an array of advances in understanding cognitive decline and dementia, the available evidence on interventions derived from randomized controlled trials – considered the gold standard of evidence – remains relatively limited and has significant shortcomings. Based on the totality of available evidence, however, the committee concluded that three classes of interventions can be described as supported by encouraging but inconclusive evidence. These interventions are:

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