Skip to comments.Lessons about Alzheimer's disease
Posted on 08/09/2011 1:06:58 PM PDT by neverdem
Psychologist Margaret Gatz explains what 25 years of research have taught her about reducing the risk of dementia.
Margaret Gatz, a psychologist at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, is investigating the causes of Alzheimer's disease. To that end, she has studied the health of more than 14,000 Swedish twins for more than 25 years. On 5 August, she will tell the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington DC what the study has taught her about how to reduce risk for the disease. Nature got a preview.
What first motivated you to study Alzheimer's disease?
Before I studied aging, I was a clinical psychologist. I talked to older adults and their families, and it became clear to me that cognitive changes and memory problems were a big concern for a demographic that, at the time, was fairly neglected in terms of research. Then, when I was on a sabbatical in Stockholm, I had the opportunity to get involved with the Swedish Twin Registry, a large cohort study in which some researchers were looking at cognition. It became clear to me that some of the twins would develop dementia, and that this was a unique opportunity for a study. My lab has been working with the Swedish twins now since 1985.
What does your research show?
Somewhere in the ballpark of 70% of risk for Alzheimer's disease across a population is due to heredity. In each individual, there's some combination of genes and environment. But on average, genes have a greater influence than environment in explaining the disease.
What will be the main message from your talk at the conference?
People need to be careful not to overstate what we know about preventing Alzheimer's disease. A lot of popular press says that there are things you...
(Excerpt) Read more at nature.com ...
I was going to place a reply to this piece, but I forgot what I was going to say. By the way, my dad died of this and my brother has it also. WHAT are you gonna do?
My MIL had a form of dementia, but I don’t really think it was Alz. even tho that was the diagnosis (she didn’t really seem like everyone else I’ve ever known with it, but then, I’m not a doctor). I also have a very close friend who I grew up whose Mom just passed away who had it. It’s a terrible disease. A *cure* would be awesome. It’s just so sad to watch people you love stolen from you a bit at a time. My condolences to you and your family and my prayers for a cure.
My step Grandma died of this.
Grandpa sat with her every day till she was so bad she couldn’t talk, and his health declined to the point he had a stroke. A long, horrible disease.
My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimers 10 years ago. Today he is living in an assisted living facility because of physical issues unrelated to Alzheimers.
Odd how this disease affects people differently. The disease has affected the area of my dad’s brain controlling balance, so he walks with a cane and I always have his elbow when we go out in public. At home, he usually uses a wall to keep himself on the straight path and can take some steps without weaving too much. His memory has only now begun to be affected - he is going to be 85-years old in two weeks time.
His doctor said the old guy could live for a few more years, his heart, liver, and kidneys granted. Dad reads the WSJ every day and still can comprehend what is happening in the world and nation. So basically we’re well off.
I am doomed, but eventually I know I will reach the point where I won’t even know it! I pity my kids.
I’ve seen what it does and keep a pistol handy at my nightstand. The thing that scares me is, How do you know this is Happening? I can tell stories of my Pop before this happened that would curl your hair.
It is indeed. My FIL kept my MIL at home. It’s very tough on the caretaker(s). He died and she died less than 2 days later. The reason I am not sure she actually had Alz is that she always knew who people were, or at least she knew if she knew them, even if she had not seen them in a long time. She did not speak for years before she died and could not walk or sit, but she was awake and could eat and drink (but not feed herself). She never became combative or aggressive. Then again, it may be that it takes different paths with different people. I’m glad she didn’t get like that because he would not have been able to care for her at home if she had been mobile or like some of the other people I hear about. I guess it was a best case scenario, if you can call it that.
My condolences to you. It really is a long, horrible disease. I always hope that at least the person suffering with it doesn’t have any realization of it. My Mom had cancer and she had tumors in her brain (not Alz obviously) and one blessing was that when they started affecting her mentally, after awhile she was pretty cheerful. I’m sure it was an effect of where the tumors were, but I was glad about that, one of God’s small favors.
I don’t know how you know. And you may dodge the bullet. Genetics is not destiny. If you have a family history tho, I would take all possible avenues to eat healthy and exercise tho. And keep up with all new information on it. Of course, I don’t think the end here is the end. None of us gets out of this alive. God bless you.
Wow. Maybe my MIL really did have Alz because her issues did seem much more motor than mental (I mean she did have some mental things, but she knew who people were, for instance, altho she could not speak, which made her appear worse than she was). But she could not walk, her balance was the first thing anyone noticed.
While my Grandma was dying, she at first felt her mind going. Then one day she woke up and thought she was 9 years old and would tell my Grandpa stories of her day.
By the end she didn’t talk, but she was happy for a while.
My daughters MIL is also diagnosed with Alz .. As a nurse and an aging woman I have seen Alz and her mil has none of the classic symptoms.. when i tell them I think the diagnosis is wrong they just roll their eyes.
It seems to me they are lumping together any neurological deficiencies and calling them Alz...
That is typical..their mind walks backward in time..
My Mom had short-term memory loss, but we found out a few months before she died that her dementia (hallucinations, etc) were caused by her breast cancer medicine. When we took her off the medication - against the doctor’s desires - she was at peace. Couldn’t remember what happened an hour earlier, but no longer living in fear of people she saw in the windows.
She died a couple of months later at 85...maybe from heart failure, maybe from choking, or maybe a bit of both. She had wanted to die for several years at that point, but lacked the motor skills to do so.
IMHO, her doctor was in it for what he could get for himself, not for my Mom’s standard of living. We learned a bit late not to trust doctors too far.
My husband has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. He has had dementia since 2003. His aunt, who was also a nun, died from Alzheimer’s in her late eighties. Right now, he is in the latter stages. He doesn’t know me, other than as his caregiver. He is 100% dependent on my for his care. I go through periods of despair and depression, but could not bring myself to have him put in long term care, unless he became a threat to me or himself. The other day, I was trying to get him to take a shower, and he began choking me. My son got him off. He was not angry, so much as he was afraid that I was doing something bad to him.
Yesterday, I was readying him to cut his hair, and when I laid the scissors down, he tried to grab them, and stab me. Again, his intention was to save himself. He saw me as a threat. Within a few minutes of either episode, he forgot it, and became the loving person I became to know.
Today, I started making arrangements to have him put in long term care, a place within a mile of my home. It’s not a good day. His family promised that at least one person would be there every day. I am a former activity director in another nursing home, so I will be there, along with volunteering my service to the Alzheimer’s unit.
Each person with this disease has different personalities. You never know what you are going to get from day to day. Some days, they are awake and rowdy all night long, so sleeping patterns change. Other days (most of them), is like tending to a toddler who is not yet potty trained, to put it nicely. I used to think I would clean while he slept, but more often than not, I sleep, so my house isn’t bright and shiny anymore. I have become a recluse, but that is my fault. I can afford people to come here, but I don’t like leaving, perhaps out of habit?
At one point, before he became unaware, he said he felt like blowing his head off. He was a deputy, so I got rid of all his guns. But, I can’t help thinking, that if I were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s’ I would rather be dead, too. It is that horrible a disease. I feel like I’m in an Alzheimer’s group, speaking of my experience with the rotten disease.
Immediately upon diagnosis in 2001, Dad’s doctor put him on Razadine (Galantamine). The doc said this medication prevents severe dementia up until about 3-4 months before death. I give this wonder drug all the credit for keeping him somewhat normal.
Dad fell and fractured his hip 1-1/2 years ago, and he was declared incompetent then due to dementia. Stress seems to bring on ‘attacks’ of dementia; incidents such as being in pain, or finding oneself in strange surroundings such as a hospital, seems to initiate confusion.
He is doing well now and has stabilized to a level nearly identical to before fracturing his hip. This in itself is extraordinary, as only about one-third of elderly who fracture a hip survive past the following year.
Maybe parts of it at least, weren’t so bad.
I kind of think that’s what they do. I’ve read that the only way to really diagnose it is at autopsy (which obviously cannot be done before death). I have a friend whose husband has dementia now from Parkinsons. I didn’t realize it caused dementia. I think a lot of things do. I used to always think Alz was early onset dementia. My MIL had it for about 8 years and she was 86 when she died. Not that I wouldn’t have loved her to have lived longer and been healthy to the end, but I wouldn’t consider that early onset.
God bless you. I know it must be awful to deal with it. I dealt with it second hand (watched someone deal with it) and watched my Dad also care for my Mom with her cancer (he kept her at home). Being a full time caregiver is so hard. It is a labor of love that just wrings everything out of you.
I hope you are surrounded by a supportive family.