New research was presented at AAIC 2016, the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, from July 22 to 28 in Toronto. The features below highlight some of the studies emerging from the conference.
Protecting Against Cognitive Decline & Dementia
Prior research indicates that lifelong learning and certain types of cognitive training may reduce one’s risk of cognitive decline. Whether these approaches also reduce risk of dementia has yet to be determined. For a study, researchers assessed the effect of three cognitive training programs—memory, reasoning, or speed-of-processing training—on time to incident dementia in more than 2,700 community-dwelling adults aged 65 and older with no baseline evidence of cognitive impairment or dementia. After 10 years, only speed-of-processing training had a statistically significant effect on cognition, with patients in this group 33% less likely to develop cognitive impairment or dementia when compared with controls. Speed training reduced dementia by 8% per completed session and by 48% for those who completed 11 or more sessions.
Smell Test Predicts Memory Decline
A reduced ability to identify odors has been seen in patients who are later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at autopsy. This phenomenon has also been seen in patients with mild memory loss and in those who develop Alzheimer’s disease dementia. However, few studies have compared the predictive utility of odor identification impairment with that of amyloid status in predicting memory decline. Study investigators assessed this link using the University of Pittsburgh Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) among elderly patients with either mild cognitive impairment or normal memory at baseline. Participants had also undergone amyloid PET scanning or lumbar puncture. Amyloid positivity and low UPSIT scores (<35 or 40) both significantly predicted memory decline. Participants with a low UPSIT score were more than three times more likely to experience memory decline than those with scores higher than 35.
Alzheimer’s Disease by Gender
Data comparing the frequency, pathologic, demographic, clinical, and genetic features of women and men with autopsy-confirmed Alzheimer’s disease are lacking. To address this gap, Mayo Clinic researchers assessed data on more than 1,000 men and women with Alzheimer’s. Women tended to have lower education levels and were older at death than men. Conversely, men were younger at age of Alzheimer’s disease onset, had shorter disease duration, and more commonly had an atypical clinical diagnosis, such as corticobasal degeneration or aphasia. Overall, neuoropathologically diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease was observed at the same frequency in both genders. However, the frequency spiked for men in their 60s but did so in women in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.
The Impact of Using Alzheimer’s Therapies
Few studies have examined the economic and mortality impact of currently available medical therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. For a study, researchers compared all-cause mortality rates and healthcare costs among patients with Alzheimer’s disease based on whether or not they had been prescribed an existing Alzheimer’s drug after they were diagnosed. Untreated patients were generally older, had more comorbidities, and had a mortality rate that was nearly twice as high as those who had received treatment. Treated patients also had lower healthcare expenditures than did those who did not receive treatment.
Avoidable Hospitalizations in Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias
Research has shown that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can significantly complicate the care of patients with other chronic conditions, putting them at high risk for hospitalizations that may be preventable with proactive care. However, current estimates of such potentially avoidable hospitalizations (PAHs) are lacking. Researchers from Boston and New York examined PAH rates in 2013 for acute and chronic conditions among more than 2.7 million patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other dementias for a study. The team found the following:
- 10% of participants had at least one PAH.
- 14% of hospital admissions was a PAH.
- 13,428 PAHs per 100,000 population were identified, totaling $2.58 billion in Medicare expenditures.
- Late-stage dementia and multiple chronic comorbidities were significantly associated with PAHs.
NEWS FROM AAIC 2016
MORE FROM AAIC 2016