By Nalini Sen, Director, Alzheimer Society Research Program
I had the opportunity to attend this year’s annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in London, UK. This conference brings together some of the world’s leading researchers and clinicians in dementia treatment, detection and prevention. And with a record number of presentations—3300 in all—I have to admit, I was awestruck. Here are a few takeaways I would like to share with you:
Stress can age your brain
How we manage stress is even more important than was previously thought. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin studied 1320 people who had experienced stressful events like losing a job, getting a divorce or grieving the death of a family member. What did they find? A single stressful experience can age your brain by four years! Their findings reaffirm that healthy lifestyle habits matter.
Your brain needs a good night rest
Getting good sleep is as important as getting enough sleep. In a 516-person study, researchers from Wheaton College found greater instances of beta amyloid deposits in the brains of those with sleep disordered breathing and noticed that these deposits accumulated faster over time. Sleep disordered breathing is common. It includes hypopnea (under breathing) and apnea (not breathing) during sleep. While researchers need to do more investigative work, if we can better treat these sleep disorders, we may be able to reduce the risk of dementia or possibly delay the progression of the disease where it has already occurred.
Other presentations at AAIC reported on advancements in diagnosing dementia, which is a complicated and often a long process:
PET brain scans can improve diagnosis
For example, researchers from Sweden reported a 68 per cent increase in dementia diagnoses when PET brain scans were used in a small test sample of 135 people with memory problems. PET scans help identify whether amyloid plaques, the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, are present in the brain. It does this by injecting a special dye with radioactive tracers into the arm which is then and absorbed by the organs and tissues.
Steps closer to a dementia blood test
In another study, Washington University researchers were able to measure amyloid beta in the cerebrospinal fluid (a fluid in the brain) with 89 per cent accuracy. Amyloid beta and tau protein which accumulate in the brain are triggers for Alzheimer’s disease. While more study is needed, a blood test for dementia may soon become available. This kind of test could identify those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease even years before symptoms appear.
One thing was clear at this year’s AAIC conference: Researchers around the world are working diligently to find a cure and identify new ways of diagnosing dementia earlier. And while they continue their search, there is now even more evidence that we can take steps to reduce our risk of developing dementia by living a healthier lifestyle.
Learn more about what you can do to keep your brain healthy at alzheimer.ca/brainhealth.
Did you know that of the 564,000 Canadians with dementia, 60% will go missing or become lost at some point? These men and women are more than just a number.
And so are you. You have the power to be the one who makes an impact.
By making a donation today, you can help fund dementia research initiatives and support vital programs for people with dementia and their families. With your support, we can help people like Margaret and her son David.
Here is Margaret’s story:
The Alzheimer Society of Canada celebrates the passage of Bill C-233, An Act respecting a national strategy for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Canada will now become the latest country to develop a national dementia strategy to address the overwhelming scale, impact and cost of dementia.
“For the more than half a million Canadians living with dementia and their families, this is an important milestone,” says Pauline Tardif, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada. “A national strategy enables a coordinated approach to tackling dementia in Canada that will impact the lives of those affected in tangible ways.”
Bill C-233’s co-sponsors, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, MP Niagara Falls, and Rob Oliphant, MP Don Valley West, are to be commended for their leadership and support, as is the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science, and Technology. They have been dedicated champions of the Bill on behalf of Canadians living with dementia, their families, and caregivers.
The Alzheimer Society has long called for a national dementia strategy to enhance research efforts and ensure access to quality care and support so that Canadians with dementia can have the best quality of life. Now that Canada has committed to such a strategy, work begins on implementation.
The Society and its federation partners look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with government, stakeholders and, above all, people living with dementia, to create and implement Canada’s first national dementia strategy.
To learn more, visit www.alzheimer.ca/advocacy.
LE CANADA VA DEVENIR LE TRENTIÈME PAYS DOTÉ D’UNE STRATÉGIE NATIONALE SUR LES MALADIES COGNITIVES
La Société Alzheimer du Canada salue l’adoption du Projet de loi C-233, la Loi concernant une stratégie nationale sur la maladie d’Alzheimer et d’autres démences. Le Canada va maintenant devenir le dernier pays à mettre sur pied une stratégie nationale sur les maladies cognitives pour répondre à l’ampleur, l’impact et au coût de ces maladies.
« Pour les plus de cinq cent mille Canadiens atteints de la maladie d’Alzheimer ou d’une maladie apparentée et leurs familles, il s’agit là d’un jalon important, a déclaré Pauline Tardif, chef de la direction de la Société Alzheimer du Canada. Une stratégie nationale nous permet d’avoir une approche coordonnée pour aborder les maladies cognitives au Canada, ce qui aura des impacts concrets sur la vie des personnes touchées. »
Il convient de féliciter les co-parrains du Projet de loi C-233, l’honorable Rob Nicholson, député de Niagara Falls, et Rob Oliphant, député de Don Valley West, pour leur leadership et leur soutien, tout comme les membres du Comité sénatorial permanent des affaires sociales, des sciences et de la technologie. Ils ont été des champions dévoués au projet de loi au nom des Canadiens touchés par la maladie, des familles et des aidants.
La Société Alzheimer réclame depuis longtemps une stratégie nationale sur les maladies cognitives afin de renforcer les efforts de recherche et assurer l’accès à des aides et des soins de qualité pour que les Canadiens touchés par la maladie puissent jouir d’une qualité de vie optimale. Maintenant que le Canada s’est engagé dans la voie d’une telle stratégie, le travail commence pour la mettre en place.
La Société et les partenaires de la Fédération se réjouissent à l’idée de continuer à collaborer avec le gouvernement, les intervenants, et, par-dessus tout, les personnes touchées par la maladie d’Alzheimer et les maladies apparentées afin de mettre au point et d’instaurer la première stratégie nationale qui y est consacrée au Canada.
Pour en apprendre davantage, rendez-vous à www.alzheimer.ca/defensedesinterets.
It can start with something simple, like having trouble following your favourite recipe, or putting your car keys in the fridge. Maybe you’ve noticed small changes in your memory that are affecting how you do things day-to-day.
If you can’t quite remember things that should be straightforward for you, or if you notice changes in your mood or ability to communicate, make an appointment to see your family doctor right away.
Diagnosing dementia is a complex and difficult process. The first thing your doctor will do is try to rule out if it’s a treatable condition, like depression or even an infection.
Be prepared to start the conversation with your doctor:
- Take the time to review the 10 warning signs of dementia. This is important because dementia is not a normal part of aging, nor is memory loss the only symptom.
- Jot down the signs you’ve been noticing in yourself. When did these start? Have they changed over time? This information will keep your conversation focused.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Ask your doctor if your symptoms could be caused by another health condition.
- Be sure to let him or her know about your medical history, including any medications you’re currently taking.
- Ask your doctor to explain what tests you’ll need and how long these will take.
- Will you need to see a specialist or a series of specialists? How will you need to prepare for these visits?
For more tips on getting ready for your doctor’s visit, download our Getting a diagnosis toolkit. It offers a whole list of questions to ask as well as detailed information about the warning signs and what you can expect during the diagnosis process.
And, if you’re concerned about someone else, we encourage you to pass our toolkit along.
Getting an early diagnosis helps you and your family take control of the situation, plan for future and live as well as possible with dementia. Learn more about the benefits of an early diagnosis
On Thursday, April 27th, 2017, Ontario Finance Minister, Charles Sousa, introduced the 2017 Ontario Budget, A Stronger, Healthier Ontario, which included $100 million over three years for the implementation of an Ontario dementia strategy. This is in addition to the $20 million investment for improving respite care for unpaid care partners that was announced earlier in the week.
This is a major win for the over 220,000 Ontarians and their families who have been impacted by dementia!
The Alzheimer Society of Ontario commends Premier Wynne, Minister Sousa and Minister Hoskins for making dementia a priority in Ontario and investing to enhance care and support for people living with dementia and those who care for them.
The Alzheimer Society strongly believes that a fully-funded and comprehensive strategy is the best solution to ensuring that Ontarians with dementia have the resources they need to live well in their homes and in their communities for as long as possible, and to ensure that their care partners and families are wholly supported.
Thank you to all of our dedicated supporters and allies without whom yesterday’s announcement for a fully-funded provincial dementia strategy may not have been realized.
Stay tuned for more, great dementia strategy news and updates!
Read the Alzheimer Society of Ontario’s press release to respond to the 2017 Budget announcement.
Did you know that over 210,000 people in Ontario are living with dementia? That over 564,000 Canadians are affected by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia today? We all know, or know of, someone affected by this disease. They are our neighbours, our friends, our grandparents and our uncles. They are someone in our life, and they are more than just a number.
You can be that one to make a difference in the lives of those affected by dementia. By donating today, you can help fund research to find treatments, and even a cure, for this disease. You can help fund programs that support people with dementia and their caregivers, and help improve quality of life.
For people like Amir, your support means the world.
Here is his story:
With over 200,000 people in Ontario living with dementia today, we need an Ontario dementia strategy to make sure that our communities receive the support they need. The Alzheimer Society of Ontario has led the movement to have a fully-funded dementia strategy included in the Ontario government’s 2017 budget, and we are now awaiting the upcoming announcement of the budget.
In support of our initiative, CarePartners has generously donated not only financially, but their time as well, to help build awareness and promote the importance of an Ontario Dementia Strategy. With their exceptional support, we have been able to increase awareness amongst policy makers and influencers and the need for a strategy to be included in this year’s budget.
The partnership between CarePartners and the Alzheimer Society of Ontario began with the shared value of great care for people living with dementia. CarePartners explains,
“CarePartners is committed to providing quality care for patients with a dementia diagnosis living in the community and to providing support for their families. Our partnership with the ASO (Alzheimer Society of Ontario) provides our health professionals with education and access to resources; both of these contribute greatly to ensuring that the care our staff provides is always skilled, compassionate and built on proven best practices.”
-Brittany Robins, CarePartners
To have an Ontario Dementia Strategy will be integral to help support partnerships like this, which help to make sure that people with dementia receive the best care possible.
Thanks to supporters like CarePartners, we have been able to raise awareness about the need for a dementia strategy to many members of parliament, but we need to make sure that a fully-funded strategy is incorporated in the government’s budget. Be sure to write to your MPP today and tell them that we need a fully-funded dementia strategy!
For more information about CarePartners and the services they offer, visit their website at www.carepartners.ca