As people get older, many are concerned they'll one day need Alzheimer's care as their memory begins to deteriorate. The disease affects millions of Americans, and scientists have been scrambling to find some form of treatment. However, all hope is not lost, as researchers are beginning to get a better understanding of the disease and how some methods may be able to help stave off symptoms.
Research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that those who felt they had a greater purpose in life may be able to resist the harmful effects of plaques and tangles that come with Alzheimer's disease. The study's authors examined 246 participants from the Rush Memory and Aging Project who did not have dementia and underwent a brain autopsy after they died. The participants had annual evaluations for up to 10 years, and these exams included detailed cognitive testing.
"Our study showed that people who reported greater purpose in life exhibited better cognition than those with less purpose in life even as plaques and tangles accumulated in their brains," said Dr. Patricia A. Boyle. "These findings suggest that purpose in life protects against the harmful effects of plaques and tangles on memory and other thinking abilities. This is encouraging and suggests that engaging in meaningful and purposeful activities promotes cognitive health in old age."
This is not the only study to give hope to those who are facing the brain disease. New research out of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions found using a deep brain stimulation similar to what is used to treat Parkinson's and depression could slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease in people who have a mild case.
Still, the study's authors noted that while they've seen promising results, there needs to be more testing in order to determine if this stimulation would be something worth pursuing for the medical field.
"While our study was designed mainly to establish safety, involved only six people and needs to be replicated on a larger scale, we don't have another treatment for Alzheimer's disease at present that shows such promising effects on brain function," said the study's first author, Dr. Gwenn Smith.
Those with Alzheimer's disease frequently need elderly care, as loved ones cannot always be there. Patients who exhibit a need may also be able to receive aid in paying for home health care.
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