The Alzheimer’s community has been making headlines this week with progress being made on several fronts. Key findings of various studies were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference; giving hope that years of research is finally paying off.
Early detection through gait monitoring
According several new studies recently released at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, researchers are seeing a correlation between gait and cognition.
Frequent falls have long been recognized as an early indicator of Alzheimer’s, but new studies found that slower and irregular walking patterns could be an early warning sign of cognitive decline.
The studies show that thinking skills and the ability to walk fluidity appear to decline in parallel fashions. Simply put, the more trouble a person has walking, the more trouble he may be having cognitively as well.
The problem with the study is that not all people with gait disturbances are subject to cognitive decline. There are many seniors whose bodies fail them long before their minds. But, it’s important to remember that early detection is key in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Noticing a change in walking patterns may spark the conversation about memory impairment and keep loved ones vigilant to any changes in cognition.
The conclusions drawn from these studies have left researchers wondering if exercise regimens could help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and it seems as though that may be the case.
Strength training my prevent Alzheimer’s
Attendees at the conference also heard from researchers who studied the effects of strength training on elderly subjects. Although study participation was small, the results have the potential to be big.
In one study, 86 women were divided into three different groups: weight lifting, walking or balancing and toning. Twice a week for six months, each group did their respective exercises. At the end of the study, the women performing weight training saw the most improvement in brain function as seen through functional MRIs.
In another study, again focusing on women, results surprised researchers with the greatest benefits of strength training being seen in the group with the highest cognitive baseline. In other words, those in early stages of the disease or even pre-diagnosis see the most benefits from the exercises.
This is just yet another reason why early detection is so critical.
Promising results for new therapy
Preliminary results have been announced that a new drug may halt the progression of Alzheimer’s. Although the drug is in early stages of clinical trials, a small study has shown some promising results.
In a follow up study from, Gammagard, a drug already approved to treat some immune disorders, showed that patients receiving the drug at its highest-studied dose fared well over the course of the study.
In fact, the four patients receiving the max dose saw minimal progression of the disease over the course of three years. Although scientists are unsure as to why Gammagard is working against Alzheimer’s, there is speculation that antibodies in the drug block beta amyloid, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s
Some experts have been leery to celebrate as of yet. Many are skeptical because of the size of the trial which only included 11 individuals. Additionally, some are unsure if the drug itself resulted in the slowing of the disease or if the nature of the individuals’ disease was slow to progress.
The drug is currently in Stage 3 trials, with results due out next spring. With cautious optimism, many researchers, doctors and families of loved ones with Alzheimer’s are waiting to hear if Gammagard may make a significant difference in the plight against the disease.