This month's Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canada, unveiled new research into the condition's causes and possible "cure." Here's what we learned.
1. Eyes: Not just a window to the soul: Cedars-Sinai researchers presented a new method of monitoring the progress of Alzheimer's. They said that the same beta-amyloid protein plaque buildup in the brain that is thought to be a cause or contributor to Alzheimer's is also found in the retina. Because deposits can be seen in the retina before they accumulate in the brain, noninvasive monitoring via retinal imaging could be used for early detection and in evaluating treatment response.
2. Blood pressure enzyme works on the brain: Cedars-Sinai also presented the results of targeted use of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which is often used to control blood pressure, in breaking down one of the peptides that forms the aforementioned brain plaque. Thus, the body's own immune response may help fight this damaging disease.
3. Increased alcohol consumption increased dementia risk: Two studies suggest that alcohol use ups one's chance of cognitive decline. In the 20-year study's final phase, moderate drinkers were around 60 percent more likely to develop cognitive impairment. Astoundingly, non-drinking women who took up drinking later in the study had a 200 percent increased risk.
4. Gait change could be a sign of cognitive impairment: Swiss researchers unveiled data suggesting that alterations in the way people walk as they get older could be linked to a weakening in brain function. Their study found that patients with Alzheimer's were more likely to walk slower than their healthy counterparts. The researchers want doctors to monitor gait and further test anyone with such changes for cognitive failure.