Sunday March 2, 2014
Agitation- including restlessness, wandering, combativeness and calling out- is a common challenge in Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia. So, what to do about it?
A study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, outlining a trial of the antidepressant medication citalopram (brand names: Celexa and Cipramil) to treat agitation in dementia. Here are the results, which are both positive and negative:
- The participants who received citalopram showed a significant decrease in their agitation.
- Caregiver distress, which is increased by agitation, also significantly improved.
- However, those who received citalopram showed a decline in their cognitive ability over the 9-week course of the study, as well as an increase in cardiac issues associated with the medication.
So, while there was an improvement in the levels of agitation, which can be so distressing both for the person experiencing it and for those watching it, there are tradeoffs with the use of this medication, according to this study.
It's great to see the exploration of some different possibilities for the treatment of agitation, but this study does not throw me into the fan club yet. As caregivers, professionals, family members and friends, we collectively still need to improve in the use of non-drug approaches. I realize that not all agitation and distress can be solved without medications, and I've written about times and circumstances when medication is an appropriate, helpful and necessary treatment.
But- our mental approach to people with dementia, and our willingness to seek the cause of the behavior instead of just trying to make the behavior disappear, can make a world of difference.
To figure out what might be causing the behavior, review these possibilities and learn how you may be able to anticipate your patient or loved one's needs:
Understand that sometimes, difficult behaviors can be caused by loneliness and boredom:
When are medications appropriate? Glad you asked. Here are a couple of references for you:
Should Your Loved One with Dementia Really Be Taking Antipsychotic Medications?
Drugs for the Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms of Alzheimer's
Sunday February 23, 2014
If you're a fan of sugary foods, you might want to stop reading this before you start. If, on the other hand, you're a fan of a healthy brain, proceed. (This, of course, leaves me in a quandary as I write, since I happen to be a fan of both sugar (unfortunately) and good brain functioning.)
In my quest to highlight ways to reduce our risk for Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia, I came across several research studies on sugar and how it affects our brains. Some of these studies discuss the levels of glucose in our blood, and others simply look at how much sugar is consumed and how that amount affects our risk for dementia. Turns out, you may want to put down that candy bar you're enjoying.
We already know that there's a significant connection between type 2 diabetes (where sugar is less able to be processed) and dementia, but this set of research focuses on people without diabetes.
Just the Facts
Is Sugar Bad for Your Brain? (Please Tell Me "No!") - (Here's the research on sugar and how it affects our brains.)
Understanding the Connection Between Diabetes and Alzheimer's Disease - (50% of people with type 2 diabetes eventually develop Alzheimer's disease. Can effective treatment of diabetes reduce that chance? )
Why Is Alzheimer's Disease Called Type 3 Diabetes? (Learn why some researchers have given Alzheimer's disease the nickname of "Type 3 diabetes," as well as how it's similar to, and different from, type 2 diabetes.)
Sunday February 16, 2014
Let me begin with a disclaimer: I'm not a big coffee drinker, although I'm starting to wish I was! I tried to learn to drink it in college when I was staying up all night studying for an exam or finishing a paper. I tried again when I was in grad school, working and completing internships, all simultaneously. I'm sure I tried again after I was up all night with sleepless babies, though that's all a blur. (A nice blur, though.) I just don't love that bitter taste (yes, I heard that collective gasp of shock from all of the coffee lovers out there), although I do enjoy the smell of coffee.
Recently, however, I've begun to drink coffee mixed with hot chocolate, and I've decided it's quite tasty. Perhaps a little higher sugar content than pure coffee, but nonetheless, it keeps me warm, and I feel rather adult-like with my "coffee" in hand.
So why am I writing about coffee? Two reasons.
One: Research shows that caffeine may decrease the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Multiple studies have found a decreased risk of dementia in those who have consumed more caffeine, and some research particularly favors coffee over other sources of caffeine.
Two: Research also says caffeine can improve your memory, and that's a benefit most of us would enjoy.
Here Are the Facts
Does Caffeine Improve Your Memory? (Learn how caffeine can affect your memory, as well as how being an extrovert or introvert impacts the results of caffeine.)
Does Caffeine Increase or Decrease Your Risk of Alzheimer's Disease? (Okay, I just told you the answer to this question, but here's where research on dementia risk, brain size and caffeine is outlined.)
Study: Delay Alzheimer's by Drinking 3 Cups of Coffee a Day (A study found that people who drank about 3 cups of coffee a day and had mild cognitive impairment were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.)
Go Nuts! Walnuts, Coffee, Olive Oil + Wine = Improved Memory (Here's some research I published earlier on how these types of food impacts memory.)
Reducing the Risk of Dementia (This is a link to several articles on ways you can reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia.)
Time now to enjoy my hot chocolate-coffee drink!
Sunday February 9, 2014
It seems as if there's always a supplement being hyped as being able to improve your memory or increase your energy. One that's frequently being talked about lately is fish oil and its purported benefits on brain health. If you're wondering if there's any truth to the claim that omega 3 fatty acids (found in certain types of fish including salmon, sardines and tuna, as well as walnuts and soybeans) are good for your brain, read on.
I reviewed the research published on this topic, and here's what I found. Several studies have shown improvements in memory, brain size and brain health as being correlated with higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids in the participants' bodies and/or the amounts of fish in their diets.
Conclusion? This is one claim that might not be so fishy after all.
Does Eating Fish Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease? (Learn more about fish, omega 3 fatty acids and reducing the risk of dementia.)
Your Brain: Does Size Really Matter? (Does a bigger brain mean a better memory?)
Reducing the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease through Physical Exercise (Here are the facts about exercise and its benefits for your brain.)