Alzheimer’s: a study reveals a new sign of the disease; see which one

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Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly. (Photo: Freepik)

In times of Covid-19, the loss of smell has become an alert for many people. With the advance of vaccination and a change in the profile of symptoms, problems identifying odors have become less reported in the case of infection with the new coronavirus. However, a new study published this Friday (29) in the scientific journal Alzheimer & Dementia shows that keeping an eye on the functioning of your nose can still be a good idea. Researchers from the Medical University of Chicago in the United States have identified that a decrease in sense of smell over time is linked to a loss of cognitive impairment and a greater likelihood of being diagnosed with the disease. Alzheimer’s and other long-term dementia conditions.

The results are based on an analysis of 515 elderly people, with an average age of 76, over a period of up to 18 years. The data was available through a project called Memory and Aging, conducted by Rush University in 1997. In the new study, the researchers decided to assess the information to find signs of cognitive decline.

They found that a rapid loss of sense of smell in a person who previously had healthy cognition predicted several hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, including lower gray matter volume in areas of the brain associated with memory, poorer cognition and increased risk of disease. . of dementia. The incidence of the condition among those who reported the loss of ability to identify smells was nearly double that of others.

“This study provides a clue as to how a rapid decline in smell is a very good indicator of what will eventually occur structurally in specific regions of the brain,” says study lead author Jayant Pinto. , a professor of surgery at the University of Chicago and an otolaryngology specialist who studies olfactory and sinus diseases, in a statement.

The scientists explain that it was already known that protein plaques linked to degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease typically appear in olfactory and memory-associated areas before developing in other parts of the brain. However, it was unclear whether this damage actually caused a person’s sense of smell to decline in the same way that it caused memory problems. So the researchers decided to look at changes in the brain related to a person’s olfactory loss and cognitive function over time and compare them to participants’ reports.

Now they believe that simple smell tests in clinics can be used in the same way as those for vision and hearing to indicate suspected early dementia. For them, it is a cheap and easy to apply tool. These are sticks each of which is infused with a scent, and patients must identify them. The scientists intend to assess the effectiveness of the tests to help diagnoses in further studies.

“If we could identify people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are most at risk early on, we might have enough information to enroll them in clinical trials and develop better drugs,” Pacyna said.

That’s because Alzheimer’s disease, which is the leading cause of dementia, still has no cure. However, there are practices that can reduce the risk of cognitive decline. In addition to being recognized as activities that stimulate the brain, habits that involve a healthier lifestyle, such as controlling cholesterol and high blood pressure, have also been shown to be effective.

A new study, published yesterday in the scientific journal Neurology, tracked data from around 500,000 Britons with an average age of 56 via the UK Biobank, over an 11-year period, and also showed that daily activities can also reduce the incidence of the problem. in the future.

Those who said they frequently performed household chores, such as ironing, sweeping and washing dishes, had a 21% lower risk of dementia. Those who exercised regularly had a 35% lower chance of developing the disease.