A Big Step for Alzheimer’s

Retina ScanIn what they call “a major advancement,” researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that a noninvasive eye scan could help detect Alzheimer’s disease earlier than expensive and invasive brain scans, Sean Rossman reports in USA Today. Researchers say the scans can find buildups of toxic proteins in the retina like those associated with Alzheimer’s. Researchers hope the scans eventually will lead to earlier detection of the disease and enable medical professionals to help patients “change the course of the disorder with medications and lifestyle changes,” says Keith L. Black, chair of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Neurosurgery.

A Video Game to Better Understand Dementia

Alzheimer VideogameA new video game that involves weird creatures and scary challenges will let researchers collect data that could lead to a much better understanding of dementia — and the ability to “diagnose people 15 to 20 years earlier than we are currently,” according to a Bloomberg.com article by Jeremy Kahn. The Sea Hero Quest virtual reality game was released in August by the VR arms of Samsung and Facebook. As people play, data will be collected that, researchers hope, will reveal more fully “how humans develop spatial awareness and navigate new environments,” Kahn reports. “Researchers believe subtle degradation of these skills may be an early warning sign of dementia and that information from the game could eventually lead to new tests to detect cognitive impairment earlier.” The number of people expected to play the game and the speed at which data can be collected could dwarf most other research efforts.

Happiness Is the Best Revenge

HappinessBruce Horovitz’s piece in Kaiser Health News, “The Secret to Chronic Happiness,” provides some valuable insights for health care providers who have older patients with multiple chronic conditions. Heart disease, hypertension, arthritis and other chronic ailments can have a devastating impact on older people, and Kathleen Franco, M.D., associate dean of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, notes that “chronic pain, in fact, more frequently leads to depression than does anxiety.” Horovitz profiles individuals in their 70s and 80s who have learned to accept the realities that come with old age but refuse to dwell on them. Despite much physical pain — as well as emotional pain, such as the loss of a spouse — these folks actively embrace those things that bring them contentment, like spending time with friends, reading, admiring nature. By consciously taking note of and showing gratitude for the positive aspects of their lives, they are practicing “mindfulness,” and while that may sound a bit “new agey” for your geriatric patients, it’s certainly worth health care professionals’ time to learn more about the concept and help their patients thrive in their later years.