Groundbreaking Alzheimer’s Research Revealed at 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference

Currently, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. For years, researchers have been working tirelessly to advance science that will lead to earlier detection, preventions, and additional new treatments for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

Last month, more than 9,500 researchers attended the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2022 both in person and virtually to share the latest in Alzheimer’s and dementia science. AAIC is an annual forum for presentation and discussion of the latest Alzheimer’s and dementia research.

According to Heather M. Snyder, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association Vice President of Medical and Scientific Relations,”(r)esearchers are advancing our understanding of the disease by exploring biomarkers, discovering potential ways to reduce risk, and working to move promising treatments and diagnostic tools forward into clinical testing. The Alzheimer’s Association is leading the fight through funding, convening, publishing, partnerships, advocacy and services.”

Highlights from AAIC include the following:

Advances in Treatments and Clinical Trial Results

The Alzheimer’s Association highlighted results from a variety of current clinical trials at AAIC 2022. Here are two examples:

The Importance of Regular Exercise: Results are in from the longest-ever clinical trial of exercise in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The study, called the EXERT Study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 80 percent of participants complied with their exercise regimen and completed the study.

  • After 12 months, people with MCI in both the aerobic exercise intervention group and stretching group showed no cognitive decline.
  • A comparison group of other older adults with MCI showed significant cognitive decline over 12 months.
  • The findings from EXERT suggest that regular physical activity, even modest or low exertion activity such as stretching, may protect brain cells against damage.

Insulin Resistance: T3D Therapeutics reported positive interim results from their Phase 2 trial of T3D-959, which seeks to overcome insulin resistance in the brain and restore the brain’s metabolic health. Final results are anticipated in 2023.

New Network for Treatment and Diagnostics Announced

At AAIC, the Alzheimer’s Association announced the launch of the Alzheimer’s Network for Treatment and Diagnostics (ALZ-NET), which will collect long-term clinical and safety data from patients treated with FDA-approved Alzheimer’s disease therapies in real-world clinical settings.

Other Important Findings from AAIC:

Junk Food Might Be Hurting Our Brains

A study presented at AAIC 2022 finds that people who eat large amounts of ultra-processed foods have a faster decline in cognition. Researchers studied more than 10,000 people over eight years and found that high consumption of ultra-processed foods led to a 28% faster decline in cognitive function.

Ultra-processed foods go through significant industrial processes and contain large quantities of fats, sugar, salt, artificial flavors/colors, stabilizers and/or preservatives. Examples include sodas, breakfast cereals, white bread, potato chips, and frozen junk foods.

Racism’s Impact on Memory

Experiences of racism are associated with lower memory scores and worse cognition in midlife and old age, especially among African American individuals.

  • In a study of nearly 1,000 middle-aged adults (55 percent Hispanic, 23 percent African American, and 19 percent Caucasian), exposure to interpersonal and institutional racism was associated with lower memory scores.
  • In another study of 445 Asian, Hispanic, African American, Caucasian, and multiracial people ages 90 and above, individuals who experienced wide-ranging discrimination throughout life had poorer long-term memory in late life compared to those who experienced little to no discrimination.

Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19

New insights into factors that may predict, increase, or protect against the impact of COVID-19 and the pandemic on memory and thinking skills were revealed by multiple studies at AAIC 2022.

  • Researchers found that loss of smell due to COVID-19 may be a better predictor of long-term cognitive and functional impairment than severity of the illness.
  • In a large study from nine Latin American countries, experiencing a positive life change during the pandemic, such as more quality time with friends and family, reduced the negative impact of the pandemic on memory and thinking skills.
  • Hospitalization in the intensive care unit (ICU) was associated with double the risk of dementia in older adults, according to Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago.

Earning Less Money May Increase Dementia Risk

Compared with workers earning higher wages, sustained low-wage earners experienced significantly faster memory decline in older age.

  • Lower-quality neighborhood resources and difficulty paying for basic needs were associated with lower scores on cognitive tests.
  • Compared with workers earning higher wages, sustained low-wage earners experienced faster memory decline in older age.
  • Higher parental socioeconomic status was associated with increased resilience to the negative effects of Alzheimer’s marker ptau-181, better baseline executive function, and slower cognitive decline in older age.

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Could Be Linked to Higher Dementia Risk

High blood pressure during pregnancy or hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) — including chronic/gestational hypertension and preeclampsia — have been strongly linked to heart disease in later life, but have never been linked with cognition problems in later life until now. According to several studies at AAIC 2022, experiences of high blood pressure disorders during pregnancy are associated with an increased risk of vascular dementia and accelerated brain aging:

  • Women with a history of HDP were more likely to develop vascular dementia — a decline in thinking skills caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain — later in life, compared to women with non-hypertensive pregnancies.
  • Experience of HDP, specifically high blood pressure during pregnancy, was associated with white matter pathology, a predictor of accelerated cognitive decline 15 years after pregnancy.
  • Women with severe preeclampsia had significantly higher levels of beta amyloid, an Alzheimer’s-related brain change, as measured in blood compared to those with non-hypertensive pregnancies.

The Work of the Scientific Community Holds Great Promise in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research

There is great progress in Alzheimer’s and dementia research. According to Jill Horner, executive director of the Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, “(t)his year at AAIC, we heard new ideas about what makes us at risk, as well as a diverse array of treatments and prevention methods for Alzheimer’s disease and all dementia. The work of the scientific community holds great promise for the future.”

To learn more about AAIC and view abstracts and additional highlights, click here.

Planning for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

Do you have a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia? Persons with Alzheimer’s disease and their families face special legal and financial needs. At the Farr Law Firm, we help protect a family’s hard-earned assets while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits such as Medicaid and Veterans Aid and Attendance. If your family is facing a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia, please call us as soon as possible to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Medicaid Planning Fairfax, VA: 703-691-1888
Medicaid Planning Fredericksburg, VA: 540-479-1435
Medicaid Planning Rockville, MD: 301-519-8041
Medicaid Planning Washington, DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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