Several studies have found that there is a correlation between where you live and the likelihood that you will get Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. U.S. researchers are now turning to see what, if any, common risk factors are involved. The data shows that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is higher in the Southeast and Gulf States (including Florida and Texas), compared with Western states like Arizona and Colorado. Studies released this year have found higher rates of Alzheimer’s in poor neighborhoods and in rural Appalachia compared with non-Appalachian rural counties. Another study from UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and the Urban Institute identified 25 counties with the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease for Blacks, Latinos and Whites based on Medicare data. These studies are important as we need to identify where the hot spots are so we can devote more financial resources to combatting this terrible disease.
A new study found that boomers may be seeing a declining level of cognitive functioning compared with previous generations, which could put them at greater risk of dementia than their parents and grandparents. We have all seen the number of Alzheimer’s cases skyrocket in recent years, a very sad phenomenon. Regular readers of my blog know that both my father and grandfather died of the disease and for years I was a big fundraiser for the local Monterey chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. The new study, which was published in the Journals of Gerontology, studied over 30,000 people in the University of Michigan’s “Health and Retirement Study” which followed people from 1996 to 2014. It found that many baby boomers started to show lower cognitive functioning as early as ages 50 to 54. Lower household wealth, less likelihood of marriage, higher levels of loneliness, depression and psychiatric problems and an increase in cardiovascular risk factors like obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes were major factors.
There has been a dearth of good news on the Alzheimer’s front lately, but now researchers are saying Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a new use—detecting early-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia. Scientists can use AI tools that analyze typing speed, sleep patterns and speech to detect signs of dementia. They can even use virtual assistants like Amazon Echo that can record the way we type, search the Internet and pay bills. Cognitive changes can appear years before memory lapses become apparent so the use of AI is very hopeful. Regular readers of my blog know that both my father and grandmother passed away with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a terrible condition that can rock the whole family. If you or a loved one are struggling with the disease, I encourage you to contact our local chapter of Alzheimer’s Association in Ryan Ranch. They are wonderful, caring people. They also have a 24-hour hotline if you are in distress, call 1-800-272-3900