Sep 7, 2011

Signs of Aging Linked to Undetected Blocked Brain Blood Vessels

This research article sent a charge through my body. I had been looking for it for seven years. It is my belief that this explains in part why Dotty walks like a snail.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

For years, I have been trying to explain to the Alzheimer's community about my theory of why Dotty has so much trouble walking. It is not the strength in her legs. Even though Dotty is 95 years old, she can still leg press 30 pounds, 36 times.

My main theory has always been the same. Dotty is having problems walking because her brain can't send the signals to her legs. I want to be very honest here. I honestly believed that some day I would get Dotty walking. I have a very strong belief inside me that Dotty can walk, or could walk. Could walk if only we could dislodge whatever it is in her brain that is causing the problem.

I have often wondered, could a blood thinner help Dotty walk? Probably too risky. Is there an existing drug that could help Dotty walk?

Yes, I have dreamed about Dotty all of a sudden being able to walk. I am one of those people. If I can dream or envision something, I believe it can happen.

Dotty doesn't fall or faint. She did fall constantly when I first arrived on the scene in Delray Beach. I corrected that problem with exercise in the gym, the leg press, the stand up, sit down, stand up exercise and flat shoes.

You might think I am a bit nutty. As I am writing this, I am wondering if I put Dotty on one of those things that hangs you up upside down a few times a day, would this improve her ability to walk? I really don't know why I didn't try that already.

The wonderful Doctor Chiriboga told me many years ago to let Dotty do anything she could do. He told me, if you do everything for her she will forget how to do it, and then she won't be able to relearn how to do.

Doc C told me I would probably get criticized from time for letting Dotty do things. He said, you are the one, you'll know what Dotty can and can't do. Doc was right. People have screamed at me to get Dotty on a walker. People that didn't even know us, had never met us.

Dotty is still walking because I didn't let her forget how to walk. Period. Dotty is not on a walker.

I know that it is likely that Dotty will stop walking some day. That will not stop of us from living our life. I'll figure it out.

The research below is fascinating, and in my opinion important. In fact, someday it might be the answer to many of our Alzheimer's problems.

I cannot tell you why I believe this, I just do.

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Signs of Aging May be Linked to Undetected Blocked Brain Blood Vessels

Many common signs of aging, such as shaking hands, stooped posture and walking slower, may be due to tiny blocked vessels in the brain that can’t be detected by current technology.

In a study reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers from Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, examined brain autopsies of older people and found:

Microscopic lesions or infarcts — too small to be detected using brain imaging — were in 30 percent of the brains of people who had no diagnosed brain disease or stroke.

Those who had the most trouble walking had multiple brain lesions. Two-thirds of the people had at least one blood vessel abnormality, suggesting a possible link between the blocked vessels and the familiar signs of aging.

“This is very surprising,” said Dr. Aron S. Buchman, lead author of the study and associate professor of neurological sciences at Rush. “The public health implications are significant because we are not identifying the 30 percent who have undiagnosed small vessel disease that is not picked up by current technology. We need additional tools in order to identify this population.”

In 1994, the researchers began conducting annual exams of 1,100 older nuns and priests for signs of aging. The participants also donated their brains for examination after death. This study provides results on the first 418 brain autopsies (61 percent women, average 88 years old at death).

Although Parkinson’s disease occurs in only 5 percent of older people, at least half of people 85 and older have mild symptoms associated with the disease.

Before the study, researchers believed that something more common, such as microscopic blocked vessels, might be causing the physical decline. The study’s autopsies found the small lesions could only be seen under a microscope after participants died. The lesions couldn’t be detected by current scans.

During the annual exams of the nuns and priests, researchers used the motor skills portion of a Parkinson’s disease survey to assess their physical abilities. Researchers observed and rated the participants’:
  • Balance
  • Ability to maintain posture
  • Walking speed
  • Ability to get in and out of chairs
  • Ability to make turns when walking
  • Sense of dizziness

“Often the mild motor symptoms are considered an expected part of aging,” said Buchman, who is also a member of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “We should not accept this as normal aging. We should try to fix it and understand it. If there is an underlying cause, we can intervene and perhaps lessen the impact.”

Co-authors from Rush are Sue E. Leurgans, PhD; Dr. Sukriti Nag, PhD; Dr. David A. Bennett, and Dr. Julie A. Schneider, MS. The National Institutes of Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health funded the study.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 2,910 articles with more than 652,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room