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Get the Facts About Diabetes Care and Prevention

Touchstone Health Sponsors ‘Diabetes and You’at Bronx Senior Center

Diabetes is a group of diseases in which the level of blood glucose, sugar, is too high either from an inadequate production of insulin or an inability to properly use the hormone. Diabetes can lead to serious medical complications, including death. It’s important people take steps either to reduce their risk of developing the disease or to control their diabetes.

Nearly 26 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 79 million people have pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels are higher than normal, thereby running the risk of developing the disease.

“Diabetes is an epidemic. Nearly 27 percent of adults ages 65 and older have diabetes, which is the largest rate for any age group. Managing and preventing the disease is priority for keeping seniors healthy,” says Mitchell Strand, MD, chief medical officer of Touchstone Health HMO.

In recognition of American Diabetes Alert Day on March 27, 2012, Touchstone Health will sponsor, “Diabetes and You,” on March 28, 10:30am-Noon, at James Monroe Senior Center in the Bronx, NY. At the free event, Dr. Strand will inform senior citizens about diabetes education and prevention.

Type 2 diabetes (formerly referred to as adult-onset diabetes) is the most common form of diabetes. Individuals who are overweight, are 45 years old or older, have a family history of the disease, exercise less than three times a week or are of African American, Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American or Pacific Islander heritage have an increased chance to develop the disease. Some of the warning signs of diabetes include:

•    Unusual thirst and extreme hunger
•    Urinating more than usual
•    Blurred vision or trouble seeing
•    Tired feeling for no apparent reason
•    Sores that are slow to heal
•    Irritability
•    Tingling/numbness in the hands or feet

People at risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing weight, quitting smoking, eating healthy and exercising regularly. Studies show overweight people can reduce their risk of developing the disease by nearly 60 percent by losing as little as 10-15 pounds and exercising just 30 minutes a day, five times a week.

Well-balanced meals can help keep blood sugar level as close to normal as possible. Healthy eating choices include:

•    Plenty of vegetables and fruits
•    Eat fish regularly and select leaner cuts of meat
•    Choose whole grains
•    Drink water and calorie-free non-carbonated beverages
•    Reduce high calorie snacks and high sodium foods
•    Practice portion control

Medicare provides seniors at risk for diabetes with up to two fasting blood glucose tests each year as well as self-management training and many of the supplies needed to manage the disease.

Learning about the disease, recognizing the risks and warning signs as well as practicing healthy eating and exercise habits, can reduce the development of diabetes which is a rapidly growing problem with America’s seniors.

Healthy Spring Recipes

by Healthways

With Spring officially here, it's time to "Spring Clean" your recipes. No more heavy stews and lasagna, but crisp, light dishes with plenty of color (fruits and veggies). This recipe, courtesy of Healthways, is perfect as an appetizer or first course for a spring dinner party.

Asparagus & Goat Cheese Soufflé
  • 3/4 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup canned white kidney beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup low-fat (1%) milk
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 6 tablespoons soft goat cheese (about 1-1/2 ounces)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a vegetable steamer, cook asparagus until barely tender, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

2. Mash drained beans with a potato masher until coarse-texured but not lumpy.

3. In large saucepan, whisk milk into flour over medium heat, whisking until no lumps remain. Bring to boil and cook, whisking frequently, until mixture is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mashed beans and goat cheese. Whisk in egg yolks, tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and white pepper until well combined.

4. In large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg whites, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cream of tartar until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Stir about 1 cup of egg whites into goat cheese-bean mixture, then gently fold in remaining whites. Gently fold in asparagus.

5. Spoon mixture into an 8-cup soufflé mold and bake for 30 minutes, or until soufflé is golden brown, puffed, and just set in center. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information

Per serving: 220 calories, 8g total fat (4.4g saturated), 118mg cholesterol, 3.7g dietary fiber (1.2g soluble), 20g carbohydrate, 18g protein, 625mg sodium.
Good source of: folate, iron, riboflavin, selenium.

Healthways provides the Complementary and Alternative Medicine services as part of Touchstone Health member benefits. They offer a list of acupuncture, massage, Tai Chi and other services geared toward wholesome living.

For more healthy recipes, CLICK HERE.

AARP Arming For Medicare Battle

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) have launched a new grassroots campaign aimed at Congress and the White House. The message, "Imagine a world without Medicare." The AARP are rallying together support to help get their opinion across to Congress, who is currently heavily debating over a number of "proposals to overhaul the popular insurance program." As one can already tell the AARP and its audience are not for the changes that Congress is debating over.

With this new campaign the gian senior group plans to coordinate town hall meetings in all fifty states and nationally televise their advertisements. The campaign began on Monday March 19th, 2012 with the first four town hall meetings being held in cities of Richmond, Virginia; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; and Miami, Florida. These town halls meetings, the first of many, are meant to begin the conversation that will ultimately lead to the program's entitlement, "You've Earned A Say."

About 200 seniors who showed up at the Richmond event expressed wariness about proposed changes to the program. When asked what message they wanted to send to Washington, several shouted, "Leave it alone," and "Fix it or find yourself a new job." 

While many seniors left these town hall meetings feeling satisfied there were those who expressed their dissapointment. One retired teacher had this to say about the meetings, "I expected there to be more answers than questions. I was thinking I would learn more here." The main problem that many locals had was that the ARRP officials would offer little to no detail disclosing their own positions on the issue.

Of course Barry Rand, current CEO of AARP, was prepared for such an occasion. His answer to the dissapointment is to just be patient. He went on to explain to the group that this is just the first step. He made a promise that in the near future the AARP would in fact educate their members of the various proposals that are currently circulating throughout Congress, as they search for an answer on the Medicare debate.

Click here for article

A Little Less Red Meat, A Few More Birthday Candles

The New York Times Article "Red Meat Linked to Cancer and Heart Disease"

March 13, 2012

"Eating red meat is associated with a sharply increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease, according to a new study, and the more of it you eat, the greater the risk."

With the increased convenience of fast food and diner fare, bigger plates and portion sizes, it can be increasingly harder to find 'good' food and to motivate yourself to eat healthy. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid, fruits and vegetables should make up the largest portion of a healthy diet. This usually means about 2-3 cups of vegetables (nutrient dense and very filling) and about 2 cups of fruit per day.

What the USDA has to say about meat, though, is to eat it sparingly. Included in the 'meat' catergory of the food pyramid is also poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts; all protein rich foods. From this category, you only need about a 5 1/2 ounce equivalent- either by combining several items or eating one lean, low fat option.

If you eat too much read meat, according to Dr. Frank B Hu, a professor of medicine at Harvard and the study's lead author, there is an increased risk of mortality.

"People who ate more red meat were less physically active and more likely to smoke and had a higher body mass index, researchers found. Still, after controlling for those and other variables, they found that each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death."

The study goes on to say:

"The increased risks linked to processed meat, like bacon, were even greater: 20 percent over all, 21 percent for cardiovascular disease and 16 percent for cancer. If people in the study had eaten half as much meat, the researchers estimated, deaths in the group would have declined 9.3 percent in men and 7.6 percent in women. "

Though it is easy to order a side of extra-crispy bacon with your brunch omlette, or a medium-rare steak or cheeseburger during a dinner-night-out, those portions exceed the advised daily serving. But eating red meat isn't all bad. Red meat is a good source of B-12, when eaten in moderation. So share the side of bacon and cut your burger in half and save the leftovers for a lunch time meal. Cutting back on red meat and substituting other lean, low fat, healthy foods such as nuts, dry beans, fish, poultry and eggs gives you plenty of options to keep your meals fun and fresh. Cutting back can also keep you healthy for longer.

 

Click here for full article.

Increase Kidney Disease Awareness and Prevent the Silent Killer

March is National Kidney Month and March 8, 2012, is World Kidney Day – and the perfect time to evaluate the health of these vital organs. According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 26 million American adults have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and many more are unaware they are at risk.

“Chronic kidney disease is often referred to as the ‘silent disease’ because it develops slowly and often with few symptoms,” says Mitchell Strand, MD, chief medical officer of Touchstone Health HMO. “Knowing if you are at risk, proper screening and practicing a healthy senior lifestyle can help maintain the health of these hard-working organs.”

Healthy kidneys filter water and waste through the body but, over time, damage can occur that prevents them from performing these functions properly and can eventually lead to complete renal failure. The leading causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure but people over the age of 60 also have an increased risk. Other factors include a family history of CDK and certain ethnic backgrounds including African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or Pacific Islander.

Many of the symptoms of CDK are subtle and sometimes can be dismissed as part of aging or other disease, but, if you are at risk, it is important to take note. Symptoms include:

• Fatigue
• Trouble sleeping
• Loss of appetite or unexpected change in weight
• Urinating more often, especially at night
• Nighttime muscle cramps
• Puffiness around the eyes or swollen feet, ankles, face or hands
• Excessive dry skin
• Increased thirst

If you or a member of your family are at risk or have symptoms, it is important to work with your primary physician to test blood pressure and kidney performance. If you are diagnosed with CDK, there are immediate steps you can take to so that its complications can be prevented or delayed. Keep your blood-sugar levels and blood pressure under control and reduce the amount of salt and protein in your diet. Also, avoid NSAID painkillers and be sure to get an annual flu shot. Depending upon your diagnosis, you may qualify for Medicare kidney disease education to help delay and prevent complications.

Since all senior citizens have an increased risk of CDK, maintaining healthy habits can help kidney function as well as reduce the risk of other chronic diseases. Easy steps to building healthy habits are regular exercise, a balanced diet, smoking cessation, and low alcohol consumption.

CDK can lead to other serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease and kidney failure. If left untreated, it can be fatal – so educate yourself and visit your primary doctor to screen for this ‘silent killer.’

In Caregiving, a New Silence

By Paula Span for the New York Times

March 1, 2012

When the person talking to you about spousal caregiving is an award-winning poet and essayist like Rachel Hadas, you should let her speak for herself. Herewith, a small excerpt from her book “Strange Relation: A Memoir of Dementia, Caregiving, and Poetry,” published last year.

In 1980, Ms. Hadas writes in the opening chapter, she and her husband, George Edwards, spent part of the summer, then the fall, at her family’s home in Vermont. She describes their idyll:

The weather turned crisp. Apples ripened on our two apple trees and  I made pies. Wearing hats and mittens, we played badminton on the lawn while fallen leaves swirled around our feet. We often ate grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches for lunch — Cabot cheese on homemade bread, late tomatoes from our garden.

Ms. Hadas and Mr. Edwards, a composer and later a music professor at Columbia University, had met at the MacDowell Colony, an artists’ retreat in New Hampshire, and married in 1978. They were almost newlyweds.

Silence was always part of their marriage, then and later, as they worked together, writing music and poetry and prose. She grew to treasure that. “Our silence was companionable, loving, full of promise,” she writes.

Decades later, a sadder sort of silence marked their lives together in New York, as Mr. Edwards developed intensifying dementia and grew virtually mute.

The silence that came increasingly to reign in our house as George gradually changed from one person into another beginning in the late 1990s was neither productive nor companionable. It was bleak and empty, and it never led to anything except more of itself.

Her poem “Two Silences” juxtaposes these two periods. Ms. Hadas and her publisher, Paul Dry Books, have granted permission to reproduce it here.

Two Silences

Not the full silence of a sun-warmed furrow,
countless minute processes at work
tunneling, ramifying, reaching out;
intentions, connections, and adjustments:
  make a note; look up;
smile; meet an eye; then turn back to the task,
the blessing of the sun, the heat of thought,

but empty silence. Intermittent wind
sighs around the corner of a crumbling
  stucco wall that straggles
between the last few houses and a sea
  no color; a horizon
where past and future in one flat line meet,
gaze a diluted blue, lips firmly shut.

 

 

Original article here.

AARP Study Says Price of Popular Drugs Rose 26%

By Katie Thomas of The New York Times
Published on March 6, 2012

The prices of drugs used most widely by older Americans rose by nearly 26 percent from 2005 to 2009 — nearly twice the rate of inflation — according to a report issued Tuesday by AARP.

The increase happened even as the price of generic drugs, which account for the vast majority of prescriptions, has been falling in recent years, the report found. “At a time when our country is contracting economically and inflation is really, really low, inflation in the cost of prescription drugs is going in the other direction,” said Cheryl Matheis, the senior vice president for policy strategy at AARP, whose members are 50 and older. “The word we use is relentless because it just doesn’t seem to abate.”

But officials in the pharmaceutical industry criticized the report, saying that the expanded availability of generic drugs has slowed the increase in drug prices in recent years. “AARP has released yet another misleading pricing report that ignores key facts about the marketplace for prescription medicines and paints an inaccurate picture of prescription drug spending in the U.S.,” the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry trade and lobbying group, said in a statement Tuesday.

The AARP report, which examined the retail prices of the 514 brand name and generic drugs most widely used by Medicare recipients, said that the price of generic drugs fell by nearly 31 percent from 2005 to 2009. But at the same time that brand-name drug prices grew by nearly 41 percent and specialty drugs rose more than 48 percent. The rate of inflation, by contrast, grew by just over 13 percent over the same period.

Few dispute that the price of brand name drugs is increasing. “Inflation is alive and well in the drug industry,” said Lawrence Marsh, managing director of equity research at Barclays Capital, who tracks drug prices. He said drug companies had been raising prices on drugs whose patent protections were about to end in an effort to squeeze as much profit as they could before losing market share to generics.

Studies using more recent data have shown that the rate of growth in drug spending appears to be leveling off. A report by government economists last year found that total retail spending on prescription drugs was up just 1.2 percent in 2010, a record low rate. And a study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a research group that consults for the drug industry, reported that spending on prescription medicines grew by 2.3 percent in 2010, compared with 5.1 percent in 2009.

Some criticized the AARP report because it reported on only the full retail price consumers paid at the pharmacy, even though many patients were responsible for only a small co-payment or nothing at all. It also did not take into account rebates and other discounts insurers had negotiated with drug companies; AARP said that data was not available to the group. And some said that the widespread use of generics had been driving down the overall cost of drugs for years.

“There are a whole bunch of high quality medicines that are becoming available generically, and the cost is dropping 30, 40 percent,” said Michael Kleinrock, director of research development at the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. A study of the Medicare Part D drug program by the IMS Institute found that the daily cost of drugs fell from 2006 to 2010 for 8 of 10 categories of drugs that make up the most volume of prescriptions under Medicare Part D, the drug program for retirees.

Even so, Mr. Kleinrock said that his research showed that even with discounts, what insurance companies had been paying for drugs on a national level increased consistently by about 5 to 6 percent a year.

Leigh Purvis, one of the authors of the AARP report, said the studies that reported a slower growth in spending did not look at the price of individual drugs. That matters to Americans who do not have health insurance and who have to pay for those drugs out of pocket.

The price of brand-name drugs can also drive up insurance premiums, she said, and push retirees more quickly into the coverage gap — or the so-called doughnut hole — in the Medicare Part D drug program.

Ms. Matheis said this was especially relevant to AARP members, who are older and likely to lose their jobs or have a harder time finding one at the same time that they are more likely to need prescription drugs.

“If they don’t have coverage for those drugs, they are in a world of hurt,” she said.

Study: Medicare Quality Ratings Didn’t Reduce Patient Deaths

By Jordan Rau of Kaiser Health News

Published on March 5, 2012

Medicare’s seven-year effort to spur quality improvements in hospital care by publishing key performance metrics on its Hospital Compare website has not resulted in fewer patient deaths, according to a new Health Affairs study.

In 2005, Hospital Compare started rating more than 3,000 hospitals on how well they adhere to basic guidelines for clinical care, such as giving flu vaccinations to pneumonia patients. Over time, Hospital Compare has added the results of patient experience scores, readmission and mortality rates, and, most recently, rates of complications and other patient safety mishaps.

There’s been little evidence that consumers use the site in choosing hospitals. Still, health policy experts have hoped poor performing hospitals would nonetheless be embarrassed enough by their public scores to make changes. Indeed, scores on many of the measures have improved over time.

But the new study questions whether any of this was actually leading to better outcomes for patients, such as their chance of survival in the month after they were discharged. The study found that at the time Hospital Compare was launched, mortality rates for patients with three common ailments — heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia — were already decreasing. After those trends were taken into account, Hospital Compare was found to have no effect on the 30-day survival rate of heart attack and pneumonia patients, according to the study.

There was only a “modest” reduction in death rates for heart failure, and that could have been due to something other than Hospital Compare, the study said. “Hospital Compare did not result in patients’ shifting toward high-quality hospitals, and led to little or no reduction in mortality rates within hospitals beyond existing trends,” the paper concludes.

Starting in October 2013, hospitals will have an added reason to improve their mortality rates. As part of the health law’s value-based purchasing program, mortality rates will added to the factors Medicare uses in determining how much to reimburse hospitals.

When I Needed Help, Part 2

By Jane Gross for the NY Times

Agnes arrived the very day we struck our deal, after stopping at home for her pajamas, toothbrush and the like. She wanted to see me in action before accepting my stubborn assertion that I didn’t need round-the-clock help.

She shopped. She brought me scrambled eggs and buttered toast on a tray in bed. I felt like a sick little girl with a doting mother. She slept, with the door open so she could hear me, on the couch in the TV room, her head wrapped in a turban from her native Ghana to protect the perfectly coiffed hair I wouldn’t even notice until the next day.

I slept, and woke, secure — and free of guilt for being a burden to anyone. I understood two things for the first time: why it is so hard to admit being needy enough for paid help, and why it is a happier solution than either friends or family for those who can afford it or who qualify for subsidized home care.

Early on that first day, Agnes asked how I’d like her to address me. “Jane, of course,’’ I said. The question seemed so oddly “Upstairs, Downstairs’’ until I remembered that my mother’s aide always called her Mrs. Gross. Later Lily, the aide, told me she knew from the moment she walked into my mother’s room that this was a woman who liked the distance and formality of the honorific.

What my mother hated most of all, common among the West Indian aides, was being called “Mommy.’’ No matter how lovingly the sobriquet was used, she found it patronizing. I told Agnes the story, and she said she was taught early on to ask every client, as each has a different comfort zone.

The second day, Agnes, off from her regular job, stayed with me until dinnertime. We had gradually decided, together, that I needed help with specific things, not constant minding. I was not to bend from the waist for a few more days. I was not to shower. I promised, grudgingly. She gave me a look that said, “I’ll know, even if I’m not here.’’


For dinner, Agnes reheated matzo-ball soup I’d bought before the surgery — “Jewish penicillin” in my childhood home, and most others like it. Before leaving, she described the spicy cuisine of her homeland. In a few days, she would bring me some to try, she said, but not quite yet.

And so it went for days until my next medical checkup. Each afternoon, along with shopping and acceding to my pleas for more scrambled eggs for dinner (not hearty enough for postsurgical healing, in Agnes’s view), we talked. I learned about the 10 dialects in Ghana, which ones Agnes spoke, and the French that been part of every schoolchild’s education. I learned about her two grown daughters, her seven siblings, her deceased parents, her decision to migrate to America, her work here.

She was smart and funny. She took care of me without my asking. Agnes shook her finger at me when I said I wanted to try to work. I was a limp mess, doing little but moving from bed to couch; blankets covered the windows until the sun went down, as my eyes still were dilated and easily strained. I was unable to even read or watch TV, but Agnes’s daily visits relieved the loneliness.

When next I went to the city to see the surgeons, Agnes drove. I didn’t feel diminished to be just like the other old people in the waiting room with their aides; I was grateful not to be there alone.

The doctors declared Eye No. 1 a thorough success, albeit with a slow recovery ahead and then an operation on Eye No. 2 in six to eight weeks. Afterward, Agnes and I met one of my friends for lunch at an Upper East Side restaurant. She urged a hamburger on me, and a glass of chocolate milk. She suggested I get a stuffed baked potato and wilted spinach to take out for dinner and stop next door at a popular cupcake emporium.

My friend had another potential client for her, but mostly, as an avid traveler, wanted to know all the best places to go in Ghana. We talked and laughed like any other New York City ladies who lunch. When we got the car at the garage, the attendant asked Agnes for her phone number. I wasn’t eavesdropping, honest, just slack-jawed. She politely brushed him off.

“That never happens to me,” I told her.

“You just need some meat on your bones,’’ she said.

Agnes has already arranged to have the day off from her hospital job later this month when I have my next doctor’s appointment. She has suggested we eat at the same restaurant afterward, just the two of us, and repeat our take-out order. I wondered aloud if the same attendant would park the car.

We laughed ourselves silly. She’s had it with men, she said, except the ones who welcome a meal and movie from time to time. She does not want to fetch and carry for someone 24/7. She does enough of that already.

Our routine continues. Agnes phones from work several times a day to be sure I’m O.K. She arrives around 4 p.m., always calling when she leaves work and again as she’s rounding my corner. Over the holiday weekend, she cooked me spicy chicken and rice at her home and brought it here, along with her younger daughter, so we could meet.

When I wrote Agnes a check for the week — $20 an hour, up from $17 because she has so eased the way for me and because I know this is only temporary — she said that visit was out of friendship, not part of the job. Indeed, she has reassured me that once I have a date for the second operation, she intends to clear the decks and be here with me.

Today, the kitchen loaded with leftovers, I felt less needy and wanted her to have an evening dining and watching TV with her daughter. She is grudgingly taking a day off.

I miss her.

This is the second of two parts. The first one is here.

Alzheimer's Stalks an Extended Family in Columbia

By Pam Belluck for the NY Times

June 1, 2010

YARUMAL, Colombia — Tucked away on a steep street in this rough-hewn mountain town, an old woman found herself diapering her middle-age children.

At frighteningly young ages, in their 40s, four of Laura Cuartas’s children began forgetting and falling apart, assaulted by what people here have long called La Bobera, the foolishness. It is a condition attributed, in hushed rumors, to everything from touching a mysterious tree to the revenge of a wronged priest.

It is Alzheimer’s disease, and at 82, Mrs. Cuartas, her gray raisin of a face grave, takes care of three of her afflicted children.

One son, Darío, 55, babbles incoherently, shreds his socks and diapers, and squirms so vigorously he is sometimes tied to a chair with baggy blue shorts.

A daughter, María Elsy, 61, a nurse who at 48 started forgetting patients’ medications, and whose rages made her attack a sister who bathed her, is a human shell, mute, fed by nose tube.

Another son, Oderis, 50, denies that his memory is dying, that he remembers to buy only one thing at a time: milk, not milk and plantains. If he gets Alzheimer’s, he says, he will poison himself.

“To see your children like this ... ,” Mrs. Cuartas said. “It’s horrible, horrible. I wouldn’t wish this on a rabid dog. It is the most terrifying illness on the face of the earth.”

For generations, the illness has tormented these and thousands of others among a sprawling group of relatives: the world’s largest family to experience Alzheimer’s disease. Now, the Colombian clan is center stage in a potentially groundbreaking assault on Alzheimer’s, a plan to see if giving treatment before dementia starts can lead to preventing Alzheimer’s altogether.

Most family members come from one Andes region, Antioquia. Geography, and Basque ancestry, have isolated people here, who call themselves paisas, countrymen. Over three centuries, many in this clan of 5,000 people have inherited a single genetic mutation guaranteeing that they will develop Alzheimer’s.

Large families, and intermarriage, have accelerated the spread. Mrs. Cuartas’s fourth debilitated child, in Medellín, Carlos Alberto Villegas, a former livestock trader and guitar serenader now often fed by baby bottle, married a distant cousin. His mother-in-law is an addled ghost; three of his wife’s 11 siblings, so far, are developing dementia.

With Alzheimer’s in both parents’ families, Mr. Villegas’s three children could face extraordinary risk. One, Natalia, 22, asks: “How long have I got, till I’m 35? There’s no way out.”

Memories begin failing in one’s 40s, occasionally as early as 32. By 47, on average, full-blown Alzheimer’s develops.

Their form of Alzheimer’s, early-onset, was once considered too different to provide clues about far more common late-onset Alzheimer’s, which has unknown causes and primarily affects people over 65.

But it turns out that both forms produce nearly identical brain changes and symptoms. Now, scientists will test as-yet-unproven treatments on Colombians genetically destined for Alzheimer’s but not yet showing symptoms. They will give a to-be-determined drug or vaccine and see if it prevents memory loss or brain atrophy. If their disease can be halted, that could generate treatments to protect millions worldwide from common Alzheimer’s.

Devising an Early Attack

Alzheimer’s has repeatedly resisted attempts to treat it. Current drugs, for people who are already impaired, show little benefit. Now scientists want to attack earlier. New findings show “the brain is badly damaged by the time they have dementia,” said Dr. John C. Morris, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. “Perhaps the reason our therapies have been ineffective or mostly ineffective is that we’re administering them too late.”

With Alzheimer’s afflicting 5.3 million Americans and 30 million people worldwide, numbers that some predict will double or triple by 2050, “we can’t wait to try to do prevention until we are absolutely certain what causes” the disease, said Neil Buckholtz, chief of dementias of aging at the National Institute on Aging. “This public health emergency,” he said, is “just going to get out of control if we don’t do something.”

But preventive research is difficult. Participants should be people guaranteed, or highly likely, to develop dementia, and with common Alzheimer’s identifying such people is challenging because the disease’s cause is unknown. Also, because people would not be sick when treated, potential negative side effects of drugs are especially worrisome.

Colombia appears to be the best option. Mutation carriers always develop Alzheimer’s, and researchers know roughly when. They can give treatment about five years before expected memory loss, then see if brain changes or symptoms occur later or not at all.

Since Colombians with Alzheimer’s are young, without many old-age ailments, they have “cleaner brains that can give a better picture” of whether drugs work, Dr. Buckholtz said.

And the extended family’s single location, large size and similar lifestyles provide enough comparable participants for solid scientific data.

Click here for the full article.

Y0064_H3327_THPSMK_2060 Approved
Touchstone Health HMO, Inc. is a Medicare-approved Health Maintenance Organization with a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug contract with the federal government and a contract with the New York State Medicaid program. The plan is available to anyone enrolled in Part A and Part B through age or disability and who continues to pay their Medicare Part B premium. Copayment, service area, and benefit limitations apply. Members must use contracted providers to receive plan benefits, except in an emergency, urgent care, and for out-of-area dialysis. The Touchstone Health Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug plans are Total, Prestige, Power, Clear and Freedom. Enrollment in Touchstone Health depends on contract renewal.