Recent News on Aging

Anti-ageing pill pushed as bona fide drug

From the journal Nature comes this article that poses a paradigm-shifting question: Is aging a natural occurrence of life or a treatable condition?

Doctors and scientists want drug regulators and research funding agencies to consider medicines that delay ageing-related disease as legitimate drugs. Such treatments have a physiological basis, researchers say, and could extend a person’s healthy years by slowing down the processes that underlie common diseases of ageing — making them worthy of government approval. On 24 June, researchers will meet with regulators from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make the case for a clinical trial designed to show the validity of the approach.

The article focuses on a clinical trial called Targeting Aging with Metformin, or TAME:

Plans call for the trial to enrol 3,000 people aged 70–80 years at roughly 15 centres around the United States. The trial will take 5–7 years and cost US$50 million.

The key to the significance of such research is that it examines a change in the way clinicians would approach aging: instead of treating conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and cognitive impairment that arise with aging, they would treat aging itself. If this were possible, aging itself would become a treatable condition instead of a natural progression of life.

Two Views of Aging While Creative

In this article for Psychology Today, Susan K. Perry addresses the question “What happens when prolific writers get old?” She contrasts two books by writers who remained creative into old age:

  • At Eighty-Two, A Journal by poet, novelist, and memoirist May Sarton, who died in 1995
  • Essays After Eighty by poet and essayist Donald Hall, recently published

About Sarton’s journal Perry writes, “Most of all I noted and appreciated her honesty about the highs and ever-more-frequent lows of her mood.” Perry contrasts Sarton’s outlook with Hall’s: “According to his new book of essays, he’s still at it in his mid–80s… . He omits nothing (or little) of the humiliations and challenges of growing old.” She continues:

Above all, Hall’s essays demonstrated to me that not all aging men and women become depressed to the point of not being able to be creative.

The 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s

Most researchers and clinicians agree that early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease can help slow the disease’s progress. And if you’re at or approaching your older years, you’ve probably seen quizzes and lists all over newspapers, magazines, and the internet on warning signs you should look for.

But while early diagnosis leads to early intervention, some news out of the 2013 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference is troubling: An expert panel found 16 online tests for Alzheimer’s disease scored poorly on scales of overall scientific validity, reliability and ethical factors.

While such self-diagnosis tools may be unreliable, other people may be more accurate in recognizing these warning signs put together by the Alzheimer’s Association:

  1. Memory changes that disrupt daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

But don’t try to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at home. Visit a doctor for a thorough examination and diagnosis.

For more information see Alzheimer’s Association.

New questions about why more women than men have Alzheimer’s

Nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women, and now some scientists are questioning the long-held assumption that it’s just because they tend to live longer than men.

What else may put woman at extra risk? Could it be genetics? Biological differences in how women age? Maybe even lifestyle factors?

Here’s yet another article indicating that we need much more research into Alzheimer’s disease: “A recent Alzheimer’s Association report estimates that at age 65, women have about a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s during the rest of their lives, compared with a 1 in 11 chance for men.” Further, evidence suggests that once women develop Alzheimer’s, their condition worsens at a faster pace than in men.

Plans are underway to study both genes and hormones as possible contributors to the increased prevalence of the disease in women over men.

The unforgettable Glen Campbell

David Wild discusses watching CNN’s film Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me:

Like a lot of people around the world, I have been listening to and loving the extraordinary music of Glen Campbell all of my life. Yet it was only this week that I could emotionally bring myself to see “Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me,” the very beautiful, very musical and even more moving documentary directed by James Keach that quite rightly received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.

Especially take a look at Wild’s list of the 10 most unforgettable of Glen Campbell’s songs.

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