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LATE, not Alzheimer's

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More than 5 million people over age 65 suffer from dementia, a number that's expected to more than double by 2060. But though many of these cases are attributed to Alzheimer's disease, a report published in the medical journal Brain reveals that in cases involving people older than 80, up to 50 percent may, in fact, be caused by a newly identified form of dementia. It's called LATE, which is short for limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy.

The news, published last month, is being heralded as a potential breakthrough, as identifying a new type of dementia could be critical for targeting research — for both LATE and Alzheimer's. In fact, the report included recommended research guidelines as well as diagnostic criteria for LATE.

Researchers have suspected something like LATE for years, especially among older patients who didn't seem to exactly fit the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. About a decade ago, scientists linked a certain protein, TDP-43, with two forms of dementia: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), aka Lou Gehrig's disease, and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. But this new report reveals it's much more common than previously realized; indeed, autopsy reports show that up to half of people over age 80 have some form of LATE in their brain, with about a quarter having enough of it to affect their memory and cognition.

"This may help explain why when we autopsy some of the brains of people whom we thought had Alzheimer's, we don't see any signs of the disease,” says Nelson. “They most likely had LATE, instead."

While there aren't any ways to tell if you or a loved one has LATE, there are sensible things you can do to help lower your risk of any kind of dementia, says Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Longevity Center. For example, a third of dementia cases can be prevented with lifestyle changes like losing weight, getting high blood pressure under control and exercising, according to a 2017 study published in the medical journal the Lancet. If you haven't had your hearing checked recently, do so: Even mild hearing loss doubles dementia risk, according to research done at Johns Hopkins. What's more, a 2017 study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that the Mediterranean diet—which focuses on fruits, vegetables, healthy fats (such as olive oil), fish, legumes and whole grains—lowers the risk of developing cognitive impairment in older adults by a third.

Source: Hallie Levine @ AARP