It has replaced cancer as the disease people fear most. A slow descent into dementia frightens people more than almost any other fate.
A landmark British study has raised the prospect of a pill that can treat brain diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Japanese researchers have developed a new brain scan which could be used to better diagnose and track Alzhiemer's disease.
A healthy lifestyle has a "far more beneficial effect" than doctors originally thought, with new findings showing a huge drop in the risk of developing the dementia as one of the benefits, according to scientists
Cardiff University's principle investigator professor Peter Elwood said the results of a 35-year-long study into dementia showed how living healthily was more effective than "any medical treatment or preventative procedure".
– Principle Investigator Professor Peter Elwood from Cardiff University's School of Medicine
What the research shows is that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health - healthy behaviours have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.
Taking up and following a healthy lifestyle is however the responsibility of the individual him or herself. Sadly, the evidence from this study shows that very few people follow a fully healthy lifestyle.
Our findings reveal that while the number of people who smoke has gone down since the study started, the number of people leading a fully healthy lifestyle has not changed.
Consistently following a healthy lifestyle could lead to a 60% drop in the chance a man has of developing dementia, a 35-year-long study into the disease has conlcuded.
Researchers at Cardiff University found male non-smokers who exercised regularly, stuck to a healthy diet, limited their alcohol intake and kept their bodyweight low reduced their risk.The report also said:
- Those who stuck to at least four out of five points of a healthy lifestyle reduced their chance of cognitive decline by 60%.
- There were also 70% drop in the cases of diabetes, heart disease and stroke by those who lived healthily.
Men who regularly exercise could see their chances of developing dementia significantly reduce, new research suggests.
The research, completed by Cardiff University, monitored the lifestyle habits of 2,235 men over a 35-year period and found that exercise reduced the risk of dementia.
The study identified healthy behaviours including regular exercise, non-smoking, a low bodyweight, a healthy diet and a low alcohol intake as being integral to having the best chance of leading a disease-free lifestyle.
The study comes ahead of a G8 summit on Wednesday to look at the funding and research into dementia.
A rare childhood disease may hold clues to treating Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, a study has found.
Scientists analysing A-T disease, which leaves youngsters unable to walk by adolescence, have found new ways of understanding the more common neurodegenerative diseases, according to the report in the online journal Nature Neuroscience.
The rare genetic childhood disorder - which occurs in about one in 40,000 births - leads to problems in movement, co-ordination, equilibrium and muscle control as well as a number of other deficiencies outside the nervous system.
Professor Ronald Hart said: "This research provides a strong clue toward understanding more common neurodegenerative disorders that may use similar pathways. It is a theme that has not yet been examined."
A pill that can treat dementia according to a new study has the potential to "stop Alzheimer's disease in its tracks", said Dr Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society.
A leading Alzheimer's charity said the results of a study on the treatment of brain diseases were "promising" but stressed that further research was required.
Dr Clare Walton, from the Alzheimer's Society, said:
– Dr Clare Walton
This is a promising development as it shows this biological pathway is a potential target for new treatments.
However, it is important to note that this study was carried out on mice with prion disease and so it is not clear how applicable it is to humans with diseases such as Alzheimer's.
What we need now is further research into potential drugs which can target the same pathway.
A pill to treat brain diseases such as Alzheimer's is still "a long way" from being used on human patients, said a researcher involved in a landmark study.
Lead scientist Professor Giovanna Mallucci, from the MRC Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester, warned that the drug in its current form has "toxic side effects".
– Giovanna Mallucci
We were extremely excited when we saw the treatment stop the disease in its tracks and protect brain cells, restoring some normal behaviours and preventing memory loss in the mice.
But we're still a long way from a usable drug for humans - this compound had serious side effects.
The research suggested it could be a decade or more before any medicine suitable for patients is developed.
Commenting on the Medical Research Council work, Professor Roger Morris, from the Department of Chemistry at King's College London, said:
This is the first convincing report that a small drug, of the type most conveniently turned into medicines, stops the progressive death of neurons in the brain as found, for instance, in Alzheimer's disease.
True, this study has been done in mice, not man; and it is prion disease, not Alzheimer's, that has been cured.
– Professor Roger Morris
However, there is considerable evidence that the way neurons die in both diseases is similar; and lessons learned in mice from prion disease have proved accurate guides to attenuate the progress of Alzheimer's disease in patients.
This finding, I suspect, will be judged by history as a turning point in the search for medicines to control and prevent Alzheimer's disease.