A new study made for "super-agers," aka older adults in their 80s and 90s with extraordinary memory performance, shows that they are unlikely to be affected by Alzheimer's. Bradford Dickerson, Harvard Medical School (HMS) Neurology Associate Professor, and Lisa Feldman Barrett of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) department of Psychiatry, led the first research program that aims to understand how some older adults or "super-agers," retain youthful thinking abilities and the brain circuits that support those abilities.

The researchers examined a group of older adults with extraordinary memory performance and found out that certain key areas of their brains resembled those of young people. Out of the 40 adults ages 60 to 80, 17 performed as well as adults four to five decades younger on memory tests. Twenty three of them got normal results for their age group.

Researchers described "super-agers" with unusually resilient memories compared to most older adults experiencing a gradual decline in memory ability

“Previous research on super-aging has compared people over age 85 to those who are middle-aged,” MGH cited research co-author Alexandra Touroutoglou of MGH Neurology, as saying.

“Our study is exciting because we focused on people around or just after typical retirement age — mostly in their 60s and 70s — and investigated those who could remember as well as people in their 20s,” she added.

The imaging studies revealed that "super-agers" had brains with youthful characteristics. While the cortex, the outermost sheet of brain cells that is critical for many thinking abilities, and other parts of the brain typically shrink with aging, a number of those regions in the brains of "super-agers," were comparable in size to those of young adults.

“We looked at a set of brain areas known as the default mode network, which has been associated with the ability to learn and remember new information, and found that those areas, particularly the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex, were thicker in super-agers than in other older adults,” Touroutoglou explained.

“In some cases, there was no difference in thickness between super-agers and young adults,” Touroutoglou further said.

New Trends on Alzheimer’s Disease Risks

According to a Nature Communications journal in April,  209,000 new cases of the disease happened in Britain in 2015 which is lower than the 251,000 forecast made in 1991, based on population growth and aging trends. The same trends were also seen in the US, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

The new studies show Alzheimer's slowdown in the said countries, especially among men, which may be attributed to a healthy lifestyle and plenty of brain exercise, growing awareness of the dangers of smoking, obesity and a lack of exercise resulting in improved cardiovascular health, better blood pressure and cholesterol drugs.

“These findings are promising, and suggest that identifying and reducing risk factors for Alzheimer's and other dementias may be effective,” Keith Fargo, scientific director at the American Alzheimer's Association said.

"Such findings are promising and suggest that identifying and reducing risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias may be effective," the Alzheimer's Association quoted the 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures as saying.

In August 29, American comic actor Gene Wilder at the age of 83, died of complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the well-known people who also suffered from the disease were actor Charles Bronson (1921-2003), American president Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), actor and friend of Reagan Charlton Heston (1923-2008), author E.B. White (1899-1985), boxer Sugar Ray Robinson (1921-1989) and actor and comedian Robin Williams (1951-2014).

Here are the warning signs of the disease, according to Alzheimer’s Association:

  1.          Challenges in planning or solving problems
  2.          Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  3.          Confusion with time and space
  4.          Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationship
  5.          Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  6.          Deceased or poor judgment
  7.          Withdrawal from work or social activities
  8.          Changes in moods and personality
  9.          New problem with word when speaking or writing
  10.          Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

At present, Alzheimer’s disease still has no effective treatment or cure. The world celebrated the annual Alzheimer’s Day on Wednesday.

What do you think of the new study about Alzheimer’s disease being unlikely to happen in "super-agers"? Let us know in the comments section below.