Can museums help prevent dementia?

New study suggests visiting museums may be a promising psychosocial activity to support the prevention of dementia | The British Journal of Psychiatry | via The Mental Elf 

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has revealed that people who visited museums often were less likely to develop dementia. In the research, a large cohort of people 50 years-old and older, as part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) was used as a sample and tracked across 10 years. The participants in the study did not show any clinical symptoms of dementia at baseline.

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Two main measures were used:

  1. Firstly, the participants had to complete a self-report scale regarding the frequency they were visiting museums and art galleries, varying from “never” to “twice a month or more”.
  2. Secondly, the incidence of dementia was based on a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or on a score above 3.38 on the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE).

The sample consisted of 3,911 adults, equally divided to males and females, and the mean age was 64 years-old. 6.3% developed dementia during the follow-up period. A third of participants indicated that they never visited a museum, but around 1 in 5 reported attending once or twice a year and a further 1 in 5 reported attending every few months or more.

The incidence rate of dementia was higher than average for people who never go to museums, lower than average for people who make a few visits per year, while the lowest rate was found for those who frequently visit museums.

Other cognitive activities were taken under consideration by the authors, but were not significantly associated with the occurrence of dementia. Thus, the effect of museum-attendance is thought to be unique and distinct from other activities that have been suggested.

Full research: Fancourt, D., Steptoe, A., & Cadar, D. | Cultural engagement and cognitive reserve: Museum attendance and dementia incidence over a 10-year period |  The British Journal of Psychiatry | Volume 213, Issue 5 | November 2018 | pp. 661-663

Further detail at The Mental Elf

Sleep Disturbances in Alzheimer’s Disease

Sleep requirements change throughout life. As part of normal aging, sleep generally becomes briefer and fragmented, with older people often having multiple naps throughout the day. In this article, Osman Shabir explains that this may not be the pattern of sleep seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions, however. | via News Medical

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Most patients with Alzheimer’s develop sleep problems which worsen as the disease progresses. Some common sleep disturbances seen in patients with Alzheimer’s are:

  • Loss of the ability to stay asleep, despite being able to get to sleep
  • Increased sleep latency (duration required to get to sleep is longer)
  • Increased agitation before bedtime and throughout the night
  • Disorientation upon waking up (in the night, or in the morning)
  • Sleepy during the day, whilst being alert during the night (circadian abnormalities)
  • Periodic limb movement (PLM) is worsened in around 50% of Alzheimer’s patients
  • Shorter duration of both slow-wave-sleep (SWS) and rapid-eye movement sleep (REM) despite the total number of sleep cycles remaining unchanged

The article notes however that not all studies have shown a significant correlation between sleep disruption and Alzheimer’s disease, either in the pre-clinical stage or after symptoms develop. Therefore, not all Alzheimer’s patients suffer from sleep problems, and likewise, not all people suffering from sleep issues in older age necessarily have Alzheimer’s. However, it is now increasingly accepted that sleep loss may indeed be an important risk factor and symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Whether sleep loss contributes to Alzheimer’s progression, or whether Alzheimer’s causes sleep problems, is yet to be determined.

Full article: Alzheimer’s Disease and sleep disruption | News Medical

Summary of key recommendations from NICE guidance

The latest edition of the NICE Bites newsletter provides a useful summary of the latest NICE guideline on the subject of dementia, which was released in June 2018.

NICE Bites is a monthly prescribing bulletin published by North West Medicines Information centre which summarises key recommendations from NICE guidance. NICE Bites No 111 October 2018 includes one topic: Dementia; assessment, management and support for people living with dementia and their carers. Sections covered include: diagnosis, review after diagnosis, involving people in decision-making, providing information, pharmacological treatment, managing non-cognitive symptoms, assessing and managing co-morbidities, risks during hospital admission, palliative care.

Full reference: Dementia; Assessment, Management and Support for People Living With Dementia and Their Carers (NICE Bites)

Full guideline: Dementia: assessment, management and support for people living with dementia and their carers – guidance (NG97)  | National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) | June 2018.