Alzheimer’s Progression Slower In Older Patients, Study Finds

Alzheimer’s disease is slower in people aged 80 and older compared to the younger elderly, a new study has found.

Though the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases with age–by 85, the risk is roughly 50 percent–the researchers found that those who develop the progressive brain disorder later in life have a less aggressive version than those who see symptoms in their 60s or 70s, HealthDay News reported.

Lead researcher Dominic Holland from the University of California, San Diego’s neurosciences department said the findings will have implications for doctors who treat Alzheimer’s patients.

“Methods for early detection, which will rely on biomarkers as well as mental ability, will need to take into account the age of the individuals being assessed,” he told HealthDay News. Because older people can acquire the less aggressive form of the disorder, it can sometime be harder for doctors to diagnose, Holland noted.

Holland’s team took imaging and biomarker data from 723 participants at the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a consortium of several institutions led by UC San Diego, reported.

The findings, published Aug. 2 in the online journal PLoS One, could also have implications for future clinical trials of potential Alzheimer’s treatments, Holland added. There is cure for Alzheimer’s and no effective treatments to slow it either. The disease gradually destroys brain cells, making patients lose memories as well as the ability to accomplish everyday tasks.

This degeneration happened at a much faster rate among the younger elderly, the study found. Researchers said they weren’t sure why Alzheimer’s is more aggressive in younger patients, but think it could be that older patients have actually had the disorder for a long time but had been declining at a slower rate because of some unknown factors. They also think dementia might stall the effects of Alzheimer’s on the brain.

Alzheimer’s affects an estimated 5.6 million Americans, but that number is expected to triple over the next four decades as the baby boom generation ages.