Why the elderly in these populations hardly have dementia – Health

Among indigenous communities living deep in the Amazon forest, Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia is rare. What protects them?

The research focused on two population groups in the Bolivian Amazon forest, the Tsimane and the Mosetes. Alzheimer’s disease was found in only 1 percent of the elderly, at the lowest level worldwide. In Europe, around 7 percent of the population over the age of 60 was affected by dementia in 2018, a figure that has since increased as the average age of Europeans rises year on year. In the United States (US), 11 percent of the over-65s suffer from some form of dementia.

“Something about the pre-industrial lifestyle of the Tsimane and Mosetians must help make them better protected against dementia,” said Margaret Gatz, a professor of psychology, gerontology and preventive medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) and lead author of the study. study. Brain scans, cognitive and neurological examinations, and culturally adapted questionnaires were performed on these indigenous people, together with her team. Everything was done under the guidance of local doctors and trained translators. The team found only five cases of dementia in a group of 435 Tsimane, and only one case in the 169 Moseten aged 60 and over.

Calcification

In the same population, the research team identified mild cognitive impairment in about 8 percent of Tsimane and 10 percent Moseten (mild cognitive impairment or MCI), characterized by early memory loss or a reduction in other cognitive skills, such as language or spatial perception. The study authors point out that these rates are more comparable to MCI in high-income countries, such as the US.

The researchers were surprised to find that in the groups studied, the individuals with dementia or MCI often showed unusual and prominent calcification in the arteries in the brain. Also, during neurological examination, these participants often showed Parkinson-like symptoms and cognitive abnormalities in attention, spatial awareness and executive functioning. They want to further investigate the role of these calcifications and whether there is a link with infectious diseases, among other things, which are common in these communities and may increase the risk of dementia. In the meantime, the team has traveled again to Bolivia for this follow-up investigation.

Active and healthy

The Tsimane number about 17,000 people. They have an active lifestyle and live from fishing, hunting and agriculture and forestry, which is still largely done with handmade tools. The three thousand Mosets also live mainly from agriculture, although their villages are located closer to cities and have running water, medical services and schools. Among the Mosetes, a greater proportion is also literate than among the more isolated Tsimane.

The study authors compared their results with 15 other studies previously conducted among indigenous peoples in Brazil, Australia, North America and the island of Guam. These studies showed a prevalence of dementia between 0.5 and 20 percent.

The higher incidence of Alzheimer’s and other dementias among Indigenous peoples in other parts of the world, the researchers say, can be explained by the fact that these communities live closer to non-Indigenous cultures and have adopted many of those lifestyles. Among these populations, an increased risk of diabetes, alcoholism, obesity, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease was found. All of these known risk factors for dementia were found to be extremely low among the Tsimane and Moseth in Bolivia.

Race for solutions

Aging is still the greatest risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In addition, there is mounting evidence that things like an unhealthy lifestyle with insufficient exercise, diabetes and high blood pressure increase the risk. Air pollution was recently added to this list as a risk factor.

It is estimated that by 2050 the number of patients with dementia will triple worldwide to more than 152 million people. “It is now a real race to find solutions that can protect us against Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said co-author and anthropologist Hillard Kaplan, who has been researching the Tsimane for two decades. “Studying these people gives us more knowledge about these diseases and gives us the necessary new insights.”

The research focused on two population groups in the Bolivian Amazon forest, the Tsimane and the Mosetes. Alzheimer’s disease was found in only 1 percent of the elderly, at the lowest level worldwide. In Europe, around 7 percent of the population over the age of 60 was affected by dementia in 2018, a figure that has since increased as the average age of Europeans rises year on year. In the United States (US), 11 percent of people over the age of 65 suffer from some form of dementia. “Something in the pre-industrial lifestyle of the Tsimane and Moseth people must contribute to their better protection against dementia,” says Margaret Gatz, professor of psychology, gerontology, and preventive medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) and lead author of the study. Brain scans, cognitive and neurological examinations, and culturally adapted questionnaires were performed on these indigenous people, together with her team. Everything was done under the guidance of local doctors and trained translators. The team found only five cases of dementia in a group of 435 Tsimane, and only one case in the 169 Moseten aged 60 and older. In the same population, the research team identified mild cognitive impairment in about 8 percent of Tsimane and 10 percent Moseten. (mild cognitive impairment or MCI), characterized by early memory loss or impairment of other cognitive skills, such as language or spatial perception. The study authors point out that these rates are more comparable to MCI in high-income countries, such as the US. The researchers were surprised to find that in the groups studied, the individuals with dementia or MCI often showed unusual and prominent calcification in the arteries in the brain. Also, during neurological examination, these participants often showed Parkinson-like symptoms and cognitive abnormalities in attention, spatial awareness and executive functioning. They want to further investigate the role of these calcifications and whether there is a link with infectious diseases, among other things, which are common in these communities and may increase the risk of dementia. In the meantime, the team has traveled again to Bolivia for this follow-up study. The Tsimane number about 17,000 people. They have an active lifestyle and live from fishing, hunting and agriculture and forestry, which is still largely done with handmade tools. The three thousand Mosets also live mainly from agriculture, although their villages are located closer to cities and have running water, medical services and schools. Among the Mosetes, a greater proportion is also literate than among the more isolated Tsimane. The study authors compared their results with 15 other studies previously conducted among indigenous peoples in Brazil, Australia, North America and the island of Guam. These studies showed a prevalence of dementia between 0.5 and 20 percent. The higher incidence of Alzheimer’s and other dementias among Indigenous peoples in other parts of the world, the researchers say, can be explained by the fact that these communities live closer to non-Indigenous cultures and have adopted many of those lifestyles. Among these populations, an increased risk of diabetes, alcoholism, obesity, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease was found. All these known risk factors for dementia were found to be extremely low in the Tsimane and Moseten in Bolivia. Aging is still the greatest risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s or dementia. In addition, there is mounting evidence that things like an unhealthy lifestyle with insufficient exercise, diabetes and high blood pressure increase the risk. Air pollution was recently added to this list as a risk factor. It is estimated that by 2050 the number of patients with dementia will triple worldwide to more than 152 million people. “It is now a real race to find solutions that can protect us against Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said co-author and anthropologist Hillard Kaplan, who has been researching the Tsimane for two decades. “Studying these people gives us more knowledge about these diseases and gives us the necessary new insights.”

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