The latest research
Improving our understanding of the steps we can take to reduce our dementia risk is an important part of what we do at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
We’re investing more than £20m in pioneering research every year – funding scientists as they start new projects and supporting ongoing initiatives. And right now, we’re supporting over £5m worth of research into dementia risk factors and how to protect brain health.
By tapping into studies that track people over time, our researchers are discovering how brain health is shaped throughout life. We know that some factors early in our life, including our education, play a role in our risk, but midlife is an important window too.
Researchers leading our Insight 46 study at University College London have been working with a group of volunteers who were all born in March 1946. Using brain scans, they’ve found that faster rises in blood pressure in midlife are linked to more signs of blood vessel damage and smaller brain size when aged 70.
“Our findings suggest that increasing or high blood pressure, even in our 30s, could have a knock-on effect on brain health four decades later”, says our Chief Medical Officer, Prof Jon Schott, who is leading the study.
Beyond heart health, our scientists are exploring how we can stay sharp and keep connected with the world around us.
Research we funded at the University of Cambridge revealed that over 65s who had greater social engagement had better brain health. And by partnering with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, we’re driving efforts to understand the link between hearing loss and dementia. Together, we’re supporting Dr Piers Dawes at the University of Manchester as he explores whether treating hearing loss could help reduce dementia risk.
“We want to see whether hearing aids could help keep people connected to family, friends and loved ones for longer”, says Dr Dawes.
We’re also funding studies to help everyone take steps to stay sharp, particularly when it comes to sleep. At the University of Camerino in Italy, Dr Michele Bellesi is investigating whether sleep can slow down the build-up of a toxic protein called tau in the brain. Dr Bellesi hopes to discover whether using certain techniques to promote deep sleep can slow the build-up of tau, therefore delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The findings will help inform further research into whether sleep enhancement techniques, like rocking motions and listening to soothing tones, can be used to help reduce our dementia risk.
These are just a few of the exciting research projects we’re funding, with each one helping to build a clearer picture of how we stay brain healthy and help stack the odds against dementia.