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Study of America's 'oldest old' will continue data-gathering

October 25, 2013
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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A demographic that’s continuing to grow, reaching nearly 12 million by 2050, nonagenarians (those 90+ years of age) are threatening to overwhelm the United States healthcare system. An investigation of more than 1,600 participants by the University of California–Irvine’s (UC Irvine) Clinic for Aging Research & Educations has been gathering data since 2003 and will continue to collect clinical, pathological and genetic research.

The 90+ Study also has a focus on dementia in this age category, an age segment that has not experienced widespread study.

Among the findings of the 90+ Study:

  • Those who drink moderate amounts of coffee or alcohol live longer than people who abstain.
  • If someone is overweight in their 70s, he or she will most likely outlive those who were average weight or underweight.
  • More than 50 percent of people with Alzheimer’s over 90 years of age have insufficient Alzheimer’s-related plaque in the brain to explain cognitive loss.
  • Physical challenges in activities such as walking are linked to increased risk of dementia.

The National Institute on Aging has renewed funding for the 90+ Study. One of the questions researchers hope to address questions is why many of the oldest old have Alzheimer’s or vascular pathology in their brains but do exhibit the signs of dementia.

Researchers will conduct 24-hour blood pressure and oxygen saturation monitoring to see if dips in the blood pressure are the result of microinfarctions in the brain or other diseases, which may cause dementia.

“We will continue to try to understand what makes the oldest old so unique,” Dr. Claudia Kawas, a neurogerontologist, and one of the project’s directors, said in a release.

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