Glossary

Term

Definition

Adjuvant Therapy Adjuvant therapies are treatments that are given in addition to primary care. For example, someone receiving chemotherapy to treat cancer may also receive an adjuvant medicine to help alleviate the side effects associated with chemotherapy.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a natural chemical made by cells to help convert sugar into energy. Although often labeled as an "anti-aging" supplement, the evidence for its effects on both lifespan and brain health remains inconclusive. For more information on ALA, read our report here.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS; also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) is a condition in which motor neurons--the cells that connect your brain to your muscles--degenerate, leading to weakness, loss of voluntary muscle control, and eventually, atrophy. There is currently no cure for ALS, but some drugs can help slow down its progression.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) A disorder commonly diagnosed in children who display chronic problems with attention, disruptive behavior and hyperactivity. It can usually be treated with behavioral therapy and/or medications.
Anti-inflammatory This term refers to the ability of a substance to reduce inflammation, a reaction of the body to an infection or injury. Common anti-inflammatory substances are ibuprofen (an example of an NSAID, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) and certain steroids like glucocorticoids. The human body also produces its own anti-inflammatory compounds that are used by the immune system to fight infections and heal wounds.
Antioxidant Oxidation of proteins and molecules is constantly happening in all cells. A molecule becomes oxidized when it loses one or more electrons to another molecule. While oxidation is critical for proper cellular functioning, improper oxidation can damage critical proteins and is suspected to contribute to the development of many human diseases and may contribute to some aging processes. Antioxidants are substances that prevent damaging oxidative events and maintain proper oxidative environments that are critical for cellular health. Natural antioxidants include beta-carrotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, melatonin and CoQ10.
Atherosclerosis Atherosclerosis is a chronic disease of thickening artery walls from cholesterol and other fatty substances. It is a risk factor for heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Autoimmune Disease Autoimmune diseases result from abnormal immune system function, in which the immune system sees the body's own cells and proteins as foreign and attacks them. There are many types of autoimmune diseases, and it is speculated that autoimmunity may play a role in the progression of Alzhiemer's disease.
Brain Atrophy This term describes the degeneration of neurons and brain tissue. Brain atrophy may be located in isolated areas, or it may be global, causing overall brain shrinkage and a generalized loss of function. It is a common symptom in several neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease and multiple sclerosis.
Beta-Amyloid Beta-amyloid peptides are protein fragments that are naturally found throughout the body. Large clusters of beta-amyloid are referred to as plaques, and are seen in the brains of people with diseases such as Alzheimer's or multiple sclerosis. Although the exact mechanisms remain unclear, beta-amyloid aggregates are generally thought to be detrimental to brain function.
Bipolar Disorder Bipolar disorder is a complex mental condition characterized by unusual changes in mood, ranging from mania (a feeling of extreme elation and high energy) to severe depression. No one knows what causes bipolar disorder, but it is likely the result of a number of genetic and environmental factors. Bipolar disorder can be managed with a combination of psychotherapy and proper medication.
Blood-Brain Barrier The blood-brain barrier (BBB) separates the brain from the circulating blood. The BBB is selectively permeable, meaning that it will only allow certain substances from the blood to enter the brain, serving as a protective shield against potentially dangerous substances. BBB dysfunction facilitates the progression of many diseases, including Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.
Caloric Restriction The term usually refers to the idea that limiting the number of calories a person eats will extend lifespan. This hypothesis has been demonstrated in rodents but not yet in humans.
Centenarian A person who lives to 100 years of age or older.
Cholesterol Cholesterol is an essential component of cell membranes and is a building block of certain hormones and vitamins (like vitamin D). The two most recognizable types of cholesterol are HDL ("good cholesterol") and LDL ("bad cholesterol). Too much LDL (and too little HDL) is a risk factor for heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Clinical Trial Clinical trials are human research studies designed to test the safety and efficacy of new drugs or interventions to treat medical conditions. Generally considered to be of the highest quality, the "randomized, double-blind" clinical trial involves groups of people randomly-assigned to either a group that receives the treatment or a group that receives a placebo (sugar pill or fake treatment). It is called "double-blind" because neither the researchers nor the patients know which group is which, thus limiting the potential for bias. Clinical trial results are sometimes in conflict with results from epidemiological (observational) studies. There are many reasons for these differences, including that clinical trials use small and highly-selected groups of participants that are not always representative of the general population, whereas many observational studies include large groups of diverse people.
Cognitive Decline "Cognitive decline" refers to a progressive reduction in the brain's ability to perform mental functions, such as learning new facts or skills, or recalling memories. It is a natural process that accompanies aging.
Cognitive Function The term "cognitive function" encompasses all aspects (or "domains") of conscious brain function, including learning and memory, planning, attention, problem-solving and sensory perception.
DASH Diet DASH, which stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," is the name of a diet program often recommended as a means of controlling high blood pressure. Its main principles include eating a diet low in fat and sodium, while being rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Depression Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings such as sadness, despondency, and disinterest. Symptoms vary from person to person and can by caused by any number of biological or environmental factors.
Dementia From the Latin words "de" (without) and "mens" (mind), the term dementia describes a loss of brain function that interferes with daily living and is beyond what can be attributed to normal aging. Common causes of dementia include Alzheimer's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, vascular dementia and Parkinson's disease.
Diabetes The term diabetes encompasses a group of diseases characterized by high blood sugar. It can be caused either because the body isn't making enough insulin or because the body has lost it's ability to respond to insulin. Diabetes must be carefully managed, can be fatal and is a risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease.
Dietary Supplement Dietary supplements are ingested with the purpose of adding a "dietary ingredient" such as vitamins, minerals, or enzymes to supplement--and not substitute for--elements of a healthy diet. Although dietary supplements are allowed to make structural and functional claims, such as, "helps support a healthy digestive system," they are not required to prove these statements, nor can they claim to treat or cure an ailment.
Fatty Acids When we eat, our bodies break down fat into fatty acids, which are then absorbed throughout the body to help with important functions such as creating energy.
Free Radicals Free radicals are atoms with unpaired electrons, which are "free" to react with surrounding atoms or molecules and cause a number of effects. Free radicals are important for a number of necessary biological processes, but excessive amounts of free radicals can damage or even kill cells, and may facilitate the progression of various diseases.
Heart Disease Also called cardiovascular disease, heart disease involves a group of diseases that affects the heart, arteries and veins and is a leading cause of death in the U.S. Heart disease is also a risk factor for developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Obesity, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and lack of exercise are all risk factors for developing heart disease.
Huntington's Disease Huntington's disease is a hereditary disorder resulting from a mutation in the Huntingtin gene. Symptoms of Huntington's disease usually appear by the late 30s or early 40s and manifest as a progressive and severe deterioration of movement coordination and cognitive ability. Currently, there is no cure for the disease, although there are several treatments available to slow its progression or alleviate some of the symptoms.
Hypertension Hypertension is another term for high blood pressure, is a condition in which the force of the blood in the blood vessels is consistently elevated. The higher the pressure, the harder the heart has to work to circulate blood throughout the body. Hypertension can result from a wide variety of factors, including as aging and poor diet, as well as medical conditions such as stress, such as renal disease, diabetes or cancer. For more about hypertension management, click here to read our report.
Hypotensive Disorders The term "hypotension" refers to below-normal blood pressure and can result from several disorders, including orthostatic hypotension, or from certain medications, including alpha- and beta-blockers.
Inflammation Inflammation is a process our bodies use to heal tissue damage and fight infections. It also plays a role in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and may contribute to normal aging as well. Many therapies targeting brain inflammation are under investigation as treatments for Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Insomnia Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. It is commonly a symptom of another disease or condition and may be a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.
Insulin Insulin is a chemical secreted by specialized cells in the pancreas that regulates how the body processes sugars and fats. Insulin tells the liver and muscles to absorb glucose from the blood. Destruction of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas can cause diabetes.
Ketone Bodies Ketone bodes are produced when the liver breaks down fatty acids. They are released into the bloodstream and provide energy for the body and brain.
Kidney The two kidneys of the human body are critical in maintaining the proper functions of several systems including blood pressure, water and salt balances in the blood, and the urinary system. Kidney failure is a common reason for blood dialysis.
Korsakoff's Syndrome Korsakoff's syndrome is a neurological condition caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1), and is characterized by apathy, memory loss, and a tendency to create false memories and behaviors. Korsakoff's syndrome may result from severe alcoholism or other causes of malnutrition. When Korsakoff's syndrome appears in conjunction Wernicke's disease, it is referred to as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
LDL "Low density lipoprotein" is often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol, as opposed to HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, which is often referred to as the "good" cholesterol. Too much LDL, and similarly, too little HDL is a risk factor for heart disease and Alzheimer's.
Liver Responsible for removing toxins from the blood and production of digestion chemicals, the liver also makes many essential proteins and hormones used by other organs and systems.
Medical Food Medical foods are nutritional food additives used to manage a disease or condition. Unlike dietary supplements, medical foods have a high standard of safety (GRAS, or Generally Recognized as Safe, according to FDA standards) and can be labeled to treat conditions such as dementia. However, the FDA does not evaluate the validity of these claims. Medical foods require a prescription for use.
Mediterranean Diet This diet focuses upon the foods typically found in Mediterranean-style cooking. The Mediterranean diet consists mainly of fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, with minimal intake of dairy, and almost no sugars. It also emphasizes replacing animal fats like butter with healthy fats, like olive oil.
Meta-analysis Meta-analysis is a method of combining different research studies (e.g. observational or randomized controlled trials) and making conclusions about the data from all of the included studies. It is a very useful tool for evaluating and summarizing multiple research studies at once.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) This term refers to a set of symptoms that indicate the beginning of cognitive impairment, beyond what can be attributed to normal aging but that does not yet interfere with daily activities. Mild cognitive impairment can be caused by many different factors and does not always lead to dementia. In fact, people diagnosed with MCI can often be cognitively stable for years or even revert to normal cognitive functioning.
Mitochondria Often refered to as the "powerhouses" of our cells, mitochondria are small organelles inside our cells that use sugar (glucose) and oxygen to make chemical energy (ATP) that can be used to power the cell. Problems in mitochodrial function can cause many different diseases and are suspected to play a role in Alzheimer's disease.
Multiple Sclerosis Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks myelin, the structures that wrap and protect neurons. Damage to myelin eventually leads to improper function, which in turn triggers a variety of sensorimotor or psychological symptoms that vary from person to person. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is believed that environmental and genetic factors may play a role in its onset and progression.
Neurons Neurons are responsible for how we see, hear, taste, smell and feel the world around us, as well as our thoughts, memories and emotions. Along with supporting cells, neurons are cells that comprise the central nervous system (CNS), including the brain and spinal chord. The breakdown of neurons underlies so-called "neurodegenerative" diseases like Alzheimer's.
Neurotransmitter Neurotransmitters are chemicals that neurons use to communicate with each other. They are essential to brain function and include chemicals like acetylcholine, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA.
Observational Research There are many types of "observational" human research (epidemiology), including prospective ("forward-looking") and retrospective (backward-looking). Observational research usually involves very large (thousands) groups of people about which information is gathered to determine if a particular variable (such as a lifestyle or dietary habit) correlates with an outcome of interest (e.g. dementia). An example of a prospective dementia study might involve identifying 10,000 women between the ages of 55-60 and asking the question "Does smoking increase the risk of dementia over ten years in this group of people?" As much information about the participants as possible would then be gathered through interviews and questionnaires and their mental status at the start of the study could be determined. The group would then be followed followed for 10 years and re-evaluated at that time to determine how many people developed dementia and whether or not smoking was a risk factor. These types of studies are often biased, or "confounded", by other factors other than the one (e.g. smoking) that is of interest to the researchers (e.g. people who smoke tend to exercise less, which in itself is a risk factor for dementia). Results from observational studies are often in conflict with results from well-controlled clinical trials. One reason for this conflict is often that observational studies often included large groups of people with different health and lifestyle characteristics, whereas clinical trials often test treatments on very select (and small) groups of people.
Omega 3-Fatty Acids Omega 3-fatty acids are a type of so-called "long-chain" fats that are very beneficial to human health. Two commonly-discussed omega 3-fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are abundant in fatty fish like salmon and are the main components of fish oil supplements. For a more detailed discussion of omega 3-fatty acids as a potential dementia prevention strategy, please explore our website report here.
Osteoporosis From the Greek words "ostoun" (bone) and "poros" (pores or holes), osteoporosis is an age-related disease characterized by bone thinning and increased failty. People with osteoporosis are at greater risk of bone fractures and falling, leading causes of injury in older adults. Some types of osteoporosis can be treated with medication.
Parathyroids Humans have four of these glands, which secrete parathyroid hormone, a chemical that regulates blood and bone levels of calcium.
Parkinson's disease Parkinson's disease is caused by the breakdown of a specific neuronal pathway in the brain that uses dopamine as a neurotransmitter. Patients have difficultly moving and sometimes experience dementia.
Resveratrol Resveratrol is a natural chemical found in foods such as red wine, grapes, berries, chocolate and peanuts. Although research is still inconclusive, there is some evidence that resveratrol may help protect against certain health problems such as heart disease and metabolic disorders.
Schizophrenia Schizophrenia refers to a group of mental disorders characterized by progressively disordered thinking and behavioral changes and often includes hallucination, delusions and paranoia.
Stroke The term "stroke" refers to an event in which the brain is damaged when blood supply is interupted. A constant supply of blood is critical for proper brain function. A stroke can damage any part of the brain and, if it doesn't result in death, the symptoms (paralysis, speech impairment, etc) reflect the brain area that was damaged.
Tau Proteins Tau proteins are found in brain cells, where they help support cellular structure. When tau proteins malfunction, they may improperly aggregate, forming tangles that may promote the pathologies of certain neurodegenerative diseases. How tau protein tangles contribute to these diseases is still not fully understood.
Telomeres Telomeres are structures that sit at the end of chromosomes and protect DNA from damage during cell division. Each time a cell divides, its telomeres shorten, until eventually, the telomere is too short to allow further cell division. As a consequence, telomere length may reflect longevity, with shorter telomeres representing the advanced age of cells. However, their usefulness as indicators of whole body aging is still controversial.
Vascular Dementia Vascular dementias involve dysfunction in circulation and blood supply to the brain.
Vasodilator A vasodilator is a drug that causes blood vessels to "dilate" or expand in diameter and thus increase blood flow. Conversely, a drug that causes blood vessels to "constrict" or decrease in diameter is a vasoconstrictor.
Wernicke's Disease Wernicke's disease is a neurological condition caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1). This disease often results from malnutrition due to heavy alcohol abuse, but may also be caused by a number of other medical conditions. It is characterized by a lack of motor coordination, including the ability to control eye movements, and confusion, and is treated with thiamine supplementation. See also: Korsakoff's Syndrome.
White Matter Hyperintensities White matter hyperintensities (WMH) are seen in certain types of brain scans. They show up as bright, white areas in the brain, and although they are seen in normal aging, high WMH volume is said to correlate with an increased risk of certain neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and schizophrenia.
Disclaimer
The content in Cognitive Vitality is intended solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE, AND DOES NOT PROVIDE, ANY MEDICAL ADVICE. IT DOES NOT RECOMMEND OR ENDORSE ANY SPECIFIC ACTIONS OR COURSE OF CONDUCT. Neither the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation nor the authors and editors of Cognitive Vitality recommend or endorse any of the drugs, supplements, foods, products, or other choices that may be mentioned or described in this website. We encourage you to consult with your own healthcare providers when making decisions regarding your health.

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