Being super old doesn't necessarily mean you get Alzheimer's

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Here's an article in the Globe and Mail a few days ago about Henrikje van Andel-Schipper, a Dutch woman that lived to be 115. A post-mortem on her brain (she had wanted to donated her body to science since 1972 and had tests done on her before she died as well) showed almost no problems with her brain in spite of the age at which she died, and when she was 112 and 113 she was performing mentally better than the average 60-75 year-old.

Unfortunately the article doesn't go into any detail about exactly what she did - what her hobbies were, how she lived, how many languages she knew etc. but in August we'll be able to see the full results in Neurobiology of Aging.

A bit from the article:

AMSTERDAM — A Dutch woman who was the oldest person in the world when she died at age 115 in 2005 appeared sharp right up to the end, joking that pickled herring was the secret to her longevity.

Scientists now say that Henrikje van Andel-Schipper's mind was probably as good as it seemed: A post-mortem analysis found few signs of Alzheimer's or other diseases commonly associated with a decline in mental ability in old age.

That came as something of a surprise, said Gert Holstege, a professor at Groningen University, whose findings will be published in the August edition of Neurobiology of Aging.

“Everybody was thinking that when you have a brain over 100 years, you have a lot of problems,” he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Friday.

He cited a common hardening of arteries and the build up of proteins associated with Alzheimer's disease as examples.

“This is the first (extremely old) brain that did not have these problems.”


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