March 31, 2008
Microbleed Lesions Common In Old Brains

Here's yet another blog post where I present yet another example of why the people who say that aging is dignified are totally wrong.

New research shows cerebral microbleeds, which are lesions in the brain, are more common in people over 60 than previously thought. The study is published in the April 1, 2008, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“We found a three-to-four-fold higher overall prevalence of cerebral microbleeds compared to other studies,” according to study author Monique M.B. Breteler, MD, PhD, with the Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. “These findings are of major importance since cerebral microbleeds likely reflect cerebrovascular pathology and may be associated with an increased risk of cerebrovascular problems.”

Cerebral microbleeds are lesions that can be seen on brain scans, such as an MRI brain scan. The lesions are deposits of iron from red blood cells that have presumably leaked out of small brain vessels.

For the study, 1,062 healthy men and women who were an average age of 70 underwent an MRI to scan for the presence of cerebral microbleeds. Of the participants, 250 were found to have cerebral microbleeds.

The study found overall prevalence of cerebral microbleeds was high and increased with age from 18 percent in people age 60 to 69 to 38 percent in people over age 80. People with the e4 allele of the APOE gene, which is known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and of cerebral amyloid angiopathy, had significantly more microbleeds than people without this genetic variant.

We should find ways to repair and halt the damage of aging. Rejuvenating stem cell therapies could repair our blood vessels and prevent cerebral microbleeds. We could avoid the resulting brain damage and keep more of who we are intact.

Update: Read all about Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence to get an idea of how we can hope to some day stop and reverse aging of the brain and of other parts of our bodies.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 March 31 10:02 PM  Brain Aging

subrot0 said at April 1, 2008 6:00 PM:

I am sort of two minds. Aging sucks and we must try and prevent it. There is no such thing as growing old gracefully. I watched my dad wither away and I am watching my mother do the same thing. There is nothing graceful or dignified about it. My parents were physicians, there is nothing noble about them losing their skills and minds.

And then there is the other side of the coin. The end of life is death. You gotta go, and there is not a durn thing you can do about it. How long do we prevent death? How long can we grimly hang on till we shuffle off this mortal coil. And I don't know if its a good thing to prolong life indefinitely.

Best bet is to go out when you can make a rational decision. I wonder if I will remember these noble words when it comes my time to shuffle of this mortal coil.

BlogDog said at April 1, 2008 6:08 PM:

Is there something that can be done? I recall from my "witch doctor" mother that bioflavinoids strengthen capillary walls.
In point of fact, I was plagued with nosebleeds as a child until my mother had me take rutin supplements. I've not had a problem since.

joel said at April 1, 2008 7:27 PM:

Like the poet said:

An aged man's a paltry thing
A tattered coat upon a stick

Unless soul clap its hands and sing
And louder sing for every tatter in that mortal dress.


When you consider aging as just a progressive disorganization of our bodies, due to the passage of time, the idea of stopping aging seems like looking for the fountain of youth. We rust out (uncontrolled oxidation) and denature (abnormal protein structures, eg. amyloid protein in our brains.) Amyloid deposition in brain vessels may be a culprit in the brain bleeds, for example. Then there is the constant mutational process occurring every second in our bodies, with repair enzymes trying to fix the damage. Most mutations are harmless, but some lead to malignant tumors. Even if we didn't age, a mutation, sooner or later, would lead to our deaths.

We can certainly hope to slow it down, but stop it? Like stopping time itself. We may think about regeneration of our bodies, such as occurs in the developing embryo. But, about 25% of fertilized eggs, or more, self destruct during embryonic development. Just too many things can go wrong. Ever see a growth disrupted embryo? Looks like a movie monster.

So, happy men enjoy life, grateful for every glad moment. Every kiss. Every hug. Every joke. Every smile. Every pretty face. Every sunset and sunrise. Take all the joy you can, and give all the joy you can. And accepting the end when it comes.

And, don't neglect poetry!

Sometimes we must wait until evening to know what kind of day it has been.

Hucbald said at April 1, 2008 7:52 PM:

Strength training combined with aerobic exercise - at least thirty minutes of each per day - will maintain cardiovascular health better than any supplements or reactive treatment. Of course, combining this activity with the right supplements can add to the benefit. As a kid and teenager, I had horrible cluster migraines: Within a few months of beginning to run, they stopped for good. I'm sure revamping my cardio-vascular system did the trick (Yeah, anecdotal, but I know none the less).

Everybody dies: Nobody gets out of this life alive. The best you can be is the best you can be for whatever age you are. Exercise is the key. Everything else is snake oil.

Randall Parker said at April 1, 2008 8:41 PM:


What can we do? Support stem cell research.


You can find immaculately maintained cars in excellent working order that are decades beyond their original design longevities. Why is that? Repair. If we can develop tech to repair ourselves then we can do to ourselves what we do to favored cars. Stem cells, gene therapies, nanobots, and other tech will let us start to do that repair within 10 years. Within 20-30 years I expect the range of possible bodily repairs to become very extensive.

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