Research links personality traits and hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease

New research from the Florida State University College of Medicine found that changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease are often visible early on in individuals with personality traits associated with the condition.

The study focused on two traits previously linked to the risk of dementia: neuroticism, which measures a predisposition for negative emotions, and conscientiousness, which measures the tendency to be careful, organized, goal-directed and responsible.

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“We have done studies showing who’s at risk of developing dementia, but those other studies were looking at the clinical diagnosis,” said Antonio Terracciano, professor of geriatrics at the College of Medicine. “Here, we are looking at the neuropathology; that is, the lesions in the brain that tell us about the underlying pathological change. This study shows that even before clinical dementia, personality predicts the accumulation of pathology associated with dementia.”

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Surprising connection between flu and heart disease

If you have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease, you already know about the increased risk of heart attack and stroke. But did you know that coming down with the flu can substantially increase the risk of a serious or even fatal cardiac event? Or that getting the influenza vaccine can substantially reduce that risk, even if you do wind up contracting the seasonal virus?

Probably not, if annual influenza vaccination rates are any indication, especially if you’re under the age of 65. According to a Houston Methodist review published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Americans with heart disease continue to have low vaccination rates every year despite higher rates of death and complications from influenza.

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The flu vaccination rate for American adults who are less than 65 years of age and have heart disease is less than 50%, compared to 80% in older adults with heart disease.

“It seems that younger Americans with high-risk conditions have not gotten the same memo that their older counterparts have received about the importance of getting the influenza vaccine,” says Dr. Priyanka Bhugra, internal medicine specialist at Houston Methodist and lead author of the JAHA article. “That’s dangerous, considering people with heart conditions are particularly vulnerable to influenza-related heart complications, whether they’ve reached retirement age or not.”

It’s well-known that the flu can lead to significant respiratory symptoms such as pneumonia, bronchitis and bacterial infection of the lungs. The virus’ effects on the heart have historically been harder to parse out, in part because many patients already have a known predisposition to cardiac events and in part because the cardiac event often occurs weeks after the onset of the flu.

But here’s what recent research has shown:

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Exploring link between gut and brain health

Scientists continue to find evidence that the brain and gastrointestinal tract are closely linked—and that keeping one healthy will benefit the other.

The brain and gut are connected, but the exact nature of that connection is still a mystery. Research suggests, however, that the better we treat our guts, the healthier our brains will be, and vice versa.

Encompassing all the organs that process food, the gut consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, and large intestine, which includes the colon and rectum. Scientists have been studying the gut components to better understand how they may put people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurologic disorders.

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“The notion of gastrointestinal health, and thus normal gut flora, may be as old as medicine itself,” says Michael G. Schlossmacher, MD, endowed chair in neurodegeneration at Canada’s Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and co-director of the Parkinson Research Consortium.

Living within the gut are trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses. These microbes aid multiple bodily functions, like breaking down food, producing vitamins, responding to pathogens, and helping the body absorb nutrients. The genes that produce these microorganisms—which also live in saliva, skin, and other body parts—and the microorganisms themselves are collectively known as the microbiome. Various factors, including genetics, lifestyle, diet, environmental exposures, and use of antibiotics, likely influence the microbiome’s composition.

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Sense of purpose associated with better memory

Add an improved memory to the list of the many benefits that accompany having a sense of purpose in life.

A new study led by Florida State University researchers showed a link between an individual’s sense of purpose and his ability to recall vivid details. The researchers found that while both a sense of purpose and cognitive function made memories easier to recall, only a sense of purpose bestowed the benefits of vividness and coherence.

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The study, which focused on memories related to the COVID-19 pandemic, was published in the journal Memory.

“Personal memories serve really important functions in everyday life,” said Angelina Sutin, a professor in the College of Medicine and the paper’s lead author. “They help us to set goals, control emotions and build intimacy with others. We also know people with a greater sense of purpose perform better on objective memory tests, like remembering a list of words. We were interested in whether purpose was also associated with the quality of memories of important personal experiences because such qualities may be one reason why purpose is associated with better mental and physical health.”

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Nature-based activities can reduce anxiety and improve mood – Study

As a person who spends hours riding his bike along the Chicago Lakefront with beautiful Lake Michigan on one side and the Chicago Park District on the other I can attest that the surroudings contribute greatly to my enjoyment.

Outdoor nature-based activities are effective for improving mental health in adults, including those with pre-existing mental health problems, a new study has found. The study showed that outdoor activities in groups were the most beneficial for mental health.

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The research – led by the University of York – showed that taking part in outdoor, nature-based activities led to improved mood, less anxiety, and positive emotions.


The study found that activities lasting for 20 to 90 minutes, sustained for over the course of eight to 12 weeks, have the most positive outcomes for improving mood and reducing anxiety.

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Weekend Funnies

Tony

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Years of exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise may lift heart failure risk – AHA

Exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise over the course of many years may be associated with an increased risk of developing heart failure, and the correlation appears to be even greater in people who are former smokers or have high blood pressure, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.

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“We found that long-term exposure to specific air pollutants and road traffic noise increased the risk of incident heart failure, especially for former smokers or people with hypertension, so preventive and educational measures are necessary,” said Youn-Hee Lim, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor in the section of environmental health within the department of public health at the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark. “To minimize the impact of these exposures, broad public tactics such as emissions control measures should be implemented. Strategies like smoking cessation and blood pressure control must be encouraged to help reduce individual risk.”

This analysis examined the impact of long-term environmental exposure, specifically from air pollution and road traffic noise, on the development of heart failure in a group of female nurses in Denmark over a 15-to-20-year period.

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Chronic pain treatment should include psychological input

The latest issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest examines psychological interventions for the treatment of chronic pain, including the gap between the evidence of the effectiveness of several psychological interventions and their availability and use in treatment. 

Pain is the body’s way of alerting the brain to injury and disease. Without a robust pain response, physical trauma could go unnoticed and untreated. Some people, however, experience chronic pain that lasts long after an injury has healed or has no easily identifiable cause.

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Unfortunately, treating chronic pain with over-the-counter and prescription medication has its own health risks, including adverse side effects and addiction. In the latest issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI), a team of researchers explores how psychological interventions can be part of a comprehensive plan to manage chronic pain while reducing the need for surgeries and potentially dangerous medications.

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Earlier onset of high blood pressure may increase dementia risk – AHA

  • People with high blood pressure diagnosed before age 55 had smaller brains compared to people who had normal blood pressure, and people who developed high blood pressure in early adulthood had the greatest reduction in brain size, according to a new study analyzing data from the UK Biobank.
  • People diagnosed with high blood pressure between ages 35 and 44 were 61% more likely to develop dementia during the study’s follow-up period 8-10 years later, compared to individuals who had normal blood pressure during the same years.
  • The results suggest that initiating efforts to prevent and control blood pressure in early adulthood may help prevent dementia.

Individuals who are diagnosed with high blood pressure at ages 35-44 had smaller brain size and were more likely to develop dementia compared to people who had normal blood pressure, according to new research published today in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal.

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The results raise the possibility that taking steps in young adulthood to control or delay the onset of high blood pressure may reduce the risk of dementia.

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Therapy can bring relief to chronic back pain

As many as one in five Americans suffer from chronic pain, an often intractable problem that costs the country more than $600 billion in treatments and lost work-time and has helped fuel a deadly opioid epidemic.

But new CU Boulder research, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, provides some of the strongest evidence yet that a non-drug, psychological treatment can provide potent and durable relief.

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This study suggests a fundamentally new way to think about both the causes of chronic back pain for many people and the tools that are available to treat that pain.

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Age and aging have critical effects on the gut microbiome

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai have found that aging produces significant changes in the microbiome of the human small intestine distinct from those caused by medications or illness burden. The findings have been published in the journal Cell Reports.

“By teasing out the microbial changes that occur in the small bowel with age, medication use and diseases, we hope to identify unique components of the microbial community to target for therapeutics and interventions that could promote healthy aging,” said Ruchi Mathur, MD, the study’s principal investigator.

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Research exploring the gut microbiome, and its impact on health, has relied predominantly on fecal samples, which do not represent the entire gut, according to Mathur. In their study, investigators from Cedars-Sinai’s Medically Associated Science and Technology (MAST) Program analyzed samples from the small intestine–which is over 20 feet in length and has the surface area of a tennis court–for examination of the microbiome and its relationship with aging.

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Food freshness fallacies – Tufts

Although cookout and picnic season is ending, with warm weather and the loosening of some social distancing restrictions, many of us are venturing outside…and taking our food with us. In addition to measures to keep yourself safe from viral infection, don’t forget to take simple steps to reduce risk of food borne illness. Clearing up some common misconceptions about outdoor food safety may help.

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MYTH #1: The last meal I ate is to blame.

Symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and stomach cramps can actually begin anywhere from a few hours to several days after eating contaminated food. Symptoms of infection with Salmonella bacteria, for example, can strike one to three days after infection, while E. coli illness might not show up for eight days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in every six Americans suffers from food poisoning in a given year. While some people experience minor symptoms, there are over 125,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually from food borne illnesses. Older adults, young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems or preexisting conditions are at higher risk.

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Weekend funnies …

Sometimes it is a laughing matter …

Tony

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Strength training can burn fat, too, myth-busting study finds

A new systematic review and meta-analysis shows we can lose around 1.4 per cent of our entire body fat through strength training alone, which is similar to how much we might lose through cardio or aerobics.

It’s basic exercise knowledge that to gain muscles, you strength train, and to lose fat, you do cardio — right?

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Not necessarily, a new University of New South Wales (UNSW) study published this week in Sports Medicine suggests.

In fact, the study — a systematic review and meta-analysis that reviewed and analyzed existing evidence — shows we can lose around 1.4 per cent of our entire body fat through strength training alone, which is similar to how much we might lose through cardio or aerobics.

“A lot of people think that if you want to lose weight, you need to go out and run,” says senior author of the study Dr Mandy Hagstrom, exercise physiologist and senior lecturer at UNSW Medicine & Health.

“But our findings show that even when strength training is done on its own, it still causes a favorable loss of body fat without having to consciously diet or go running.”

Up until now, the link between strength training and fat loss has been unclear. Studies have investigated this link in the past, but their sample sizes tend to be small — a side effect of not many people wanting to volunteer to exercise for months on end. Smaller sample sizes can make it difficult to find statistically significant results, especially as many bodies can respond differently to exercise programs.

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Exercise may reduce sleep apnea and improve brain health

Exercise is truly the gift that keeps on giving, according to this latest study from the American Heart Association

Exercise may help reduce symptoms of a common sleep disorder and improve brain function, a small study finds.

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Exercise training could be a useful supplemental treatment for people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, the research showed. The condition is characterized by loud snoring and disrupted breathing and can raise the risk for heart disease, stroke and cognitive decline. It is typically treated with continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, a machine that pushes air through a mask into the airway to keep it open while a person sleeps.

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Healthy diet and activity changes improved tough to treat high blood pressure – AHA

People with treatment-resistant hypertension successfully reduced their blood pressure by adopting the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, losing weight and improving their aerobic fitness by participating in a structured diet and exercise program at a certified cardiac rehabilitation facility, according to new research published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.

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Uncontrolled high blood pressure (130/80 mm Hg or higher) despite the use of three or more medications of different classes including a diuretic to reduce blood pressure is a condition known as resistant hypertension. Although estimates vary, resistant hypertension likely affects about 5% of the general global population and may affect 20% to 30% of adults with high blood pressure. Resistant hypertension is also associated with end-organ damage and a 50% greater risk of adverse cardiovascular events, including stroke, heart attack and death.

Diet and exercise are well-established treatments for high blood pressure. In June 2021, the American Heart Association advised that physical activity is the optimal first treatment choice for adults with mild to moderately elevated blood pressure and blood cholesterol who otherwise have low heart disease risk.

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