Managing children’s weight, blood pressure & cholesterol protects brain function mid-life

Highlights:

  • Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol and/or obesity from childhood through middle age were linked to poorer brain function by middle age.
  • These cardiovascular risk factors were linked with low memory, learning, visual processing, attention span, and reaction and movement time.
  • Strategies to prevent heart disease and stroke should begin in childhood to promote better brain health by middle age.

Managing weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in children may help protect brain function in later life, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation. This is the first study to highlight that cardiovascular risk factors accumulated from childhood through mid-life may influence poor cognitive performance at midlife.

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Previous research has indicated that nearly 1 in 5 people older than 60 have at least mild loss of brain function. Cognitive deficits are known to be linked with cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity and poor diet, as well as depression and low education level.

Many diseases that cause neurological deficits, such as Alzheimer’s, have a long preclinical phase before noticeable symptoms begin, so finding links between childhood obesity and other cardiovascular risk factors is important for cognitive health. The researchers noted that there are currently no cures for major causes of dementia, so it is important to learn how early in life cardiovascular risk factors may affect the brain.

“We can use these results to turn the focus of brain health from old age and midlife to people in younger age groups,” said the study’s first author Juuso O. Hakala, M.D., a Ph.D. student at the Research Centre of Applied and Prevention Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku, in Turku, Finland. ”Our results show active monitoring and prevention of heart disease and stroke risk factors, beginning from early childhood, can also matter greatly when it comes to brain health. Children who have adverse cardiovascular risk factors might benefit from early intervention and lifestyle modifications.”

The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study is a national, longitudinal study on cardiovascular risk from childhood to adulthood in Finland. Researchers followed the participants’ cardiovascular risk factor profiles for 31 years from childhood to adulthood. Baseline clinical examinations were conducted in 1980 on approximately 3,600 randomly selected boys and girls, ranging in ages from 3 to 18, all of whom were white. More than 2,000 of the participants, ranging in ages from 34 to 49, underwent a computerized cognitive function test in 2011. The test measured four different cognitive domains: episodic memory and associative learning; short-term working memory; reaction and movement time; and visual processing and sustained attention.

Researchers found:

  • Systolic blood pressure, total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, as well as body mass index, from childhood to midlife are associated with brain function in middle age.
  • Consistently high systolic blood pressure or high blood total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were linked to worse memory and learning by midlife when compared with lower measures.
  • Obesity from childhood to adulthood was associated with lower visual information processing speed and maintaining attention.
  • Having all three cardiovascular risk factors was linked to poorer memory and associative learning, worse visual processing, decreased attention span, and slower reaction and movement time.

These results are from observational findings, so more studies are needed to learn whether there are specific ages in childhood and/or adolescence when cardiovascular risk factors are particularly important to brain health in adulthood. Study limitations include that a definite cause-and-effect link between cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive performance cannot be determined in this type of population-based study; cognition was measured at a single point in time; and because all study participants are white, the results may not be generalizable to people from other racial or ethnic groups.

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Tony

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Boosting body heat production: A new approach for treating obesity

A receptor that helps conserve energy when food is scarce may be the key to a safer approach to treating diet-induced obesity, research led by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research has revealed.

In a study using experimental models and fat tissue biopsies from obese individuals, the team revealed that blocking a specific receptor of the molecule neuropeptide Y (NPY), which helps our body regulate its heat production, could increase fat metabolism and prevent weight gain.

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“The Y1 receptor acts as a ‘brake’ for heat generation in the body. In our study, we found that blocking this receptor in fat tissues transformed the ‘energy-storing’ fat into ‘energy-burning’ fat, which switched on heat production and reduced weight gain,” says Dr Yan-Chuan Shi, Leader of the Neuroendocrinology Group at Garvan and co-senior author of the paper published in Nature Communications.

“Most of the current medications used to treat obesity target the brain to suppress appetite and can have severe side effects that limit their use. Our study reveals an alternative approach that targets the fat tissues directly, which may potentially be a safer way to prevent and treat obesity.”

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Omega-3 fatty acids and the heart: New evidence, more questions – Harvard

My patients commonly ask me whether they should try one supplement or another. Often my answer is equivocal, because for most supplements we just don’t have enough evidence to give a definite answer. This doesn’t mean that a particular patient couldn’t benefit from a specific supplement; it just means I don’t have standardized research to guide my recommendations. Sadly, this remains true of omega-3 fatty acid supplements. The results of studies looking at omega-3 supplements have been inconsistent, and have left both physicians and patients wondering what to do, according to Alyson Kelley-Hedgepeth, MD.

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Omega-3 fatty acids show benefit in REDUCE-IT trial and win FDA approval

Two main omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found mainly in fish and fish oil. Omega-3s from fish and fish oil have been recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) for the past 20 years to reduce cardiovascular events, like heart attack or stroke, in people who already have cardiovascular disease (CVD). I have written about and been a strong advocate of getting omega-3s through diet, and sometimes through the use of supplements.

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BMI, Age Can Affect Risk For Neck Pain

With roughly 80% of jobs being sedentary, often requiring several hours of sitting stooped in front of a computer screen, neck pain is a growing occupational hazard. Smartphones and other devices have also caused people to bend their necks for prolonged periods. But is bad posture solely to blame?

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In a recent study, researchers at Texas A&M University have found that while poor neck and head postures are indeed the primary determinants of neck pain, body mass index, age and the time of the day also influence the neck’s ability to perform sustained or repeated movements.

“Neck pain is one of the leading and fastest-growing causes of disability in the world,” said Xudong Zhang, professor in the Wm Michael Barnes ’64 Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “Our study has pointed to a combination of work and personal factors that strongly influence the strength and endurance of the neck over time. More importantly, since these factors have been identified, they can then be modified so that the neck is in better health and pain is avoided or deterred.”

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The Joys and Benefits of Bike Riding – National Bicycle Month – May

This is my ‘better late than never’ post on National Bicycle Month.

One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100

There will be lots of celebrations of the bicycle in the coming three weeks because May is National Bicycle Month. As regular readers know, I ride more than 100 miles a week here in Chicago, all year ’round. So cycling is a labor of love for me.

I have tried to explain to myself first, as well as others, why I love to ride my bike. Until recently, the best I could come up with is that I feel like I am flying. Not soaring high, just flying along several feet above the bike path.

Riding on Northerly Island in Chicago Riding on Northerly Island in Chicago

I know that when I ride, I am at once totally in the moment of propelling the bike forward and at the same time I experience a very enjoyable feeling of expansion – an almost out of body sensation.

This has been wonderfully explained by former University of Chicago…

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Shift-work causes negative impacts on health, affects men and women differently

Back in the 1970’s I was transferred to the London bureau of Reuters News Service. I spent a year in London and learned many things, personal and professional. As the ‘new guy’ from the States, however, I was subject to shift work. As the news service runs round the clock, our bureau was staffed all 24 hours. It turned out to be very convenient to my superiors to slot me in to fill in for folks. So, in any week, I might work all three different shifts. I can honestly say that I have never felt so ‘messed up’ as I did when I was changing shifts.

Shift-work and irregular work schedules can cause several health-related issues and affect our defense against infection, according to new research from the University of Waterloo.

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These health-related issues occur because the body’s natural clock, called the circadian clock, can be disrupted by inconsistent changes in the sleep-wake schedule and feeding patterns often caused by shift work. To study this, researchers at Waterloo developed a mathematical model to look at how a disruption in the circadian clock affects the immune system in fighting off illness.

“Because our immune system is affected by the circadian clock, our ability to mount an immune response changes during the day,” said Anita Layton, professor of Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Pharmacy and Biology at Waterloo. “How likely are you to fight off an infection that occurs in the morning than midday? The answer depends on whether you are a man or a woman, and whether you are among quarter of the modern-day labour force that has an irregular work schedule.”

The researchers created new computational models, separately for men and women, which simulate the interplay between the circadian clock and the immune system. The model is composed of the core clock genes, their related proteins, and the regulatory mechanism of pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators. By adjusting the clock, the models can simulate male and female shift-workers. 

The results of these computer simulations conclude that the immune response varies with the time of infection. Model simulation suggests that the time before we go to bed is the “worst” time to get an infection. That is the period of the day when our body is least prepared to produce the pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators needed during an infection. Just as importantly, an individual’s sex impacts the severity of the infection.

“Shift-work likely affects men and women differently,” said Stéphanie Abo, a PhD candidate in Waterloo’s Department of Applied Mathematics. “Compared to females, the immune system in males is more prone to overactivation, which can increase their chances of sepsis following an ill-timed infection.”

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Why some of us are hungry all the time

New research shows that people who experience big dips in blood sugar levels, several hours after eating, end up feeling hungrier and consuming hundreds more calories during the day than others.

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A study published in Nature Metabolism, from PREDICT, the largest ongoing nutritional research program in the world that looks at responses to food in real life settings, the research team from King’s College London and health science company ZOE (including scientists from Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Nottingham, Leeds University, and Lund University in Sweden) found why some people struggle to lose weight, even on calorie-controlled diets, and highlight the importance of understanding personal metabolism when it comes to diet and health.

The research team collected detailed data about blood sugar responses and other markers of health from 1,070 people after eating standardized breakfasts and freely chosen meals over a two-week period, adding up to more than 8,000 breakfasts and 70,000 meals in total. The standard breakfasts were based on muffins containing the same amount of calories but varying in composition in terms of carbohydrates, protein, fat and fibre. Participants also carried out a fasting blood sugar response test (oral glucose tolerance test), to measure how well their body processes sugar.

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Weekend funnies …

Tony

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Yes, you can have more than 150 friends

An individual human can maintain stable social relationships with about 150 people. This is the proposition known as ‘Dunbar’s number’ — that the architecture of the human brain sets an upper limit on our social lives. A new study from Stockholm University indicates that a cognitive limit on human group sizes cannot be derived in this manner.

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Dunbar’s number is named after the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who proposed the theory in the 1990s. The number 150 is based on an extrapolation of the correlation between the relative size of the neocortex and group sizes in non-human primates. Some empirical studies have found support for this number, while other have reported other group sizes.

“The theoretical foundation of Dunbar’s number is shaky. Other primates’ brains do not handle information exactly as human brains do, and primate sociality is primarily explained by other factors than the brain, such as what they eat and who their predators are. Furthermore, humans have a large variation in the size of their social networks,” says Patrik Lindenfors, Associate Professor of Zoological Ecology at Stockholm University and the Institute for Futures Studies, and one of the authors of the study.

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Illnesses of controversial celebrities can negatively affect public health

Not all public figures are equally beloved, and sometimes when more controversial celebrities get sick, it may negatively affect people’s health intentions. In a study of people’s reactions to radio host Rush Limbaugh’s announcement of a lung cancer diagnosis and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s announcement of a diagnosis of COVID-19, researchers at Penn State found that those who took pleasure in their misfortune were themselves less likely to take steps to prevent lung cancer or COVID-19.

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“Schadenfreude is the emotion of feeling pleasure in another’s misfortune,” said Jessica Gall Myrick, associate professor of media studies. “In our study, after learning the news of a politician’s illness, if people felt schadenfreude, they were much less likely to intend to take the actions that would prevent either lung cancer or COVID-19.”

In general, previous research by Myrick has found that coverage of celebrity ailments can raise public awareness of serious illnesses, which can then serve as a motivation for people to avoid bad activities or start new healthy routines. But most studies on the topic examine how the public responds to well-liked celebrities. Respondents were not asked if they liked or disliked the person reporting the illness in the current study, but rather if they felt schadenfreude upon hearing the news of Limbaugh and Paul.

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Close heart risk monitoring needed if breast, prostate cancer treatment includes hormones – AHA

Statement Highlights:

  • Patients with breast and prostate cancers who are treated with hormonal therapies have an increased risk of heart attack and/or stroke as they age.
  • The increased likelihood of a heart attack or stroke is greater in patients who already have two or more cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking or a family history of heart disease or stroke.
  • The longer the duration of hormonal therapy, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Guideline-specific recommendations for reducing heart disease and stroke risk should be followed for patients undergoing breast or prostate cancer treatment, perhaps with earlier intervention compared to a patient who does not have cancer.

The hormonal therapies used to treat many breast and prostate cancers raise the risk of a heart attack and stroke, and patients should be monitored regularly and receive treatment to reduce risk and detect problems as they occur, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement, published today in the Association’s journal Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine.

“The statement provides data on the risks of each type of hormonal therapy so clinicians can use it as a guide to help manage cardiovascular risks during cancer treatment,” said Tochi M. Okwuosa, D.O., FAHA, chair of the scientific statement writing group, an associate professor of medicine and cardiology and director of Cardio-Oncology Services at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

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Espresso, latte or decaf? Genetic code drives your desire for coffee

Whether you hanker for a hard hit of caffeine or favour the frothiness of a milky cappuccino, your regular coffee order could be telling you more about your cardio health than you think.

In a world first study of 390,435 people, University of South Australia researchers found causal genetic evidence that cardio health – as reflected in blood pressure and heart rate – influences coffee consumption. 

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Conducted in partnership with the SAHMRI, the team found that people with high blood pressure, angina, and arrythmia were more likely to drink less coffee, decaffeinated coffee or avoid coffee altogether compared to those without such symptoms, and that this was based on genetics. 

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Pregnant women with COVID-19 face high mortality rate

In a worldwide study of 2,100 pregnant women, those who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy were 20 times more likely to die than those who did not contract the virus, according to the University of Washington (UW).

UW Medicine and University of Oxford doctors led this first-of-its-kind study, published today in JAMA Pediatrics. The investigation involved more than 100 researchers and pregnant women from 43 maternity hospitals in 18 low-, middle- and high-income nations; 220 of the women received care in the United States, 40 at UW Medicine. The research was conducted between April and August of 2020.  

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The study is unique because each woman affected by COVID-19 was compared with two uninfected pregnant women who gave birth during the same span in the same hospital.

Aside from an increased risk of death, women and their newborns were also more likely to experience preterm birth, preeclampsia and admission to the ICU and/or intubation. Of the mothers who tested positive for the disease, 11.5% of their babies also tested positive, the study found. 

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Amazon or Walmart.com?

I concede that this is slightly off topic, but I hoped it might interest you. I know it would interest me if I were to stumble across these ideas in my wanderings.

Before you start looking down your nose at this dichotomy, hear me out. More accurately, read on.

I love lobster bisque. Costco sells it and I recently run out. At Costco this morning, I asked at the desk for it, as I was unable to locate it on a shelf. The attendant told me that there was none and it was not coming back for a while as it was ‘a seasonal item.’ News to me. I like it year ’round, but, never mind.

I went home and checked out the web for a suitable substitute. I used to automatically go to Amazon and order from there, but I have found that sometimes when my item arrives, it is NOT from Amazon, but Walmart. Seems that some enterprising folks place ads on Amazon at marked up prices, then fulfill subsequent orders from Walmart. They pocket the difference.

So, when I found a suitable Lobster Bisque today on Amazon , I immediately went to the Walmart.com site to comparison shop.

What I found are below:

This is a screen grab of the listing on Amazon.
This is the listing at Walmart.com.

Guess which one I ordered.

I just wanted to pass that along to you because in a matter of a few seconds you can save yourself money. Ordering from Walmart is just as fluid as Amazon and delivery equally quick.

I would love to hear from you if you have any kind of similar shopping experiences.

Tony

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Weekend Funnies …

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe that the month of May is just around the corner. Time flies ….

One picture is worth a thousand words …

Tony

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