Category Archives: Uncategorized
Sugar-sweetened beverages linked with increased risk of premature death for people with type 2 diabetes
High consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) was associated with an elevated risk of premature death and incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) among people with type 2 diabetes, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Drinking beverages like coffee, tea, low-fat cow’s milk, and plain water was associated with lower risk of dying prematurely.
The study looked specifically at consumption of different beverages among patients with type 2 diabetes. While many prior studies have linked beverage consumption and health outcomes such as cardiometabolic health, weight change, and mortality, those studies have primarily been among the general population.
Simple test may predict cognitive impairment long before symptoms appear
In people with no thinking and memory problems, a simple test may predict the risk of developing cognitive impairment years later, according to a study published in the April 19, 2023, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“There is increasing evidence that some people with no thinking and memory problems may actually have very subtle signs of early cognitive impairment,” said study author Ellen Grober, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. “In our study, a sensitive and simple memory test predicted the risk of developing cognitive impairment in people who were otherwise considered to have normal cognition.”
The study involved 969 people with an average age of 69 with no thinking or memory problems at the start of the study. They were given a simple memory test and were followed for up to 10 years.
The test includes two phases. For the study phase, people are shown four cards, each with drawings of four items. They are asked to identify the item belonging to a particular category. For example, participants would name the item “grapes” after being asked to identify a “fruit.” For the test phase, participants are first asked to recall the items. This measures their ability to retrieve information. Then, for items they did not remember, they are given category cues. This phase measures memory storage.
What You Need to Know for May – National Skin Cancer Awareness Month
I thought it would be worthwhile to remind you about the dangers of skin cancer.
May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Makes sense. We should be coming into some sunny days right now. (Unless you live in Chicago as I do where we still have March temps).
In order to get through the coming sunny days herewith a list of links of items I have filed on skin cancer and sunburn since the blog began in 2010. This includes my own bout with skin cancer in 2012.
Looking at your face in the mirror, things that change in size, shape or color MAY be skin cancer.
Remember the words my dermatologist told me, “There’s no such thing as a healthy tan.”
Seasonal allergies: Nip them in the bud – Mayo Clinic
Spring means flower buds and blooming trees — and if you’re one of the millions of people who have seasonal allergies, it also means sneezing, congestion, a runny nose and other bothersome symptoms. Seasonal allergies — also called hay fever and allergic rhinitis — can make you miserable. But before you settle for plastic flowers and artificial turf, try these simple strategies to keep seasonal allergies under control.
Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers
To reduce your exposure to the things that trigger your allergy signs and symptoms (allergens):
- Stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
- Avoid lawn mowing, weed pulling and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.
- Remove clothes you’ve worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
- Don’t hang laundry outside — pollen can stick to sheets and towels.
- Wear a face mask if you do outside chores.
Take extra steps when pollen counts are high
Seasonal allergy signs and symptoms can flare up when there’s a lot of pollen in the air. These steps can help you reduce your exposure:
- Check your local TV or radio station, your local newspaper, or the internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels.
- If high pollen counts are forecast, start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start.
- Close doors and windows at night if possible or any other time when pollen counts are high.
- Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
Keep indoor air clean
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Doing Household Chores May Be Good for Your Brain
Mopping floors, cleaning stovetops, dusting, and vacuuming may seem like hard labor, but new evidence may have you thinking differently about housework. A study published in Neurology in 2022 found a link between doing ordinary household chores and a lower risk of dementia. The researchers collected data from more than half a million cognitively normal adults ages 40 to 69, including information about their physical activity (leisure time and housework both counted) and mental activity, such as social interactions. They followed the subjects for an average of 10 years and found that regular housework-related activities were associated with a 21 percent lower risk of developing dementia. (Social engagement and other types of exercise were also beneficial.)
“That’s a pretty significant reduction, on par with what we’ve seen from medical interventions to remove amyloid or reduce blood pressure,” says Sudha Seshadri, MD, FAAN, founding director of the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s & Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “I think the real takeaway from this study, as well as other research, is that we shouldn’t be prescribing a particular kind of exercise or activity, but that overall, not being sedentary is helpful in preventing dementia. Instead of seeing housework as drudgery, we can view things like doing the laundry and changing the sheets as doing something good for our health.”
“When you’re cleaning mirrors or windows or walking around the house with a vacuum, you’re exercising,” says Carolee J. Winstein, PhD, PT, professor of biokinesiology and physical therapy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “You’re moving around, you’re increasing your heart rate and getting your circulation going, and you’re getting out of breath. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also try to incorporate more structured forms of exercise into your day. Both are important. But if you didn’t have time to go to the gym today, but you vacuumed and mopped your floors, you’re still investing in yourself.”
Causal link between cognitive ability and obesity in doubt
The well-replicated associations between cognitive ability and body mass index (BMI) may largely reflect confounding by other factors related to family background, according to a new study published April 13thin the open access journal PLOS Medicine by Liam Wright of University College London, UK, and colleagues.
Obesity is a major contributor to the global disease burden and its prevalence is expected to continue rising. Existing studies have found links between cognitive ability and obesity, with a lower cognitive ability in childhood or adolescence associated with a higher BMI or higher rate of obesity in later adulthood.
In the new study, researchers used data on 12,250 siblings from 5,602 households followed from adolescence to age 62 as part of four separate United States youth population cohort studies. By comparing the association between cognitive ability and BMI within families, the team could account for unobserved factors related to family background.
When comparing unrelated individuals in the dataset, the researchers found that moving from the 25th to 75th percentile of adolescent cognitive ability was associated with an estimated 0.61 kg/m2 decrease in BMI (95% CI -0.90 to -0.33) when adjusted for family socioeconomic position. When comparing siblings, however, moving from the 25th to 75th percentile of adolescent cognitive ability was associated with only a 0.06 kg/m2 decrease in BMI (95% CI -0.35 to 0.23).
“The results suggest that existing findings on the link between cognitive ability and BMI are biased by shared family factors,” the authors say. “Given that associations between cognitive ability and other health outcomes have been found using similar observational research designs, sibling data may be useful for assessing potential bias for these health outcomes too.”
Wright adds, “Does higher cognitive ability (intelligence) help one to avoid gaining too much weight? Lots of studies have found an association between the two, but our study suggests that these links may not be causal in nature.”
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Good news! Only a modest reduction in added sugars consumption is needed to achieve the Healthy People 2030 target
Reducing caloric intake from added sugars is a Leading Health Indicator in Healthy People 2030, a national public health initiative led by the US Department of Health and Human Services that sets data-driven national objectives to improve health and well-being over the next decade. Although many Americans consume too much sugar, investigators found that only a modest reduction in added sugars intake is needed to reach a population mean of 11.5% of calories from added sugars by 2030. Prioritizing reducing added sugars intake among people not meeting recommendations could help those most at risk for chronic disease related to added sugars consumption. They report their findings in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“Diets high in added sugars are associated with adverse health outcomes such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” said Ellen W. Stowe, PhD, MPH, lead investigator and fellow, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Oak Ridge, TN, USA. “We wanted to study what kind of reduction in added sugars intake was needed to achieve this Healthy People 2030 target.”
Although the consumption of added sugars has declined in the United States, many Americans still consume too much. The average added sugar consumption of persons two years and older in 2013–2016 was 13.5% of total calories. Less than half the population — only about 35% of children aged two to 19 years and 47% of adults 20 years and older — met the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommendation of less than 10%.
Whether physical exertion feels ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ may be due to dopamine levels
Dopamine, a brain chemical long associated with pleasure, motivation and reward-seeking, also appears to play an important role in why exercise and other physical efforts feel “easy” to some people and exhausting to others, according to results of a study of people with Parkinson’s disease led by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers. Parkinson’s disease is marked by a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain over time.
The findings, published online April 1 in NPG Parkinson’s Disease, could, the researchers say, eventually lead to more effective ways to help people establish and stick with exercise regimens, new treatments for fatigue associated with depression and many other conditions, and a better understanding of Parkinson’s disease.
Indigenous populations and brain-aging
Among Indigenous, rural non-industrial populations inhabiting the tropical forests of lowland Bolivia, researchers report, there appears to be an optimal balance between levels of food consumption and exercise that maximizes healthy brain aging and reduces the risk of disease.
“We hypothesize that energy gain from food intake was positively associated with late life brain health in the physically active, food-limited world of our ancestors, but that obesity and other manifestations of a Western lifestyle now lead to greater cognitive aging and dementia in middle and older ages,” said UC Santa Barbara professor of anthropology Michael Gurven, a senior co-author on a study that published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For this paper, the researchers collaborated with the Tsimané and Mosetén tribes, two Indigenous populations that live along tributaries of the Amazon River that flow through lowland Bolivia. In comparison to urban post-industrialized populations, these groups have less reliable access to food and have to exert a lot of effort to get it. They also have less access to modern health care. Meanwhile, people in wealthy countries have largely grown accustomed to eating more and exercising less — habits that are associated with decreased brain volumes and faster cognitive decline.
Untangling the mystery of sleep
Sleep is one of the most essential human activities — so essential, in fact, that if we don’t get enough sleep for even one night, we may struggle to think, react, and otherwise make it through the day. Yet, despite its importance for function and survival, scientists still don’t fully understand how sleep works.
Enter Dragana Rogulja, a neurobiologist on a quest to unravel the basic biology of sleep.
As a self-described latecomer to science, Rogulja found herself drawn to questions she considers “broadly interesting and easy to understand on a basic human level.”
One of these questions…What happens when we sleep?
For Rogulja, an associate professor of neurobiology in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School, an intriguing aspect of sleep is the loss of consciousness and awareness it brings, as the outside world disappears and the inner world takes over.
In a conversation with Harvard Medicine News, Rogulja delved into the details of her sleep research, which uses fruit flies and mice to explore why we need to sleep and how we disconnect from the world during sleep.
Harvard Medicine News: What are you studying in the context of sleep?
Rogulja: There are two main questions that my lab has been pursuing for the past several years. The first is why sleep is necessary for survival. Why is it that if you don’t sleep, you will literally die after not too long? The other question is how your brain disconnects from the environment when you fall asleep. How are stimuli prevented from reaching your brain during sleep? Elevating the threshold for sensory arousal is essential for sleep, and we want to understand how that barrier is built around the brain. Sleep is one unified state, but it seems to have multiple components that are regulated through separate mechanisms. We want to understand those mechanisms.
Can alcohol-associated burn injuries impair cognitive function?
The relationship between alcohol use and burn injuries is a negative one in multiple ways. Not only are about 50% of adults who sustain burn injuries intoxicated at the time of injury, suggesting that alcohol use may have contributed to the incident, but alcohol use among burn-injured patients is associated with more severe complications, delayed recovery, and increased morbidity and mortality.
“Return to work or normal life can be impaired or delayed for burn-injured patients who use alcohol,” says Elizabeth Kovacs, PhD, vice chair of research and professor of GI, trauma, and endocrine surgery in the University of Colorado Department of Surgery. “Every organ of the body is affected by alcohol because it enters your bloodstream. If you look at the data on alcohol use and injury recovery, it affects everything from the cardiovascular system to the lungs, liver, and pancreas, and even fracture repair.”
That’s primarily because alcohol in the body alters inflammatory responses, she says, making it harder for the immune system to do its job.
“The immune system kills a germ by eating it, like a Pac-Man, and alcohol impairs the ability of that cell to eat the germ,” Kovacs says. “If you get a bacterial infection and your body can’t destroy it, then you’re going to have more bacteria, and things will only get worse.”
Table tennis brain teaser: Playing against robots makes our brains work harder
Captain of her high school tennis team and a four-year veteran of varsity tennis in college, Amanda Studnicki had been training for this moment for years.
All she had to do now was think small. Like ping pong small.
For weeks, Studnicki, a graduate student at the University of Florida, served and rallied against dozens of players on a table tennis court. Her opponents sported a science-fiction visage, a cap of electrodes streaming off their heads into a backpack as they played against either Studnicki or a ball-serving machine. That cyborg look was vital to Studnicki’s goal: to understand how our brains react to the intense demands of a high-speed sport like table tennis – and what difference a machine opponent makes.
Frivolous Friday …
Here’s hoping you got through Income Tax day with no ill effect$.
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Sense of smell linked to speed of brain loss and cognitive decline – NIA
Having a good sense of smell is associated with slower loss of brain volume and cognitive decline in older adults, and the link between sense of smell and brain and cognitive changes may be especially pronounced among those who develop cognitive impairment or dementia. These are the key findings from NIA-led research published recently in Neurology.
The sense of smell declines with age, and loss of olfactory function is also an early symptom of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. While previous research found the sense of smell was associated with brain volume and function, no studies had examined longitudinal changes within an individual across the whole brain and by cognitive status.
In this study, scientists analyzed sense of smell, brain imaging, and cognitive performance data from participants in the NIA Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The researchers examined whether sense of smell, as reflected by odor identification scores, was associated with longitudinal changes in regional brain volumes and changes to cognitive function. To examine the association between sense of smell and brain volume, they compared odor identification scores and brain MRI scans from a subset of 567 participants. The association between sense of smell and cognitive function was analyzed by comparing odor identification scores and cognitive evaluations from a subset of 754 participants. The subsets were analyzed separately but included 565 overlapping participants with both brain MRI scans and cognitive assessment data.
Participants who developed cognitive impairment or dementia had worse odor identification scores than those who did not. Better odor identification scores were associated with slower loss of brain volume, particularly in the frontal and temporal regions — areas important for thinking and memory. Better scores were also associated with slower decline in memory, attention, processing speed, and sensorimotor integration skills over time. However, when data points after a diagnosis of cognitive impairment or dementia were excluded from analysis, the associations between sense of smell with brain volume and cognitive functioning were not as strong.
These study findings add to evidence that sense of smell is related to cognitive impairment and dementia and demonstrate longitudinal relationships with brain volume loss in specific brain areas and cognitive decline in specific domains. Future studies with longer follow-ups of change over time may help researchers better understand the potential for using sense of smell as an early biomarker of cognitive decline and the role of specific brain regions in this association.
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