Strategies to preserve brain health – AHA

Primary care clinics can play an important role in preserving patients’ brain health using the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 as a guide, as well as addressing six other factors associated with cognitive decline, according to a new American Stroke Association/American Heart Association Scientific Statement, “A Primary Care Agenda for Brain Health.  

The statement was published in the Association’s journal Stroke. Led by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, it has been endorsed by the American Academy of Neurology as an educational tool for neurologists.

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Preserving brain health in an aging population is a growing concern in the United States. An estimated one in five Americans 65 years and older has mild cognitive impairment, and one in seven has dementia. By 2050, the number of Americans with dementia is expected to triple, the statement authors note.

“Primary care is the right home for practice-based efforts to prevent or postpone cognitive decline. Primary care professionals are most likely to identify and monitor risk factors early and throughout the lifespan,” said the chair of the scientific statement writing group, Ronald M. Lazar, Ph.D., the Evelyn F. McKnight Endowed Chair for Learning and Memory in Aging and director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the UAB School of Medicine. “Prevention doesn’t start in older age; it exists along the health care continuum from pediatrics to adulthood. The evidence in this statement demonstrates that early attention to these factors improves later life outcomes.” 

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Experts on fermented foods rise in popularity

The increasingly trendy trio of kefir, kimchi and kombucha may not be familiar to you, but experts say fermented foods like these can help the home of most of your immune system – your gut.

How and why some (not all) fermented foods work is an unraveling mystery that goes back to hunter-gatherer humans. Today, nutrition scientists say to look beyond “probiotic” and “prebiotic” labels to select the right fermented foods for you.

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Don’t fall for the “best superfoods” lists that rank fermented foods highly, warned the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) in January in a consensus statement published in Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology. The science is still mixed on the specific nutritional benefits, and the organization calls for more randomized controlled trials to bear out some of the promising effects researchers have seen in labs.

These tips from experts can help sort what’s hype and what’s the real thing. First, a primer.

What is a -biotic anyway?

Your gut is home to trillions of microorganisms. While an antibiotic medicine stunts or destroys microorganisms, a prebiotic is non-digestible fiber that feeds good bacteria.

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Primary care doctors can help preserve brain health – AHA

Primary care doctors can play an important role in helping to preserve brain health by encouraging healthy behaviors and addressing risk factors associated with cognitive decline, according to a new scientific report.

The American Heart Association statement published in the journal Stroke outlines seven lifestyle targets and six risk factors for brain health that primary care doctors should address in adults of all ages. The statement also has been endorsed by the American Academy of Neurology as an educational tool for neurologists.

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As the nation ages, preserving brain health has become a growing concern. Mild cognitive impairment affects an estimated 1 in 5 Americans age 65 and older; 1 in 7 has dementia – a number expected to triple by 2050.

“Primary care is the right home for practice-based efforts to prevent or postpone cognitive decline,” Ronald Lazar, chair of the scientific statement writing group, said in a news release. Lazar directs the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Prevention doesn’t start in older age; it exists along the health care continuum from pediatrics to adulthood,” he said. “The evidence in this statement demonstrates that early attention to these factors improves later life outcomes.”

The statement asks primary care doctors to integrate brain health into their treatment of adults guided by the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7, a collection of lifestyle targets shown to help achieve ideal heart and brain health. These include managing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels; increasing physical activity; eating a healthy diet; losing weight; and not smoking.

The statement also asks them to assess their patients’ risk factors for cognitive health, including depression, social isolation, excessive alcohol use, sleep disorders, lower education levels and hearing loss.

“Scientists are learning more about how to prevent cognitive decline before changes to the brain have begun,” Lazar, a professor of neurology and neurobiology, said. “We have compiled the latest research and found Life’s Simple 7 plus other factors like sleep, mental health and education are a more comprehensive lifestyle strategy that optimizes brain health in addition to cardiovascular health.”

Dr. Deborah Levine, one of the statement’s co-authors, said it is never too soon to target risk factors for ideal heart and brain health. It’s also never too late.

“For example, lower blood pressure levels reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in older adults,” she said. “In adults of all ages, the metrics in Life’s Simple 7 prevent stroke, and stroke increases the risk of dementia by more than twofold.”

Additional risk factors can help physicians identify which patients may need special attention, said Levine, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.

For example, “Primary care doctors can help their patients reduce dementia risk by identifying and aggressively treating vascular risk factors like high blood pressure. Black and Hispanic individuals, women and individuals with lower educational levels appear at higher risk for dementia, so these high-risk groups are a top priority,” Levine said.

According to the statement, recent research shows high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking in adulthood and midlife increase the odds of cognitive decline in middle age. And they accelerate cognitive decline in older age.

“Many people think of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and other risk factors as affecting only heart health, yet these very same risk factors affect our brain health,” Lazar said. “Patients might be more likely to pay attention to the importance of addressing modifiable risk factors if they understood the links.”

The statement defines brain health using the term cognition, which includes memory, thinking, reasoning, communication and problem-solving.

Together, these functions enable people to navigate the everyday world, according to the report. The ability to think, solve problems, remember, perceive and communicate are crucial to successful living; their loss can lead to helplessness and dependency.

“Studies have shown that these domains are impacted by factors that are within our control to change,” Lazar said. “Prevention and mitigation are important, because once people have impaired cognition, the current treatment options are very limited.”

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How oral health may affect your heart, brain and risk of death

Dental cavities could significantly increase the risk of a life-threatening stroke from bleeding in the brain, according to new research.

Past studies have shown a link between gum infection and stroke, but few studies have looked into what role dental cavities might play. In the new study, researchers looked specifically at cavities and intracerebral stroke, which occur when an artery in the brain bursts and floods surrounding tissue with blood.

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Researchers looked at data from 6,506 people without stroke, and then followed them for 30 years. For the first 15 years, those who developed cavities had a slightly higher risk for stroke from brain bleed, but their risk shot up dramatically in the next 15 years.

In the second half of the study period, people with cavities had 4.5 times higher risk of a stroke from brain bleed than those without cavities, after adjusting for age, gender, race and high blood pressure.

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‘Aging well’ greatly affected by hopes and fears for later life – Study

If you believe you are capable of becoming the healthy, engaged person you want to be in old age, you are much more likely to experience that outcome, a recent Oregon State University study shows.

“How we think about who we’re going to be in old age is very predictive of exactly how we will be,” said Shelbie Turner, a doctoral student in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and co-author on the study.

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Previous studies on aging have found that how people thought about themselves at age 50 predicted a wide range of future health outcomes up to 40 years later — cardiovascular events, memory, balance, will to live, hospitalizations; even mortality.

“Previous research has shown that people who have positive views of aging at 50 live 7.5 years longer, on average, than people who don’t,” said Karen Hooker, co-author of the study and the Jo Anne Leonard Petersen Endowed Chair in Gerontology and Family Studies at OSU.

Because self-perceptions of aging are linked to so many major health outcomes, Hooker and Turner wanted to understand what influences those perceptions. Their study looked specifically at the influence of two factors: self-efficacy associated with possible selves, meaning a person’s perceived ability to become the person they want to be in the future; and optimism as a general personality trait.

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Eggs with Cracked Shells: Still Safe to Eat? – Tufts

Q: If there is a crack in the shell of an egg, is it still OK to use?

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Lynne Ausman, DSc, RD, director of the Master of Nutrition Science and Policy program at Tufts’ Friedman School, answers:

A:“Bacteria associated with food-borne illness (food poisoning), including Salmonella, can enter eggs through cracks in the shells. In a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, eggs with large cracks in the shells were more likely to contain Salmonella compared to eggs without cracks or only hairline cracks (viewed with the help of light in a process called candling). So, check eggs before purchasing to avoid buying those with obviously cracked shells.

“If eggs crack while transporting them home from the store, the USDA advises breaking any cracked eggs into a clean container. Tightly cover the container and refrigerate it, using the eggs within two days. If eggs crack during hard boiling, they are still safe to consume.

“Keep in mind that even non-cracked eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella. The USDA says the number of eggs affected is quite small but cautions us to always handle eggs safely. That includes only buying refrigerated eggs, putting eggs in the refrigerator as soon as you get home from the store (bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature) and cooking eggs thoroughly, until both the white and yolk are firm.” For more information on egg safety, visit fsis.usda.gov, and search on “shell eggs from farm to table.”

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Weekend funnies …

Tony

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Stroke risk higher than expected among COVID-19 patients

New research found patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had a higher risk of stroke, compared with patients who had similar infectious conditions such as influenza and sepsis in prior studies. Those who had an ischemic stroke were more likely to be older, male, Black race, or have high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) compared with other COVID-19 patients, according to late-breaking science presented today at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2021. The meeting was held virtually, March 17-19, 2021 and is a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health.

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For this analysis, researchers accessed the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease Registry to investigate stroke risk among patients hospitalized for COVID-19, their demographic characteristics, medical histories and in-hospital survival. The COVID-19 Registry data pulled for this study included more than 20,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the U.S. between January and November 2020.

“These findings suggest that COVID-19 may increase the risk for stroke, though the exact mechanism for this is still unknown,” said lead study author Saate S. Shakil, M.D., a cardiology fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle. “As the pandemic continues, we are finding that coronavirus is not just a respiratory illness, but a vascular disease that can affect many organ systems.”

Two hundred eighty-one people (1.4%) in the COVID-19 CVD Registry had a stroke confirmed by diagnostic imaging during hospitalization. Of these, 148 patients (52.7%) experienced ischemic stroke; 7 patients (2.5%) had transient ischemic attack (TIA); and 127 patients (45.2%) experienced a bleeding stroke or unspecified type of stroke.

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Beyond genes and environment, random variations play important role in longevity

A new model of aging takes into account not only genetics and environmental exposures but also the tiny changes that randomly arise at the cellular level.

University Professor Caleb Finch introduced the “Tripartite Phenotype of Aging” as a new conceptual model that addresses why lifespan varies so much, even among human identical twins who share the same genes. Only about 10 to 35 percent of longevity can be traced to genes inherited from our parents, Finch mentioned.

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Finch authored the paper introducing the model with one of his former graduate students, Amin Haghani, who received his PhD in the Biology of Aging from the USC Leonard Davis School in 2020 and is now a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA. In the article, they propose that the limited heritability of aging patterns and longevity in humans is an outcome of gene-environment interactions, together with stochastic, or chance, variations in the body’s cells. These random changes can include cellular changes that happen during development, molecular damage that occurs later in life, and more.

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High emotional intelligence ‘can help to identify fake news’ – Study

People with high levels of emotional intelligence are less likely to be susceptible to ‘fake news’, according to research at the University of Strathclyde.

The study invited participants to read a series of news items on social media and to ascertain whether they were real or fictitious, briefly describing the reasons for their answers. They were also asked to complete a test to determine their levels of emotional intelligence (EQ or emotional quotient) and were asked a number of questions when considering the veracity of each news item.

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Researchers found that those who identified the types of news correctly were most likely to score highly in the EQ tests. There was a similar correlation between correct identification and educational attainment.

The study, by researchers in Strathclyde’s School of Psychological Sciences & Health and School of Government & Public Policy, has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Dr Tony Anderson, Senior Teaching Fellow in Psychology at Strathclyde and partner in the research, said: “Fake news on social media is now a matter of considerable public and governmental concern. Research on dealing with this issue is still in its infancy but recent studies have started to focus on the psychological factors which might make some individuals less susceptible to fake news.

“Previous research has shown that people can be trained to enhance their own EQ levels. This should help them to discern with a greater degree of accuracy which news is reliable and which is misleading.”

Participants were presented with real and fabricated news stories on issues including health, crime, wealth inequality and the environment. Fictitious items featured aspects including emotive language, brief information and a lack of attributed sources.

Comments from people who incorrectly believed fabricated stories were real included: “I have personal experience of this”; “My kids are in this position so I completely get this”; “The graph shows it all” and “The commenter on the post has the same thoughts as me.” Those who correctly identified fictitious stories made comments including: “There is emotive/condescending language in the blurb”; “Fearmongering article with no data”; “The source is not an official scientific or governmental source” and “Comes across as more of a rant.”

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Stronger brain activity after writing on paper than on tablet or smartphone – Study

Isn’t it interesting to learn that the disruptor technologies that we have come to rely on aren’t always better than that which they replaced?

A study of Japanese university students and recent graduates has revealed that writing on physical paper can lead to more brain activity when remembering the information an hour later. Researchers say that the unique, complex, spatial and tactile information associated with writing by hand on physical paper is likely what leads to improved memory.

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“Actually, paper is more advanced and useful compared to electronic documents because paper contains more one-of-a-kind information for stronger memory recall,” said Professor Kuniyoshi L. Sakai, a neuroscientist at the University of Tokyo and corresponding author of the research recently published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. The research was completed with collaborators from the NTT Data Institute of Management Consulting.

Contrary to the popular belief that digital tools increase efficiency, volunteers who used paper completed the note-taking task about 25% faster than those who used digital tablets or smartphones.

Although volunteers wrote by hand both with pen and paper or stylus and digital tablet, researchers say paper notebooks contain more complex spatial information than digital paper. Physical paper allows for tangible permanence, irregular strokes, and uneven shape, like folded corners. In contrast, digital paper is uniform, has no fixed position when scrolling, and disappears when you close the app.

“Our take-home message is to use paper notebooks for information we need to learn or memorize,” said Sakai.

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Besides vision, dry eye disease negatively affects physical and mental health – Study

Patients suffering from dry eye disease symptoms have a lower quality of life compared to those without symptoms, a new study reports. The findings showed that patients with the condition reported negative effects on visual function, their ability to carry out daily activities and their work productivity.

Dry eye disease is a common condition and a frequent reason for patients to seek medical care. It can affect people of any age but is most prevalent in women and in older people. Symptoms include irritation and redness in the eyes, blurred vision, and a sensation of grittiness or a foreign body in the eye. It has been reported that up to a third of adults over 65 years old have the condition, although the actual number is likely to be higher as there is no established diagnostic test and people with mild symptoms are less likely to report them to their doctor.

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Treatment often involves prescriptions of artificial tears, ocular lubricants and astringents, which come at a cost to the NHS; in 2014, 6.4 million items were prescribed at a cost of over £27 million.

This new study, led by the University of Southampton, set out to explore how dry eye disease affects the lives of adults in the UK through an online survey of one thousand patients with the condition and further one thousand without. Participants undertook a questionnaire from the National Eye Institute about their visual function and a EuroQol questionnaire on health-related quality of life. Those who declared that they experienced dry eye disease also answered further questions to assess the severity of their symptoms.

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Eating for a Healthy Colon – Rush

Just as diet can have a positive or negative impact on heart, brain and bone health, your colon’s overall health can be affected by what you eat.

The colon is a crucial part of the digestive system, and many different conditions can cause it to work improperly. Some of these include inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s diseasediverticular diseaseirritable bowel syndrome; and colorectal cancer, according to Rush University Medical Center.

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Treatment for these conditions includes diet and lifestyle modifications, medications and/or surgery.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most serious colon diseases. Risk factors for colon cancer include age (risk increases over age 50); race (Blacks have the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the U.S.); family history; previous polyps; inflammatory bowel disease; smoking; physical inactivity; and heavy alcohol use.

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Weekend funnies …

Here’s hoping you had a safe and sober St. Patrick’s Day celebration. I am writing this from my home in Chicago where St. Patrick’s Day has no sober celebrations.

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CBD reduces plaque, improves cognition in model of familial Alzheimer’s

Because of the dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease that have affected my family on both sides, I remain acutely aware of developments in addressing cognition in the aging population. So, this study reported in Science Daily resonated with me.

A two-week course of high doses of CBD helps restore the function of two proteins key to reducing the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and improves cognition in an experimental model of early onset familial Alzheimer’s, investigators report.

The proteins TREM2 and IL-33 are important to the ability of the brain’s immune cells to literally consume dead cells and other debris like the beta-amyloid plaque that piles up in patients’ brains, and levels of both are decreased in Alzheimer’s.

The investigators report for the first time that CBD normalizes levels and function, improving cognition as it also reduces levels of the immune protein IL-6, which is associated with the high inflammation levels found in Alzheimer’s, says Dr. Babak Baban, immunologist and associate dean for research in the Dental College of Georgia and the study’s corresponding author.

There is a dire need for novel therapies to improve outcomes for patients with this condition, which is considered one of the fastest-growing health threats in the United States, DCG and Medical College of Georgia investigators write in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Key tips to a healthy lifestyle

One picture us worth a thousand words. In this case, I think the infographic counts for even more. I hope this is all old news to you and you are living it fully. As an 81 year old I can tell you that I am certainly glad to have adopted my healthy lifestyle for the past 10 years. It’s never too late. The body is an organic machine which means there is constant regeneration going on. Use it to your advantage.

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