‘Bugs’ in the gut might predict dementia in the brain

The makeup of bacteria and other microbes in the gut may have a direct association with dementia risk, according to preliminary research to be presented in Honolulu at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2019, a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science and treatment of cerebrovascular disease.

Researchers studying the population of bacteria and microbes in the intestines, known as gut microbiota, have found these “bugs” impact risks for diseases of the heart and more. Japanese researchers studied 128 (dementia and non-dementia) patients’ fecal samples and found differences in the components of gut microbiota in patients with the memory disorder suggesting that what’s in the gut influences dementia risk much like other risk factors.

The analysis revealed that fecal concentrations of ammonia, indole, skatole and phenol were higher in dementia patients compared to those without dementia. But levels of Bacteroides — organisms that normally live in the intestines and can be beneficial — were lower in dementia patients.

Full story at Science Daily

Addressing Prescription Drug Addiction in Older Adults

WHEN THINKING ABOUT prescription drug addiction, one might understandably and automatically picture a young adult. Those 18 to 25 years of age “are the biggest abusers of prescription … opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. However, research shows that there’s been a surge over the past decade in opioid misuse – which includes heroin as well as the powerful prescription pain narcotics like fentanyl fueling an overdose epidemic – in older adults.

In fact, between 2002 and 2014, opioid abuse nearly doubled in those 50 and older (from about 1 to 2 percent), while declining in younger age groups. And a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released in September found that, among people 65 and older, opioid-related emergency room visits were up 74 percent from 2010 to 2015 and opioid-related inpatient stays were up 34 percent. (That compares to a 17 percent decrease in non-opioid related hospital stays and ER visits.) In 2015, there were 124,300 opioid-related hospital admissions of patients 65 and up in the U.S. “So it’s a big problem,” says Dr. Arlene Bierman, director of AHRQ’s Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement, who was involved in the research and is the corresponding author on the report.

Full story at US News

Why Power of Attorney Can Be Key for Senior Health Care

IN THE VAST constellation of legal documents you could encounter over your lifetime, some are more critical than others. For older adults, a few legal instruments take on outsized importance, particularly in the context of ensuring adequate health care as we age. While some documents that older adults may need are focused on the financial side of your affairs, others concern how decisions will be made about your health care. The information that follows will focus on the documents related to health care that may come into play as you age.

As you navigate these legal waters for yourself or a loved one, some legal terms and documents you may encounter include:

  • Living will
  • Advance directive
  • Do not resuscitate order
  • Physician orders for life-sustaining treatment
  • Health care proxy
  • Power of attorney
  • Guardianship or conservatorship

Full story at US News

Targeting ‘hidden pocket’ for treatment of stroke and seizure

The ideal drug is one that only affects the exact cells and neurons it is designed to treat, without unwanted side effects. This concept is especially important when treating the delicate and complex human brain. Now, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have revealed a mechanism that could lead to this kind of long-sought specificity for treatments of strokes and seizures.

According to Professor Hiro Furukawa, the senior scientist who oversaw this work, “it really comes down to chemistry.”

When the human brain is injured, such as during a stroke, parts of the brain begin to acidify. This acidification leads to the rampant release of glutamate.

“We suddenly get more glutamate all over the place that hits the NMDA receptor and that causes the NMDA receptor to start firing quite a lot,” explains Furukawa.

Full story at Science Daily

Why Older Adults Should Eat More Protein (And Not Overdo Protein Shakes)

Older adults need to eat more protein-rich foods when losing weight, dealing with a chronic or acute illness, or facing a hospitalization, according to a growing consensus among scientists.

During these stressful periods, aging bodies process protein less efficiently and need more of it to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health and other essential physiological functions.

Even healthy seniors need more protein than when they were younger to help preserve muscle mass, experts suggest. Yet up to one-third of older adults don’t eat an adequate amount due to reduced appetite, dental issues, impaired taste, swallowing problems and limited financial resources. Combined with a tendency to become more sedentary, this puts them at risk of deteriorating muscles, compromised mobility, slower recovery from bouts of illness and the loss of independence.

Full story at Kaiser Health News

Following heart health guidelines also reduces diabetes risk

Lifestyle and health factors that are good for your heart can also prevent diabetes, according to a new study by researchers at The Ohio State University College of Medicine that published today in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

Diabetes is a growing problem in the United States, with nearly a third of the population living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Joshua J. Joseph, an endocrinologist and assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, wants to bring those numbers down. He studies various ways to prevent diabetes. His latest work looked at how cardiovascular health can impact diabetes risk.

“This research adds to our collective understanding about how physicians can help their patients prevent a number of serious diseases, including heart disease, cancer and now diabetes,” said Dr. K. Craig Kent, dean of the College of Medicine.

Full story at Science Daily

Sleep Patterns May Offer Clues to Alzheimer’s

Poor sleep is common among Alzheimer’s patients, and researchers say they’re beginning to understand why.

Scientists studied 119 people aged 60 and older. Eighty percent had no thinking or memory problems, while the rest had only mild problems.

The researchers found that participants with less slow-wave sleep — deep sleep that’s needed to preserve memories and to wake up feeling refreshed — had higher levels of the brain protein tau.

Elevated tau levels are a possible sign of Alzheimer’s disease and have been linked to brain damage and mental decline, the scientists said.

Full story at US News

Having more than one chronic disease amplifies costs of diseases

Having two or more non-communicable diseases (multimorbidity) costs the country more than the sum of those individual diseases would cost, according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine by Tony Blakely from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and colleagues.

Few studies have estimated disease-specific health system expenditure for many diseases simultaneously. In the new work, the researchers used nationally linked health data for all New Zealanders, including hospitalization, outpatient, pharmaceutical, laboratory and primary care from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2014. These data include 18.9 million person-years and $26.4 billion US in spending. The team calculated annual health expenditure per person and analyzed the association of this spending to whether a person had any of six non-communicable disease classes — cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal, neurological, and lung/liver/kidney (LLK) diseases — or a combination of any of those diseases.

59% of publically-funded health expenditures in New Zealand were attributable to non-communicable diseases. Nearly a quarter (23.8%) of this spending was attributable to the costs of having two or more diseases above and beyond what the diseases cost separately. Of the remaining spending, heart disease and stroke accounted for 18.7%, followed by musculoskeletal (16.2%), neurological (14.4%), cancer (14.1%), LLK disease (7.4%) and diabetes (5.5%). Expenditure was generally the highest in the year of diagnosis and the year of death.

Full story at Science Daily

Announcing the National Center on Advancing Person-Centered Practices and Systems

The Administration for Community Living and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announce the launch of the National Center on Advancing Person-Centered Practices and Systems (NCAPPS).

During the past 30 years, systems for people with disabilities and older adults with long-term service and support needs have generally shifted to embrace person-centered principles, premised on the belief that people should have the authority to define and pursue their own vision of a good life. Yet, the degree to which these systems have fully adopted person-centered practices varies, and many continue to grapple with how to effectively implement them.

The goal of NCAPPS is to promote systems change that makes person-centered principles not just an aspiration, but a reality in the lives of people who require services and supports across the lifespan. NCAPPS will assist states, tribes, and territories to transform their long-term care service and support systems to implement U.S. Department of Health and Human Services policy on person-centered thinking, planning, and practices. It will support a range of person-centered thinking, planning, and practices, regardless of funding source. Activities will include providing technical assistance to states, tribes, and territories; establishing communities of practice to promote best practices; hosting educational webinars; and creating a national clearinghouse of resources to support person-centered practice.

Full story at acl.gov

Turned down for federal disability payments, thousands die waiting for appeals to be heard

MILWAUKEE – It isn’t easy to be patient when you can’t work and you’re in pain, as Christine Morgan knows all too well.

Her chronic pain comes from fibromyalgia. Morgan, 60, also has spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces within the spine that pinches the nerves, most often in the lower back and neck. To top it off, she is diabetic, has kidney disease, high blood pressure and depression.

Yet Morgan has been turned down for Social Security Disability Insurance –  twice. “They sent me a letter that said I wasn’t disabled,” she said.

Full story at Science Daily