‘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

How Exercise Can Help in Peripheral Artery Disease

IT’S SOMETIMES CALLED “window-shopper’s disease.” As walking brings on leg cramps and pain, people with peripheral artery disease must frequently stop for breaks. When they rest, pain subsides. When they resume walking, PAD pain kicks back in.

PAD is common among older adults. About one in every 20 Americans over age 50 has PAD, with up to 12 million people affected overall, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

People may mistakenly believe painful walking is part of normal aging. However, PAD is linked to higher risks of cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks or strokes. PAD shouldn’t be suffered stoically or in silence. If you have symptoms, you need a medical evaluation.

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

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

Look to Your Aunts, Uncles and Parents for Clues to Your Longevity

Your chances of inheriting genes linked to longevity are highest if you come from a family with many long-lived members, researchers say.

And that includes aunts and uncles, not just parents.

Using databases at the University of Utah and in the Dutch province of Zeeland, investigators analyzed the genealogies of nearly 315,000 people from over 20,000 families dating back to 1740.

“We observed . . . the more long-lived relatives you have, the lower your hazard of dying at any point in life,” said study lead author Niels van den Berg. He is a doctoral student in molecular epidemiology at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Full story at US News

The course of back pain over time

Back pain is among the most frequently reported health problems in the world. New research published in Arthritis Care & Research, an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals, examines patterns in back pain over time and identifies the patient characteristics and the extent of healthcare and medication use (including opioids) associated with different patterns.

The study included a representative sample of the Canadian population that was followed from 1994 to 2011. A total of 12,782 participants were interviewed every two years and provided data on factors including comorbidities, pain, disability, opioid and other medication use, and healthcare visits.

During the 16 years of follow-up, almost half (45.6 percent) of participants reported back pain at least once. There were four trajectories of pain among these participants: persistent (18 percent), developing (28.1 percent), recovery (20.5 percent), and occasional (33.4 percent).

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