Study: A Social Circle is Key to Protecting the Aging Mind

KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE as you age, because they may be the key to keeping your brain healthy, according to a new study.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, found mice housed in groups had better memory and healthier brains than those living in pairs. The findings influence “a body of research in humans and animals that supports the role of social connections in preserving the mind and improving quality of life,” according to lead author Elizabeth Kirby.

The study used mice that were 15 months to 18 months old during the experiment – a time of significant memory decay. Some of the mice lived in pairs, while others were housed in groups of seven for three months. The first test required the mice to recognize that a toy, such as a plastic car, had been moved to a new location.

Full story at US News

Nonprofit Meal Delivery Groups: Not Just About Food Anymore

THE CONCEPT IS SIMPLE: a healthy meal delivered to your door at little or no cost. It’s a lifesaver for about a million older adults in the U.S. who are unable to buy groceries and cook for themselves because they are homebound, sick or struggling financially.

But meal delivery service, typically provided by nonprofit groups, is evolving to include far more than dinner. “We’re not just here to deliver food. We’re here to help people live longer, healthier, more independent lives,” says Elaine Clark, CEO of Meals On Wheels Diablo Region in Walnut Creek, California.

Full story at US News Health

Dodging Dementia: More Of Us Get At Least A Dozen Good, Happy Years After 65

You’ve turned 65 and exited middle age. What are the chances you’ll develop cognitive impairment or dementia in the years ahead?

New research about “cognitive life expectancy” — how long older adults live with good versus declining brain health — shows that after age 65 men and women spend more than a dozen years in good cognitive health, on average. And, over the past decade, that time span has been expanding.

By contrast, cognitive challenges arise in a more compressed time frame in later life, with mild cognitive impairment (problems with memory, decision-making or thinking skills) lasting about four years, on average, and dementia (Alzheimer’s disease or other related conditions) occurring over 1½ to two years.

Full story at Kaiser Health News

Unseen face of the opioid epidemic: drug abuse among the elderly grows

The face of the nation’s opioid epidemic increasingly is gray and wrinkled.

But that face often is overlooked in a crisis that frequently focuses on the young.

Consider this: While opioid abuse declined in younger groups between 2002 and 2014, even sharply among those 18 to 25 years old, the epidemic almost doubled among Americans over age 50, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Because of information like that, the Senate Special Committee on Aging convened a hearing Wednesday on opioid misuse by the elderly.

Full story at The Washington Post

Natural antioxidant bilirubin may improve cardiovascular health

Bilirubin, a yellow-orange pigment, is formed after the breakdown of red blood cells and is eliminated by the liver. It’s not only a sign of a bruise, it may provide cardiovascular benefits, according to a large-scale epidemiology study.

A recent analysis of health data from almost 100,000 veterans, both with and without HIV infection, found that within normal ranges, higher levels of bilirubin in the blood were associated with lower rates of heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

The results are published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Several studies have suggested that bilirubin may have beneficial effects, by acting as an antioxidant or interfering with atherosclerosis. The data from the veterans adds to this evidence, and specifically looks at people living with HIV and at an anti-HIV drug, atazanavir, known to elevate bilirubin. The researchers did not see an independent effect of atazanavir on cardiovascular risk.

Full story at Science Daily

Link between IBD and Parkinson’s might allow doctors to slow down condition

Doctors may be able to modify or slow down the progress of the neurological condition Parkinson’s disease in the future by spotting signs of it in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), suggest a study published in the journal Gut.

Danish researchers found patients with IBD appeared to have a 22% greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease in a study that monitored participants for almost 40 years.

IBD, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic conditions with onset in young adulthood.

It has already been suggested in previous studies that inflammation plays a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy.

Full story at Science Daily

Link between tuberculosis and Parkinson’s disease discovered

The mechanism our immune cells use to clear bacterial infections like tuberculosis (TB) might also be implicated in Parkinson’s disease, according to a new collaborative study led by the Francis Crick Institute, Newcastle University and GSK.

The findings, which will be published in The EMBO Journal, provide a possible explanation of the cause of Parkinson’s disease and suggest that drugs designed to treat Parkinson’s might work for TB too.

Parkinson’s protein

The most common genetic mutation in Parkinson’s disease patients is in a gene called LRRK2, which makes the LRRK2 protein overactive.

Full story at Science Daily

Study: Street-level air pollution increases health risk among elderly

A new study published today in the journal Environmental Health shows that differences in traffic-related air pollution are associated with higher rates of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease in the elderly. Scientists from Environmental Defense Fund and Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Division of Research combined data from the nonprofit’s block-by-block study of air pollution in Oakland, CA, with 6 years of electronic health records from more than 40,000 local residents to evaluate the impacts of air quality between neighbors, people who live on the same street or within a few blocks of each other at an unprecedented resolution.

Specifically, the study shows that 3.9 parts per billion higher NO2 concentrations are associated with a 16 percent increased risk of diagnosed heart attacks, surgery or death from heart disease among the elderly and 0.36 microgram per meter cube higher black carbon concentrations are associated with a 15 percent increased risk of having a cardiac event and/or dying from coronary heart disease among the same population.

The effect estimates of street-level neighborhood differences in long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution on cardiovascular events in the general population of adults, were consistent with results found in previous studies, though not statistically significant. The associations among the elderly add to a growing body of evidence indicating higher susceptibility to air pollution.

Full story at edf.org

Reaching Out to Baby Boomers on National Hepatitis Testing Day

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can lead to a chronic infection and damage to the liver. Chronic hepatitis C infection is curable in most cases, but many people living with hepatitis C do not know they are infected and are not accessing treatment that can prevent disease progression and liver damage, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.

According to the CDC, approximately 75 percent of all people who are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus in the United States are baby boomers who were born between 1945 and 1965. This age group also experiences one of the highest death rates from the virus. As these individuals grow older and live longer with undiagnosed hepatitis C virus infection, they are increasingly likely to develop severe liver disease and liver cancer.

May 19, National Hepatitis Testing Day, offers an opportunity to reach new groups, to raise awareness of hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and to encourage more individuals to learn their status. The CDC recommends that all adults born between 1945 and 1965 receive one-time testing for the hepatitis C virus. By testing and diagnosing all baby boomers with chronic hepatitis C virus, we can care for and cure many, averting at least 120,000 deaths, according to one CDC estimate.

Full story at acl.gov

Artificial Intelligence improves stroke and dementia diagnosis in most common brain scan

Machine learning has detected one of the commonest causes of dementia and stroke, in the most widely used form of brain scan (CT), more accurately than current methods.

New software, created by scientists at Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh, has been able to identify and measure the severity of small vessel disease, one of the commonest causes of stroke and dementia. The study, published in Radiology, took place at Charing Cross Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

Researchers say that this technology can help clinicians to administer the best treatment to patients more quickly in emergency settings — and predict a person’s likelihood of developing dementia. The development may also pave the way for more personalised medicine.

Full story at Science Daily