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

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

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

Preventing Senior Isolation: Can You Actually Adopt a Senior?

A recent article in The Washington Post focused on the millions of Chinese citizens living alone. There was a particular emphasis on one: Han Zicheng. He literally wanted to be adopted.

Han posted note in a bus shelter. According to the Post, the headline read: “Looking for someone to adopt me.” The text that followed said: “Lonely old man in his 80s. Strong-bodied. Can shop, cook and take care of himself. No chronic illness. I retired from a scientific research institute in Tianjin, with a monthly pension of 6,000 RMB [$950] a month.”

A woman saw the note and posted it on social media, and Han received extensive media coverage. Unfortunately, he died March 17 – his death mostly unnoticed, his adoption just a dream.

Full story at US Health News

Fall prevention gets harder when elderly leave hospital

More efforts are needed to prevent falls among the elderly, especially those just discharged from the hospital, Australian researchers say.

Older adults have a greater risk of falling to begin with. But this risk heightens considerably within the first six months of a hospital release, authors note in Age and Ageing.

More than half of those who do fall during this period suffer serious injury, such as hip fractures, they say.

Exercise interventions, vitamin supplementation and patient education about high-risk scenarios are known to reduce the risk of falling for elderly people in general. But in a new review of previous research, the Australian team found that these strategies were not as effective in older people following hospital discharge.

Full story at Reuters

Imaging may allow safe tPA treatment of patients with unwitnessed strokes

A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators may lead to a significant expansion in the number of stroke patients who can safely be treated with intravenous tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), the “clot busting” drug that has greatly reduced stroke-related disability and deaths in eligible patients. The report, published online in Annals of Neurology, describes the results of a trial using MR-based imaging technologies to identify patients likely to be within 4.5 hours of stroke onset, even though their initial symptoms had not been witnessed.

“In up to 25 percent of stroke patients, the start of their symptoms is unwitnessed, preventing them from receiving tPA,” says Lee Schwamm, MD, executive vice chair of the MGH Department of Neurology and director of the MGH Comprehensive Stroke Center, co-lead and corresponding author of the paper. “For many of these patients, the first time anything is noticed is when they get up from sleeping. Our study showed — for the first time — that tPA could be given safely to patients with stroke of unwitnessed onset if their imaging suggested the stroke was very early in its progression and they met other treatment criteria. These results pave the way for a large randomized trial of tPA in patients with unwitnessed strokes.”

Full story at Science Daily

New ‘brain health index’ can predict how well patients will do after stroke

A new computer programme developed by scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow can assess whole brain deterioration and help predict cognitive function after stroke up to ten times more accurately than current methods.

The new approach, published today in the International Journal of Stroke, can quantify visible brain injury from cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) and brain atrophy by translating the million plus bits of information stored in brain scans into a single measure, the “brain health index.”

SVD features and brain tissue atrophy both increase with age, are often present together, and are risk factors for stroke and dementia.

Full story at Science Daily

Dementia trend shows later onset with fewer years of the disease

The diagnosis is one that a family never wants to hear: Your father has Alzheimer’s disease. Your mother has stroke-related dementia.

A recently released study, included in a special supplement to the Journal of Gerontology, indicates that dementia’s impact might be compressing a bit. That is, people might be developing dementia later and living with it for a shorter period of time.

Sudha Seshadri, M.D., professor of neurology and founding director of the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s & Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, is the senior author on the study, which draws evidence from the Framingham Heart Study.

Full story at Science Daily

Out-of-pocket expenses for chronic heart disease care inflict heavy financial burdens for low-income families; even those with insurance

Cumulative out-of-pocket expenses for the treatment of chronic heart disease led to significant financial burdens for low-income families, even for those with health insurance, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2018, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in quality of care and outcomes research in cardiovascular disease and stroke for researchers, healthcare professionals and policymakers.

The study focused on the effect of out-of-pocket health expenses for treating atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease on low-income families, defined as those with an income below 200 percent of the federal poverty limit. During the study period (2006-2015), that ranged from $20,000 to $24,250 per year for a family of four.

Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is a group of conditions caused by atherosclerosis — a build-up of plaque that can harden and narrow the arteries and consequently result in a heart attack, stroke or death. It’s the leading cause of death, a major cause of disability and a major source of healthcare costs. The researchers defined high and catastrophic health expenses as out-of-pocket expenses of more than 20 percent and more than 40 percent of family income, respectively.

Full story at Science Daily

Organoids created from patients’ bladder cancers could guide treatment

Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and NewYork-Presbyterian researchers have created patient-specific bladder cancer organoids that mimic many of the characteristics of actual tumors. The use of organoids, tiny 3-D spheres derived from a patient’s own tumor, may be useful in the future to guide treatment of patients.

The study was published today in the online edition of Cell.

In precision medicine, molecular profiling of an individual patient’s tumor is used to identify genetic mutations that drive that individual’s cancer. That knowledge may help physicians select the best drug to fight the cancer, but the analysis does not always predict how a patient will respond to specific therapies.

Full story at Science Daily