Social isolation puts elderly at health risk

One in five elderly adults is socially isolated from family or friends, increasing their risks for poor mental and physical health, as well as higher rates of mortality, according to a University of Michigan study.

U-M researchers investigated several factors impacting social isolation from family and friends within a national sample of more than 1,300 older African-Americans, black Caribbeans and whites. Study participants were aged 55 and older during the data collection from 2001 to 2003.

Overall, most elderly were connected to both family and friends (77 percent), while 11 percent were isolated from friends only and 7 percent were isolated from family members only. Of concern, however, were the 5 percent of elderly who were socially isolated from both family and friends, which may place them at risk for physical and mental health problems, the researchers say.

Full story at Medical Xpress

Eye could provide ‘window to the brain’ after stroke

Research into curious bright spots in the eyes on stroke patients’ brain images could one day alter the way these individuals are assessed and treated. A team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health found that a chemical routinely given to stroke patients undergoing brain scans can leak into their eyes, highlighting those areas and potentially providing insight into their strokes. The study was published in Neurology.

“We were kind of astounded by this — it’s a very unrecognized phenomenon,” said Richard Leigh, M.D., an assistant clinical investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the paper’s senior author. “It raises the question of whether there is something we can observe in the eye that would help clinicians evaluate the severity of a stroke and guide us on how best to help patients.”

Full story at Science Daily

Human Rights Watch Finds Nursing Homes Overmedicate Dementia Patients

Nursing homes in the U.S. are administering antipsychotic drugs to tens of thousands of elderly residents each week who do not have the diagnoses for which the drugs are prescribed and who are not giving their “free and informed consent,” according to a new Human Rights Watch report.

In a report released Monday titled, “They Want Docile,” the group states that some 179,000 residents of long-term nursing homes across the country are given antipsychotic drugs each week that are not appropriate for their condition. The report says the drugs are used for their sedating side effects, which make patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease easier to manage.

“People with dementia are often sedated to make life easier for overworked nursing home staff, and the government does little to protect vulnerable residents from such abuse,” Hannah Flamm, a New York University law school fellow at Human Rights Watch told The Guardian.

Full story at US News

Viruses that infect bacteria abound in bladder

Phages — viruses that infect bacteria — are abundant in the bacteria that inhabit the female bladder. This is good news, because phage could be used as alternative treatment when antibiotics become resistant to pathogenic bacteria. The research is reported this week in the Journal of Bacteriology, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Phage have been used as an alternative to antibiotics for decades in eastern European countries, particularly for treatment of urinary tract infections,” said corresponding author Catherine Putonti, PhD, Associate Professor of Bioinformatics, Loyola University, Chicago. “This first step in the characterization of the phages already present within the bladder has the potential to identify candidates for subsequent phage therapy clinical studies for urinary symptom treatment.”

The investigators examined 181 bacterial genomes taken from the female urinary microbiome, which Dr. Putonti said were representative of that microbiome’s phylogenetic diversity.

Full story at Science Daily

Commonalities in brains of people with Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease

A new study strongly suggests that the brains of people who have died of Huntington’s disease (HD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD) show a similar response to a lifetime of neurodegeneration, despite being two very distinct diseases.

The findings, which appear in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, found that most of the genes perturbed in brains from both diseases are related to the same immune response and inflammatory pathways. Inflammation in the central nervous system has recently been shown to play a role in a number of different neurodegenerative diseases, including HD and PD, but this is the first direct comparison of these two distinct diseases.

Brains of individuals who died with Huntington’s, Parkinson’s or no neurological condition were analyzed using sequencing technology that provides a data readout of the activity of all genes in the genome. By comparing the data from the different groups, the researchers identified which genes show differences in their activity. By organizing and interpreting these genes, the researchers found an overall pattern of commonality between the two diseases. According to the researchers, the hypothesis that the brain experiences a similar response to disparate neurodegenerative diseases has exciting clinical implications. “These findings suggest that a common therapy might be developed to help mitigate the effects of different neurodegenerative diseases of the central nervous system” explained corresponding author Adam Labadorf, PhD, Director of the BU Bioinformatics Hub.

Full story at Science Daily

Caffeine level in blood may help diagnose people with Parkinson’s disease

Testing the level of caffeine in the blood may provide a simple way to aid the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published in the January 3, 2018, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study found that people with Parkinson’s disease had significantly lower levels of caffeine in their blood than people without the disease, even if they consumed the same amount of caffeine.

“Previous studies have shown a link between caffeine and a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, but we haven’t known much about how caffeine metabolizes within the people with the disease,” said study author Shinji Saiki, MD, PhD, of Juntendo University School of Medicine in Tokyo, Japan.

Full story at Science Daily

Technology As an Aid in Healing: How Smart Devices Can Give Caregivers Peace of Mind

For families of stroke victims, dementia patients and even those recovering from surgery or in rehabilitation, there’s an ever-present fear that something will happen when you aren’t around. What if there’s an accident? What if they fall and can’t call for help? Fortunately, new smart home technology offered by your internet service provider allows families to keep an eye on their loved ones even when they may not be physically present, bringing priceless peace of mind. Here’s how.

1. Video cameras can help ensure safety during home health visits and exercises.

Joint replacement surgeries require regular physical therapy and exercises, much of which must be done at home on a regular basis. Limited mobility can raise concerns about falls, but a video camera placed in a living room or exercise room allows family members to check in during physical therapy routines and make sure their loved one hasn’t fallen or injured themselves.

Full story at US News

Dementia with Lewy bodies: Unique genetic profile identified

Dementia with Lewy bodies has a unique genetic profile, distinct from those of Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, according to the first large-scale genetic study of this common type of dementia.

The genome-wide association study, conducted by a UCL-led collaboration of 65 academics in 11 countries and funded by Alzheimer’s Society and the Lewy Body Society, is published in The Lancet Neurology.

“Dementia with Lewy bodies accounts for 10-15% of dementia cases, yet our understanding of it lags beyond the more well-known Alzheimer’s disease, partly because it’s commonly misdiagnosed. Our findings clarify the disease’s distinctive genetic signature, which should, in the future, help improve clinical trials, and lead to more targeted treatments,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Jose Bras (UCL Institute of Neurology and Alzheimer’s Society senior research fellow).

Full story at Science Daily

High-intensity exercise delays Parkinson’s progression

High-intensity exercise three times a week is safe for individuals with early-stage Parkinson’s disease and decreases worsening of motor symptoms, according to a new phase 2, multi-site trial led by Northwestern Medicine and University of Denver scientists.

This is the first time scientists have tested the effects of high-intensity exercise on patients with Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and the most common movement disorder, affecting more than a million people in the United States.

It previously had been thought high-intensity exercise was too physically stressful for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Full story at Science Daily

Population of Americans with Alzheimer’s will more than double by 2060

About 15 million Americans will have either Alzheimer’s dementia or mild cognitive impairment by 2060, up from approximately 6.08 million this year, according to a new study by researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

The findings highlight the need to develop measures that could slow the progression of the disease in people who have indications of neuropathological changes that could eventually lead to Alzheimer’s dementia, said Ron Brookmeyer, professor of biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the study’s lead author. The country’s population is aging and with it comes a growing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. The study is the first of its kind that has estimated the numbers of Americans with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.

Full story at Science Daily