All Posts tagged healthcare news

Depression Could Lead to Dementia

Depression Could Lead to Dementia

Next time you’re feeling sad, try to cheer up. Otherwise, you might be increasing your risk of cognitive decline.

A new study has found that those who suffer from depression are more likely to develop dementia as they age.

A study looked at the mental health of 1,764 participants over an average of 7.8 years. The 52.2% of participants that had developed mild cognitive impairment were more likely to show signs of depression.

“Studies have shown that people with symptoms of depression are more likely to develop dementia, but we haven’t known how the relationship works,” said Dr. Robert Wilson, a neuropsychiatrist. “Is the depression a consequence of the dementia? Do both problems develop from the same underlying problems in the brain? Or does the relationship of depression with dementia have nothing to do with dementia-related pathology?”

Scientists do know that depression symptoms began to decrease once dementia was diagnosed in a patient. Wilson attributes this to a decline in brain function, and suggests that prescribing antidepressants may help enhance mental function among those suffering from dementia.



Suffering From Back Pain? Don’t Take Acetaminophen!

Suffering From Back Pain? Don’t Take Acetaminophen!

A new study shows that acetaminophen, the drug contained in the painkiller Tylenol, has no real effect on lower back pain in certain people.

Currently, acetaminophen is a popular treatment for back pain because of the low risk of side effects as well as its effectiveness against other kinds of pain.

The study focused on over 1,600 people in Australia who were suffering from acute lower back pain. These participants were separated into three groups – those who took acetaminophen three times a day, those who took acetaminophen only as needed, and those who took placebo tablets.

It actually took longer for patients taking acetaminophen to feel better – a full 17 days compared to the 16 day healing process for the placebo.

Additionally, acetaminophen did not improve the quality of life, sleep quality, or level of disability of the participants involved.

“Most people would have thought (acetaminophen) would have some effect, so this was a surprise,” said Bart Koes of Erasmus MC University Center in the Netherlands.

However, doctors are careful to warn the public that their medical recommendations have not changed.

“This is the first study of its kind, so it’s tough to make a decision based on just one study,” said Dr. Michael Mizhiritsky, a physical rehabilitation specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York who was not involved in the study.

“If patients do make the decision to take [acetaminophen] for their back pain, they might be advised to monitor closely if they indeed experience sufficient pain relief,” said Bart Koes and Dr. Wendy Enthoven, of Erasmus University Medical Center in Netherlands in an editorial that accompanied the study. “If not, they could decide to stop taking analgesics [painkillers] or try an NSAID.”

Additional methods for preventing lower back pain involve heat packs, spinal manipulation from a physiotherapist, acupuncture, and exercise. Bed rest can actually be detrimental, so it is important to stay as active as possible.


New Blood Test Detects Onset of Alzheimer’s

New Blood Test Detects Onset of Alzheimer’s

Scientists have successfully identified a series of 10 proteins found in the blood that could ultimately predict the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Eventually, such a test might be used to help find a cure for the currently untreatable disease.

The study, which was conducted by British scientists over a year-long period, predicted whether or not participants would develop Alzheimer’s with 87 percent accuracy.

They began by looking at blood samples from 1,100 participants divided into three categories: 476 who already had Alzheimer’s, 220 with mild cognitive impairment, and 452 without dementia. Initially, they were looking for 26 proteins that had been linked to Alzheimer’s in the past, but narrowed down their search after further analysis.

Scientists say this test is crucial because it would allow them to begin clinical trials earlier in the disease’s progression. Between 2002 and 2012, 99.6 percent of clinical trials geared towards preventing or reversing the effects of the disease were a failure.

“Alzheimer’s begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed (and) many of our drug trials fail because by the time patients are given the drugs the brain has already been too severely affected,” said Simon Lovestone of Oxford University, one of the study’s authors.

“A simple blood test could help us identify patients at a much earlier stage to take part in new trials and hopefully develop treatments which could prevent the progression of the disease,” he continued.

The next step in the process is to repeat the findings on a several group of people. If all goes according to plan, the blood test could be available for use in the next two years and would cost around 100-300 British pounds.

Until the test is more verifiable, scientists have doubts about using it on the general public as a diagnosis tool.

“Alzheimer’s disease is now the most feared diagnosis,” said Dr. Eric Karran, science director at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “We have to be very careful about how we use these tests, especially in the absence of effective therapy.”

“These 10 proteins can predict conversion to dementia with less than 90% accuracy, meaning one in 10 people would get an incorrect result,” said Dr. James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society. “Therefore, accuracy would need to be improved before it could be a useful diagnostic test.”


Daily Dose of Aspirin May Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Daily Dose of Aspirin May Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk

New research suggests that regular aspirin use may reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by half.

The study, which was published by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health, focused on 30 hospitals from across Connecticut between 2005 and 2009. Scientists used 362 pancreatic cancer patients as well as 690 controls.

Each participant took a low-dose of aspirin, between 75 to 325 milligrams, on a daily basis. The results showed that the earlier a person started taking aspirin regularly, the greater their risk for pancreatic cancer was reduced.

Those who had taken the medicine for six years or less had a 39 percent reduced risk of developing the disease. Those who had taken it for more than 10 years had a 60 percent lower risk.

“The thought that there’s something that could lower the risk of someone getting pancreatic cancer is remarkable and exciting to me as a physician who has patients who have gotten — and died from — pancreatic cancer,” said CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. “There’s very little we can do for most people that get pancreatic cancer.”

Currently, pancreatic cancer has a five year survival rate of only five percent, and claims 40,000 Americans each year. Having a new way of preventing the disease is crucial, since early detection is unlikely to make much difference in lifespan.

However, research on using aspirin as a preventative measure against cancer is still in the early stages. For now, doctors warn that the side effects of taking aspirin, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, are not worth the risk.

“Aspirin is not a risk-free substance,” said Dr. Harvey Risch, a professor of epidemiology who led the research. “If people are already using low-dose aspirin for cardiovascular disease prevention, they can feel good that most likely it’s lowering their risk for pancreatic cancer.”

Scientists are hopeful that aspirin can offer a new route not only for cancer prevention, but for cancer treatment.



Woman Records Herself Mid-Stroke

Woman Records Herself Mid-Stroke

Have you ever wondered what a stroke looks like?

Wonder no more, because 49-year-old Stacey Yepes of Canada started filming herself when she felt a stroke happening.

Yepes had gone to the hospital two days prior after feeling numbness in her face and having trouble speaking. But her symptoms quickly subsided, and doctors assumed that stress was causing her symptoms when a test for stroke came up negative.

“It’s true that I hadn’t slept well the last few days and that I have a stressful job,” Yepes said. “But I was pretty sure that the symptoms that I had experienced were due to a stroke.”

She was driving when she began to feel the numbness on the left side of her body once again. Instead of just attributing it to stress and driving on, she had the idea to film her condition.

“It was just to show somebody,” she said. “And I thought if I could show somebody what was happening, they would have a better understanding.”

In the video, the left side of her face is drooping and her speech is slow and slurred. She attempts to use her left hand to touch her nose and visibly fails.

“In all my years treating stroke patients, we’ve never seen anyone tape themselves before,” said Dr. Cheryl Jaigobin, stroke neurologist at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre of Toronto Western Hospital. “We were all touched by it.”

After returning to the hospital and showing doctors the video, it was determined that she had suffered three mini-strokes, also known as transient ischemic attacks, that had been caused by atherosclerosis. Yetes is currently undergoing treatment for diagnosis and is expected to fully recover.


6,000 Steps a Day Keeps Knee Arthritis Away

6,000 Steps a Day Keeps Knee Arthritis Away

Walking a minimum of 6,000 steps a day may be the key to stopping knee arthritis and preventing disability.

Knee arthritis generally makes it hard for the elderly to get around, as every movement becomes painful. However, a new study shows the more walking a person does, the less risk there is of developing functional difficulties.

The study followed 1,800 adults who were at risk for knee arthritis or who already had it. A pedometer was used to track the number of steps each participant took each week. Two years later, scientists took a look to see if the participants were suffering from any side effects of arthritis.

The results showed that for every 1,000 steps taken, functional limitations were reduced by 16 to 18 percent. Walking was found to build muscle strength, increase flexibility, and reduce arthritic pain.

“This study just adds to the vast amount of research and common sense that tells us we need to get off our fannies and out the door,” said Samantha Heller, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Since walking 6,000 steps may be difficult for those suffering the effects of arthritis, study author Daniel White says that even walking 3,000 steps still showed signs of decreasing functional limitations.

Most people walk an average of 100 steps per minute, so walking 6,000 steps equates to roughly an hour of walking each day. 3,000 steps would only be a half hour.

“What I explain to [my patients] is the less one moves, the weaker the muscles get, and the less stable the joints are, increasing inflammation and pain,” said Heller. “Sitting around also increases the risk of weight gain, which can adversely affect joints.”

Currently, 27 million Americans over the age of 25 have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, which limits movement for 80 percent of patients.

Walking “is free and you already know how to do it,” said Heller. “With a good pair of athletic shoes and appropriate attire, you can walk just about any time of year.”

She suggests that those suffering from arthritis invest in a pedometer or cellphone app to track their footsteps each day and make sure they are hitting their target amount.


Learning a Second Language Keeps the Mind Healthy

Learning a Second Language Keeps the Mind Healthy

Speaking more than one language has been show to stave off cognitive decline as people age, according to a new study.

Researchers had known from previous studies that bilinguals got dementia four to five years later than monolinguals. However, the new study shows that it is the action of learning a new language that keep the brain active, rather than some inherent intelligence factor which makes people more likely to learn a second language.

“The big problem we didn’t know how to address was reverse causality,” said study author Dr. Thomas H. Bak of the University of Edinburgh Center for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology. “That is a very difficult question to address, and we needed a very special population to do it.”

The study used data collected in 1947 from 853 Scottish participants who were 11 years old. These same participants were then tested again in 2008 and 2010 when they had reached their seventies. By that time, 262 had become bilingual, with 195 learning their second language before age 18 and 65 learning their language during adulthood.

Results showed that the bilinguals performed better on cognitive tests than monolinguals with respect to their baseline results, even if they had not scored better on the previous tests. They scored higher on reading, verbal fluency, and general intelligence than the monolinguals.

It also did not matter if the bilinguals had learned the language during their youth or in adulthood.

“Millions of people around the world acquire their second language later in life,” Bak said. “Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the aging brain.”

The data also indicated that the brain benefits increased when participants learned third, fourth, or fifth languages.

“I don’t think there’s anything magic about learning languages,” Bak continued. “Both mental and physical activity throughout the life are protective, and learning language is a very good form of brain training.”

Bak does not recommend that people push themselves to learn a second language just to keep dementia at bay. However, he does admit that learning a language can be beneficial for those who choose to do so.


Melatonin Found to Reverse Osteoporosis

Melatonin Found to Reverse Osteoporosis

New research suggests that the sleep hormone melatonin may play an essential role in the prevention of osteoporosis.

Scientists from McGill University, led by Faleh Tamimi, studied the effects of melatonin on elderly mice. The results showed that the supplement could actually make bones stronger over a period of time.

Photo by James Heilman, MD

Photo by James Heilman, MD

Osteoporosis occurs as an unfortunate part of the aging process. The cells in the body which are responsible for bone breakdown or resorption, known as osteoclasts, are nocturnal.

“As we age, we sleep less well, which means that the osteoclasts are more active,” said Tamimi. “This tends to speed up the process of bone breakdown.”

The lost sleep that comes naturally with getting older, however, is preventable with a melatonin supplement, which led Tamini to believe that melatonin could be used as a treatment for osteoporosis.

“We already know that melatonin plays a role in regulating our circadian rhythms and can potentially help us to sleep better,” Tamimi said. “So we suspected that giving a melatonin supplement to elderly rats would slow down the process of bone breakdown and that is exactly what we found.”

The study involved 20 22-month old male rats (the age equivalent of a 60 year-old human) who were tested at the University of Madrid. They were given melatonin supplements diluted in water for a period of 10 weeks (the equivalent of six human years).

Bone density and strength tests showed that the rats’ bones were stronger when compared to those of the control group. Both the volume and flexibility were also increased.

In a final test, the scientists broke the femur of the rats, and found that it took much more force to break the bones of ones who had taken melatonin.

The next step in the research is to try and determine whether or not melatonin prevents reductions in bone density or actually repairs damage that has already occurred.

“Until there is more research as well as clinical trials to determine how exactly the melatonin is working, we can’t recommend that people with osteoporosis go ahead and simply take melatonin supplements,” said Tamimi.

In the meantime Tamini has applied for more funding to continue the research in the hopes of finding a reasonable cure for the disease.


Pennsylvania Seniors Rank in Middle for Health

Pennsylvania Seniors Rank in Middle for Health

The state of Pennsylvania ranked 22nd in a new report that calculates the health of seniors across the nation.

Released by America’s Health Rankings, the report offers a comprehensive analysis of the senior population using a total of 34 different measures of senior health. These measures include behaviors, community and environmental influences, policy, clinical care, and outcomes.

This ranking is a drop from 2013, when Pennsylvania was ranked 17th in the country. The top five states for 2014 include Minnesota, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. The least healthy state in the country for seniors is Mississippi.

Several factors contributed to Pennsylvania’s decline in the rankings. One major area which saw an increase was physical inactivity. In 2013, 32.4 percent of adults over 65 were physically inactive, which was ranked as 27th in the country. This increased to 35.3 percent in 2014, which dropped the ranking all the way to 45th.

Another problem was the high rate of obesity. A solid 29.3 percent of seniors, or 592,000 people, in Pennsylvania are obese. This also ranks as 45th among the other states.

A bright note was the increase of home health workers per 1000 seniors. In 2013, there were only 98.5 workers, but in 2014 this increased to 105.5, which was ranked 17th in the nation. The top state in this category, Alaska, had 299.6 workers.

While the report might be frustrating, it is meant to provide some awareness of the issues that seniors are facing. According to a statement by America’s Health Rankings, the Senior Report “is intended to promote widespread awareness of where states stand on important public health measures and will drive action towards activities shown to improve population health.”

To see the entire Pennsylvania report and the rest of the results, click here.


Antidepressants May Be Key to Stopping Alzheimer’s

Antidepressants May Be Key to Stopping Alzheimer’s

Taking a certain antidepressant may be a way to prevent or stop the spread of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have found that taking the drug citalopram, also known by brand name Celexa, may slow the production of the brain protein that has been linked to Alzheimer’s. These amyloid beta proteins build up over time, forming plaques that start causing memory issues after 10 to 15 years.

“This is not the great new hope. This is a small step,” said Dr. Yvette Sheline of the University of Pennsylvania, who is leading the research with Dr. John Cirrito of Washington University in St. Louis.

Amyloid beta proteins are produced by normal brain activity, but their levels increase at an abnormal rate in Alzheimer’s patients. Unfortunately, scientists aren’t even certain exactly how the amyloid beta proteins cause the disease – only that there is a link.

“The way the Alzheimer’s field is going is [we are] trying to find the initial insult in Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Cirrito. “We think it is the build-up of this amyloid beta peptide, and once it builds up, a lot of things go wrong.”

Scientists previously determined that serotonin seems to reduce the amount of amyloid beta production. Therefore, they came to the conclusion that a type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might have a positive effect against Alzheimer’s.

The researchers first gave the drug to older mice with Alzheimer’s, and found that the plaque areas did not go away, but did stop growing. Additionally, fewer new plaques formed compared to mice given a placebo.

When tested in 23 healthy young adults who were not depressed and did not have brain plaques, citalopram was found to have dropped their normal amyloid beta production by an average of 37 percent.

“The SSRIs in this study were all given to healthy young people not at risk for Alzheimer’s,” Cirrito said. “We don’t know if the same thing will happen in people older, and not at risk for Alzheimer’s, and have no idea if it affects cognition,” Cirrito said.

The next step in the research is to determine exactly how SSRIs work to lower amyloid beta levels in the brain, as well as how the drug affects different human populations.

“On the human side, we’re doing a similar study to what we just completed but in people [who are] older and at risk for Alzheimer’s, to see if we can affect a-beta in those people or not,” Cirrito said. “If not, then the utility of this for people with Alzheimer’s would go down dramatically.”