Old novels would send heroes and heroines (especially) to the country to recover from physical and/or mental maladies. Cliche or not, getting near at least some green is good for your health and longevity. Small studies have pointed at this over the years, but now a massive new 108,000-woman study, based on the Nurse’s Health Study, seriously quantifies this. In particular, the death rate of women living in the greenest areas was 12% lower than women living in the least green areas. Compared to women living in areas with less greenery, the researchers found that women in greener areas had:
- lower levels of depression
- 41% lower death rate for kidney disease
- 34% lower death rate for respiratory disease
- 13% lower death rate for cancer
The study results don’t say that you should immediately abandon city living and head for the country. But they do suggest that greater amounts of green in the immediate environs of your home will help your health.
Links to articles about the study and the study itself have been posted in both Aging and Health:
Living near nature linked to longer lives, says study
Being Surrounded By Greenery, Plant Life Linked To Lower Mortality Rates In Women
Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women
Additionally, here are links to some earlier articles and studies on the benefits of time spent in nature on physical and mental health:
Stanford researchers find mental health prescription: Nature
Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation
A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments
As if fighting cancer wasn’t bad enough, it appears that many chemotherapy treatments (as well the cancer itself or related conditions) interfere with memory and thinking. While not many direct treatments for chemobrain currently exist (a few drugs may be of help), there are a number of coping strategies to minimize the effects of chemobrain.
We’ve added new links pointing at four web articles about chemo brain generally, and about coping with it. The links have been added under Chemo Brain. The articles are:
Chemo brain [Mayo Clinic]
Chemobrain [MD Anderson Center]
Attention, Thinking, or Memory Problems
In seniors, a raised risk of hardening of the brain arteries, and hence possibly a raised risk of the chances of a stroke, can be signaled by poor sleep. A study examined the autopsied brains of 315 people, twenty-nine percent of whom had suffered a stroke, and 61 percent had moderate-to-severe damage to blood vessels in the brain.
All of the people studied had participated in at least a week of sleep quality assessment sometime before dying. Sleep was disrupted (called “sleep fragmentation” — repeated awakenings or arousals) an average of nearly seven times an hour among the study participants. Those with the highest levels of sleep fragmentation were 27% more likely to have hardening of the brain arteries.
Two articles about the study, as well as the study itself, are linked in: Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors:
Sleep disruptions in seniors tied to unhealthy brain changes
Fragmented sleep in older adults may lead to severe cerebral arteriolosclerosis
Sleep Fragmentation, Cerebral Arteriolosclerosis, and Brain Infarct Pathology in Community-Dwelling Older People
So far it’s only in mice, but a promising drug from a Salk Institute laboratory has shown the ability to not only reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s and memory loss, but to improve memory and other tests for cognition. In addition, older mice receiving the drug also displayed more robust motor movement, and based on gene expression monitoring, showed physiological aspects more similar to young mice, including increased energy metabolism, reduced brain inflammation and reduced levels of oxidized fatty acids in the brain. The laboratory hopes to being human trials next year.
Links to articles about the work, as well as the published study, have been posted in both Aging and Alzheimers > Treatment > Drugs:
Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug Shows Anti-Aging Effects
Experimental drug targeting Alzheimer’s disease shows anti-aging effects
A comprehensive multiomics approach toward understanding the relationship between aging and dementia
The incidence of dementia has been expected to substantially rise as the average life expectancy increased in high income countries. Surprisingly, two studies seem to contradict that expectation. One covering Europe shows that the rate of dementia there has stabilized, while the other study shows that the dementia rate in the US has been declining. Researchers have been unable to explain why this has been happening.
Links to articles on these studies, as well as the studies themselves, have been posted in Alzheimer’s > Epidemiology:
The article and research dealing with Europe are:
Dementia levels stabilizing in Western Europe
Dementia in western Europe: epidemiological evidence and implications for policy making
The article and research dealing with the US are:
Dementia rates decline in U.S., researchers unsure why
Incidence of Dementia over Three Decades in the Framingham Heart Study
Since Alzheimer’s attacks the brain, the major visible changes to a person descending into Alzheimer’s are changes in behavior. So it is certainly no surprise that in general, the people who can most knowledgeably speak to a person’s behavioral changes are that person’s family and friends. Because of this, the “AD8, A brief informant interview to detect dementia” was developed at Washington University for use in interviewing family and friends. It contains eight yes-no questions dealing with issues such as:
Less interest in hobbies/activities
Trouble handling complicated financial affairs (e.g., balancing checkbook, income taxes, paying bills)
Trouble remembering appointments
A pdf of the complete AD8 is available here; Permission to use the AD8 can be obtained here.
(It would seem that a combination of the AD8 with the UPSIT “scratch and sniff” test would make a moderately good inexpensive screening combination.)
These links to some articles on the AD8 have been posted in
Alzheimer’s > Diagnosis & Tests:
The AD8 and its Use as an Alzheimer’s Screening Test
Family, Friends Seem Best at Spotting Early Dementia
And these research publication links have also been posted in Alzheimer’s > Diagnosis & Tests. The first link is the original publication on the AD8, and the others are follow-ups:
The AD8: A brief informant interview to detect dementia
Relationship of dementia screening tests with biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease
The impact of dementia prevalence on the utility of the AD8
Reply: The impact of dementia prevalence on the utility of the AD8
It seems as if there are zillion competing diets out there, with articles and books recommending them, and many of them are contradictory in their recommendations. Amid all that tumult, publisher Annual Reviews approached respected Professor and practicing physician Dr. David Katz, known for his balanced views, to evaluate and compare the current major diet recommendations. Katz and his colleague wrote: “There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding. For many reasons, such studies are unlikely.” They go on to state that no diet is clearly best, but there are common elements across eating patterns that are proven to be beneficial to health: “A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”
Links to two articles about the study, as well as a link to the study itself, have been posted in Health > Diet:
Science Compared Every Diet, and the Winner Is Real Food
Is There Really A ‘Best Diet’? Scientists Say Eat ‘Real’ Food, And Not Too Much Of It
Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?
The sense of smell (olfactory sense) works to match up odorant molecules in the air and memories stored in the brain. Those memories are not housed in a single place, but instead extend across many regions. Consequently, proper functioning of smell is quite sensitive to damage in the brain. In particular, during onset of Alzheimer’s, smell is also the first sense to be affected: the hallmark protein tangles of Alzheimer’s appear early in the olfactory bulb. But besides Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Parkinson’s also affect the olfactory sense.
The three studies listed below all made use of the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT), in which 40 common odourants are embedded in microcapsules in the pages of a booklet. A person being tested scratches the relevant strip and sniffs the odor (“scratch and sniff”), then chooses from one of four options in order to identify what they think they are smelling. The test is well-validated. Consequently, the use of the UPSIT is a promising inexpensive preliminary screening tool for Alzheimer’s as well as TBI.
Links to four articles together with three research publications have been posted in Alzheimers > Diagnosis & Tests:
Are Alzheimers Smell Tests Better Than Memory Tests?
Reduced sense of smell associated with increased risk of death in older adults
Smell Tests Could One Day Reveal Head Trauma and Neurodegenerative Disease
Smell Test Helps Identify TBI in Blast-Injured Soldiers
Odor identification and Alzheimer disease biomarkers in clinically normal elderly
Olfactory identification deficits and increased mortality in the community.
Olfactory impairment and traumatic brain injury in blast-injured combat troops
Research has shown the potential for drugs based on the anti-cancer drug bexarotene to possibly act as “neurostatins” to ward off or prevent Alzheimer’s disease, much as statins are taken by people to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. The research was carried out in worms, so of course it will be some time before human trials can be completed.
Links to two articles about the research, as well as the research publication itself, have been posted in Alzheimer’s > Treatment > Drugs:
Alzheimer’s preventative drug hope
Potential Alzheimer’s Therapies May Result from Research Into Anti-Cancer Drug, Scientists Say
An anticancer drug suppresses the primary nucleation reaction that initiates the production of the toxic Aβ42 aggregates linked with Alzheimer’s disease
A new study adds to evidence that bilingualism strengthens the brain. 608 stroke patients were studied, and it was shown that post-stroke, bilinguals were more likely to enjoy normal cognition compared with monolinguals (40.5% versus 19.6%). On the other hand, there were no differences in the frequency of aphasia.
Links to two articles about the study, together with the study itself, have been posted in Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention > Speaking Two Languages:
Speaking More Than One Language Eases Stroke Recovery
Languages help stroke recovery, study says
Impact of Bilingualism on Cognitive Outcome After Stroke [Abstract free; full text: paywall]