December 11, 2013

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's, exercise, aspirin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and singing in a choir

Exercise 'significant role' in reducing risk of dementia, long-term study finds

Exercise throughout a person's life plays a significant role in reducing the risk of developing dementia, a study spanning 35 years has found.

The Cardiff University study …found the five factors that were integral to helping avoid disease were regular exercise, not smoking, low bodyweight, healthy diet and low alcohol intake…..However exercise had the single biggest influence on dementia levels. People in the study who followed four of these had a 60% decline in dementia and cognitive decline rates, with exercise named as the strongest mitigating factor.

As time has gone on, the Cardiff study has moved to looking at the effects of dementia and strokes.  Over 400 research papers in the medical press have been produced from its findings.  One of the contributions was the discovery that aspirin helped prevent heart attacks. The study has been funded by the Medical Research Council, the Alzheimer's Society and the British Heart Foundation.

Could Alzheimer's be Type 2 diabetes? Scientists claim extra insulin produced by those with disease disrupts brain chemistry

Alzheimer's and diabetes may be the same disease, scientists claim.  They have uncovered evidence that the debilitating form of dementia may be late stages of type 2 diabetes.  The discovery would explain why nearly three quarters of patients with this form of diabetes go on to develop Alzheimer’s.
Researchers from Albany University, New York State, believe the excess insulin they produce gets into the brain and disrupts key chemicals.  Eventually masses of amyloid proteins - which poison brain cells - are created because of the excess which leads to Alzheimer's, they say.

An aspirin a day could help stop dementia say scientists as they launch huge study into benefits of the pill

Australian researchers also think the drug could ward off stomach cancer.  They are about to carry out clinical trial of 15,000 over-70s
It is already known to reduce risk of a heart attack by 23 per cent

Research has shown regular users have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the main form of dementia.  Scientists believe its protective effect may be due to its anti-clotting action helping blood flow to the brain.

Long-term use of commonly prescribed heartburn drugs increases the likelihood B vitamin deficiency, a study has shown.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente, a leading U.S. health provider, compared data on almost 26,000 patients diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency in northern California with more than 184,000 ‘control’ patients who were not B12 deficient.

‘Patients who took PPI medications for more than two years had a 65 per cent increase in their risk of B12 deficiency,’ said study leader Dr Douglas Corley, a gastroenterologist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. ‘Higher doses also were associated with an increased risk, compared with lower doses.
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Vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to increased risk of dementia, nerve damage and anaemia

Vitamin D supplements 'don't ward off ill health': Little evidence pills lower risk of cancer, strokes or other conditions

For decades, scientists assumed that the mineral, one of the most popular supplements in Britain, had numerous health benefits.  But a review of 462 studies involving more than a million adults has concluded that a lack of vitamin D is not a trigger for many common illnesses.

The main reason scientists thought vitamin D could protect against disease was that patients with cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer’s had very low levels of the nutrient.  But the French researchers now suspect that, rather than vitamin D deficiency leading to disease, these illnesses stop the body from producing vitamin D, so sufferers have lower levels.
Lead author Professor Philippe Autier, from the International  Prevention Research Institute  in Lyon, France, said: ‘What this  discrepancy suggests is that decreases in vitamin D levels are a marker of deteriorating health. Aging and inflammatory processes involved in disease occurrence . . . reduce vitamin D concentrations, which would explain why vitamin D deficiency is reported in a wide range of disorders.’

But his study – published in The Lancet – did not cast doubt on the supplement’s effect on the bones. The mineral is known to protect against bone thinning and the bone disorder rickets.

Join a choir and keep your emotional well-being finely-tuned

People who sing with others are happier with their lives than those who simply sing around the house, a study found.  Choir members are also more satisfied with their lot than people who play team sports.  The findings suggest that there is something special about being in a choir, over and above benefits of singing and taking part in a group activity.
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Oxford Brookes University psychologist Nick Stewart … said: ‘Choral singers also reported perceiving their choirs to be a more coherent or meaningful social group than team sport players considered their teams.’  It is thought that moving and breathing in synchrony may contribute to this enhanced sense of togetherness.
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Previous studies have provided evidence that singing with others provides a wealth of health benefits from strengthening the immune system and reducing stress to improving the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Importantly, you don’t have to be a wonderful singer to benefit.  This is because improvements to health come from being part of a team, working in synchrony and exercising the lungs, diaphragm and other parts of the body – rather than from singing in tune.

Scientists find gene that spurs on tumors

The treatment of thousands of cancer patients could be dramatically improved after British scientists identified a gene that fuels almost all types of tumour.
The ‘needle in a haystack’ find offers hope to at least one in 100 cancer patients
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Within just a few years, cancer patients could be tested for the gene and then given drugs that slow the progress of the disease.
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Unusually, the breakthrough doesn’t just apply to one cancer type – the rogue gene feeds many different types of cancer.
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The researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge analyzed genetic data from more than 7,500 cancer patients from around the world.
This flagged up a gene called CUX1 that was found in almost all cancer types, including breast cancer.  It was also particularly common in a particularly hard-to-treat type of leukemia.
Posted by Jill Fallon at December 11, 2013 11:45 AM | Permalink