Our Friday Song of the Week – Stay with Me
Waistlines of U.S. Adults Continue to Increase
The prevalence of abdominal obesity and average waist circumference increased among U.S. adults from 1999 to 2012, according to a study in JAMA.
Data from 32,816 men and non-pregnant women ages 20 years or older were analyzed. The overall age-adjusted average waist circumference increased progressively and significantly, from 37.6 inches in 1999-2000 to 38.8 inches in 2011-2012. Significant increases occurred in men (0.8 inch), women (1.5 inch), non-Hispanic whites (1.2 inch), non-Hispanic blacks (1.6 inch), and Mexican Americans (1.8 inch).
The overall age-adjusted prevalence of abdominal obesity increased significantly from 46.4 percent in 1999-2000 to 54.2 percent in 2011-2012. Significant increases were present in men (37.1 percent to 43.5 percent), women (55.4 percent to 64.7 percent), non-Hispanic whites (45.8 percent to 53.8 percent), non-Hispanic blacks (52.4 percent to 60.9 percent), and Mexican Americans (48.1 percent to 57.4 percent).
Can Librium/Valium Promote Alzheimer’s? Read on.
A study published by the journal BMJ suggests that benzodiazepine use may promote the development of dementia.
A benzodiazepine sometimes colloquially “benzo“; often abbreviated “BZD“) is a psychoactive drug. The first such drug, Librium, was discovered accidentally by Leo Sternbach in 1955, and made available in 1960 by Hoffmann–La Roche, which has also marketed the benzodiazepine diazepam (Valium) since 1963.
Benzodiazepines are useful in treating anxiety, insomnia, agitation, seizures, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal and as a premedication for medical or dental procedures.
A team of researchers from France and Canada linked benzodiazepine use to an increased risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In the study, the greater a person’s cumulative dose of benzodiazepines, the higher his or her risk of Alzheimer’s.
“Benzodiazepines are risky to use in older people because they can cause confusion and slow down mental processes, ” says Dr. Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance, speaking to Harvard Health Publications. “However, although there is an association, we still can’t say that benzodiazepines actually cause Alzheimer’s,” she cautions.
The researchers identified nearly 2,000 men and women over age 66 who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They randomly selected more than 7,000 others without Alzheimer’s who were matched for age and sex to those with the disease. Once the groups were set, the researchers looked at the drug prescriptions during the five to six years preceding the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
People who had taken a benzodiazepine for three months or less had about the same dementia risk as those who had never taken one. Taking the drug for three to six months raised the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 32%, and taking it for more than six months boosted the risk by 84%.
People who were on a long-acting benzodiazepine like Valium and Dalmane were at greater risk than those on a short-acting one like Halcion, Ativan), Xanax and Restoril.
The researchers acknowledge that the use of benzodiazepines could be just a signal that people are trying to cope with anxiety and sleep disruption—two common symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease.
Limiting the use of a benzodiazepine for anxiety or sleep troubles may be one small step toward prevention. Check with your doctor.
People Who Get Migraines in Middle Age May Be More Likely to Develop Parkinson’s
People who experience migraine in middle age may be more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, or other movement disorders later in life according to a study published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Those who have migraine with aura may be at double the risk of developing Parkinson’s. “Migraine with aura” is a relatively new name for the less common type of migraine headache. Aura refers to feelings and symptoms you notice shortly before the headache begins.
“Migraine is the most common brain disorder in both men and women,” said study author Ann I. Scher, PhD, with Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “It has been linked in other studies to cerebrovascular and heart disease. This new possible association is one more reason research is needed to understand, prevent and treat the condition.”
For the study, 5,620 people between the ages of 33 and 65 were followed for 25 years. At the beginning of the study, a total of 3,924 of the participants had no headaches, 1,028 had headaches with no migraine symptoms, 238 had migraine with no aura and 430 had migraine with aura. Later, the investigators assessed whether the participants had any symptoms of Parkinson’s or had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s or had symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS). RLS is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease.
The study found that people with migraine with aura were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s than people with no headaches. A total of 2.4 percent of those with migraine with aura had the disease, compared to 1.1 percent of those with no headaches. People with migraine with aura had 3.6 the odds of reporting at least four of six parkinsonian symptoms, while those with migraine with no aura had 2.3 times the odds of these symptoms. Overall, 19.7 percent of those with migraine with aura had symptoms, compared to 12.6 percent of those with migraine with no aura and 7.5 percent of those with no headaches. Women with migraine with aura were also more likely to have a family history of Parkinson’s disease compared to those with no headaches.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging, the Icelandic Heart Association and the Icelandic Parliament.
To learn more about migraine and movement disorders, visit www.aan.com/patients.
Our Friday Song of the Week – Chasing Cars
According to a new study from researchers from the University of Michigan and the Urban Institute nearly half of older adults—18 million people—have difficulty or get help with daily activities.
In all, 8,245 people, analyzed from Medicare enrollment files, were included in the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study.
One in four lived in either a supportive care setting (15 percent) or a nursing home (10 percent).
Low income individuals with severe disability received a disproportionate share of help with three or more activities in settings other than nursing homes.
Nearly all had at least one potential informal care network member—family or household member, or close friend—and the average network size was four people.
Older adults who lived in the community reported receiving more than five hours a day of care on average.
About 70 percent of those getting help received assistance from family, friends and other unpaid caregivers, while about 30 percent received paid care.
Researchers concluded that policies to improve long-term care services and supports and reduce unmet needs could benefit both older adults and those who care for them.
Source: University of Michigan News.
Link Between Vitamin D and Dementia Risk Confirmed
Researchers suggest that in older people, not getting enough vitamin D may double the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The study was published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study looked at blood levels of vitamin D, which includes vitamin D from food, supplements and sun exposure. Dietary vitamin D is found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel, and milk, eggs and cheese.
“We expected to find an association between low Vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising—we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated,” said study author David J. Llewellyn, PhD, of the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom.
For the study, 1,658 people over the age of 65 who were dementia-free had their vitamin D blood levels tested. After an average of six years, 171 participants developed dementia and 102 had Alzheimer’s disease.
The study found that people with low levels of vitamin D had a 53-percent increased risk of developing dementia and those who were severely deficient had a 125-percent increased risk compared to participants with normal levels of vitamin D.
People with lower levels of vitamin D were nearly 70 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and those who had severe deficiency were over 120 percent more likely to develop the disease.
The results remained the same after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect risk of dementia, such as education, smoking and alcohol consumption.
“Clinical trials are now needed to establish whether eating foods such as oily fish or taking vitamin D supplements can delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. We need to be cautious at this early stage and our latest results do not demonstrate that low vitamin D levels cause dementia. That said, our findings are very encouraging, and even if a small number of people could benefit, this would have enormous public health implications given the devastating and costly nature of dementia,” said Llewellyn.
Environmental Distractions Can Impair Memory in Older Adults
Older people are nearly twice as likely to have their memory and cognitive processes impaired by environmental distractions (such as irrelevant speech or written words presented along with target stimuli), according to a new study from psychologists at Rice University and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“Cognitive Declines in Healthy Aging: Evidence from Multiple Aspects of Interference Resolution” appeared in a recent edition of Psychology and Aging. The study supported previous research that showed memory accuracy and the speed of cognitive processing declines with age.
It also revealed that older people were at least twice as likely as younger to have irrelevant memories intrude during memory recall and
also showed twice as much slowing in cognitive processing in the presence of distracting information in the environment.
The study included 102 people between the ages of 18 and 32 (average age of 21) and 60 people between the ages of 64 and 82 (average age of 71) who participated in a series of memory and cognitive tasks.
For example, when the participants were tested on remembering lists of words, individuals in the young test group remembered words on the list with an average accuracy of 81 percent; in comparison, the old test group’s accuracy was only 67 percent. When irrelevant words were introduced that were to be ignored, the young test group’s accuracy dropped to 74 percent, but the accuracy of the old test group’s performance dropped to 46 percent.
“Almost any type of memory test administered reveals a decline in memory from the age of 25 on,” said Randi Martin, the Elma W. Schneider Professor of Psychology at Rice and the study’s co-author. “However, this is the first study to convincingly demonstrate the impact of environmental interference on processing having a greater impact on older than younger adults.”
Martin hopes that the research will encourage further research of how the brain is affected by environmental distractions.
“From our perspective of studying neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to reorganize itself after traumatic injury or neurological disorders) and testing patients with brain damage, this research is very important,” Martin said. “The tests used in this study are important tools in determining how the brain is affected by environmental interference, which is critical information in treating neurological disorders, including stroke and traumatic brain injuries.”