Doctors have known that periodontal disease is connected to heart disease…but now there’s evidence that gum disease may kickstart Alzheimer’s disease as well. A study in the journal PLOS One shows that long-term exposure to periodontal disease bacteria results in inflammation and degeneration of brain neurons, at least in mice. Scientists also found periodontal bacteria DNA in the brains of mice who were infected. Researchers admit the results surprised them.
Nearly half of Americans spend most of the workday sitting… and some people have installed treadmill desks to keep moving while they work. Treadmill desks usually have a pace of only one or two miles per hours, but a new study says “not so fast.” The study in the journal PLOS One finds that people using treadmill desks have a less efficient working memory… although other types of thinking are the same whether sitting, standing, or walking.
And finally… scientists in India have uncovered a major public health threat—taking selfies. A study in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care shows that worldwide, more than 250 people have died while taking selfies since 2012. The problem, researchers say, is that people go too far seeking a perfect shot… and end up drowning, falling off a cliff, or being hit by a train.
Researchers have found another way they might be able to identify Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage. A study in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology shows that an eye exam using already-available technology can reveal thinning in the retina of the eye… which is strongly correlated with early Alzheimer’s. Scientists used the technique to study 30 patients in their mid 70’s, none of whom had Alzheimer’s symptoms. Seventeen of them had thinning in the retina, indicating they may have early Alzheimer’s. Pet scans and other tests then indicated the eye test was right.
About 10 percent of people in the U.S. experience sleepless nights as a result of restless legs syndrome at one time or another. But now researchers say they’ve identified how the painful syndrome is triggered. A study in the journal Sleep Medicine shows that the area of the brain controlling leg movement seems to be in a constant state of readiness… as if the conscious brain is asking for the legs to move. Scientists hope the finding may lead to better ways to treat the condition.
And finally… wrinkles are usually a telltale sign of aging, but they might be a sign of something else as well–heart disease risk. A new study from French researchers suggests that deep forehead wrinkles—more than are typical for a person’s age—could be an easy, low-cost way to identify people with atherosclerosis. The study finds that over a 20-year period, people with deep wrinkles were nearly 10 times more likely to die of heart disease than people with a smooth forehead.
The second most common form of dementia is virtually unknown to most people. However, Lewy body dementia affects 1.4 million Americans, with symptoms commonly misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. Additional symptoms such as hallucinations and uncontrollable shaking make diagnosis and caregiving more difficult, and treatments for Alzheimer’s or psychosis can often be harmful. Experts discuss.
Candy Schulman, daughter of woman who died with Lewy body dementia
Dr. James Leverenz, Director, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and Chair, Scientific Advisory Council, Lewy Body Dementia Association
Scientists have long sought the genetic connections to depression, and a major new study has found several dozen of them. The study in the journal Nature Genetics has identified 44 genomic variants associated with depression…30 of them totally new discoveries. Researchers say the more of these variants a person has, the more likely they are to have depression. Many of the genes are also linked to other disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obesity, and sleep disorders. Scientists call the study a “game changer.”
Every day when the sun sets, about 20 percent of Alzheimer’s patients suffer increased anxiety, disorientation, irritation and aggression. But now scientists have located the brain pathway causing “sundown syndrome,” at least in mice, and have developed a way to shut it down. They say the circadian rhythm disorder in humans is very similar and they hope to use the protein tool they’ve developed to stop the disorder in mice in the same way.
And finally, when someone loses a spouse, they’re more than 40 percent more likely to die in the next six months. And now researchers have figured out at least part of the reason. A study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology shows that in the first three months of becoming a widow or widower, levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines rise significantly in the bloodstream while heart rate variability goes down. Both are connected with cardiac events and could help explain why it really is possible to die of a broken heart.
Osteoarthritis, sometimes called “wear and tear arthritis,” is the biggest cause of disability in the United States. Now a new study suggests that wear and tear may not be the cause. It might be a bad balance of bacteria in the intestines. The study in the journal JCI Insight shows that mice fed a high fat diet developed bacteria in the gut that were dominated by pro-inflammatory types. The mice developed inflammation all over their bodies and rapid deterioration of joints. But when they were given a prebiotic to balance the intestinal bacteria, it reversed the symptoms.
Some experts have suggested drinking coffee to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. But a new study shows that once Alzheimer’s has taken hold…coffee or other caffeinated drinks only make the symptoms worse. The animal study in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology shows that caffeine increases anxiety and fear of new things two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s that are considered strong sources of distress for patients. It took the equivalent of about three cups of coffee per day to produce the effects.
And finally, if you work the night shift, or if your work changes hours often, watch out for that cheeseburger on the way home. a study in the FASEBJ Journal shows that constantly changing schedules make it tough for the body to process fats without producing much higher than normal levels of inflammation.
This flu season is the second in a row where the federal government is recommending against use of the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine because of a drop in its effectiveness. But now scientists say in a study in the journal “Vaccine” that they’ve found a mutation in the flu-mist vaccine that might be exploited to boost its punch. Researchers have already tweaked the mutation experimentally and hope they can ramp it up to commercial scale.
Scientists all over the world are looking for an effective treatment of Alzheimer’s disease but a new study suggests that if they find such a treatment, the US health system is ill prepared to roll it out. The study finds that there are too few medical specialists to diagnose patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s and too few infusion centers to deliver treatments. Researchers estimate that as many as two million patients could be left waiting for therapy.
Fecal transplants have proven extremely useful in combating potentially fatal c-difficile infections. however, many patients are put off by the “ick factor” of getting a fecal infusion via colonoscopy. Now a study in the journal of the American Medical Association shows that pills containing frozen stool are just as effective at restoring healthy bacteria levels. Pills are also quicker and cheaper and leave patients much happier.
And finally, people have long reported sightings of the abominable snowman, and the “yeti” legend is important in the mythology of countries like Nepal and Tibet. Now a study in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society B” has analyzed dna from purported snowman samples and determined it may be a myth after all. Of eight samples of hair, bone, teeth, and skin that were analyzed seven were from bears, and one was from a dog.
Spouses of Alzheimer’s disease patients often struggle with depression while caregiving and are desperate for support. Some have started new relationships while their loved one is still alive but no longer recognizes them. Acceptance of such infidelity is highly individual. Experts and a woman involved in such a relationship discuss how it can benefit even the incapacitated spouse, as long as families find it acceptable.
Dr. William Uffner, board certified geriatric psychiatrist, Friends Hospital, Philadelphia and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Drexel University
Sharon B. Shaw, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Group Psychotherapist, New York
Tammi Reeves, author, Bleeding Hearts: A True Story of Alzheimer’s, Family, and the Other Woman