Medical Notes 18-40


Medical Notes this week…

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.

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Medical Notes 17-17

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Medical Notes this week…

We’ve reported on how dogs can sniff out a variety of diseases in people with scientists trying to create a mechanical nose to do the same thing. Now a study presented to the American Chemical Society shows they’re making progress. Researchers have identified a signature odor in 90% of cases of prostate cancer and have developed a chemical test to detect it. Doctors are looking for an alternative to the PSA test to detect prostate cancer because of the high proportion of false positives.

People who are depressed have a surprisingly high risk for heart disease. A new study in the journal Atherosclerosis shows that depression is just as much of a cardiovascular risk as obesity and high cholesterol. The 10-year study finds that depression is to blame for about 15% of all heart disease deaths, a rate exceeded only by smoking and high blood pressure. About 350 million people around the world suffer from depression.

It might be easier to get into an argument when you’re tired because you’re misreading the emotions of other people. A study in the journal Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms shows that sleepy people have trouble interpreting some emotions in the faces of others compared to those who are well rested. Tired people can read fear and anger in others’ faces but more subtle emotions are misinterpreted far more often.

And finally, slightly more than half of parents give sports the green light for their kids but about one in every six completely rule them out. The reason? Concussions. The rest of parents, about a third of them, allow participation on a sport by sport basis, according to a Harris survey for the American Osteopathic Association. About two thirds of parents say basketball and baseball are ok for kids. But less than 20% approve of their children playing football.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.