Saturday, July 31, 2010

Calcium Supplements May Increase Heart Attack Risk

Meta-analysis reveals significant increase in risk in those taking calcium versus those on placebo

31 july 2010-- Calcium supplementation is associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction, according to a meta-analysis published online July 29 in BMJ.

Mark J. Bolland, Ph.D., of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and colleagues searched the medical literature for randomized, placebo-controlled studies of calcium supplementation (500 or more mg/day) involving more than 100 subjects (mean age, over 40). The reviewers analyzed 15 studies with an aggregate of more than 20,000 subjects.

In five studies with patient level data, the investigators found that 143 subjects taking calcium had myocardial infarctions compared to 111 on placebo (hazard ratio, 1.31). There were also increases in risk for stroke; the composite end point of myocardial infarction, stroke, or sudden death; and all-cause mortality; however, these were considered nonsignificant. In a meta-analysis of trial level data, 166 subjects taking calcium had myocardial infarctions compared to 130 on placebo (pooled relative risk, 1.27).

"Calcium supplements (without coadministered vitamin D) are associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction. As calcium supplements are widely used, these modest increases in risk of cardiovascular disease might translate into a large burden of disease in the population. A reassessment of the role of calcium supplements in the management of osteoporosis is warranted," the authors write.

One study author disclosed receiving research support from and acting as a consultant for the dairy company Fonterra, while four authors reported receiving study drugs for clinical trials of calcium supplementation from pharmaceutical companies.

Full Text

Friday, July 30, 2010

Delirium in older patients associated with greater risk of death, dementia and institutionalization

30 JULY 2010--A review and analysis of previous research indicates that delirium in elderly patients is associated with an increased risk of death, dementia, and institutionalization, independent of age, co-existing illnesses or illness severity, according to a study in the July 28 issue of JAM
Delirium is a syndrome of acutely altered mental status characterized by inattention and a fluctuating course. With occurrence rates of up to half of older patients postoperatively, and even higher in very elderly admitted to intensive care units, delirium is the most common complication in hospitalized older people," the authors write. "Evidence suggests that delirium is associated with long-term poor outcome but delirium often occurs in individuals with more severe underlying disease."
Joost Witlox, M.Sc., of the Medical Center Alkmaar, the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted an analysis of previous studies to assess the association between delirium and long-term poor outcomes in elderly patients while controlling for important confounders (other factors that can influence outcomes). The researchers identified 51 relevant articles. The primary analyses included only high-quality studies with statistical control for age, sex, comorbid (co-existing) illness or illness severity, and baseline dementia.
The primary analysis showed that delirium was associated with an increased risk of death compared with controls after an average follow-up of 22.7 months. "Moreover, patients who had experienced delirium were also at increased risk of institutionalization and dementia," the authors write. Further analysis confirmed the strength of the results.
"The results of this meta-analysis provide evidence that delirium in elderly patients is associated with an increased risk, of death, institutionalization, and dementia, independent of age, sex, comorbid illness or illness severity, and presence of dementia at baseline. Moreover, our stratified models confirm that this association persists when excluding studies that included in-hospital deaths and patients residing in an institution at baseline," the researchers write.
The authors add that the results of this meta-analysis can be instrumental in patient care. "The low rate of survival and the high rates of institutionalization and dementia indicate that older people who experience delirium should be considered an especially vulnerable population."
"Future studies will have to establish what exact mechanisms are responsible for the long-term poor outcomes after delirium and whether clinical characteristics of delirium itself (e.g., duration or subtype) differentially influence prognosis. Moreover, clinical trials are needed to investigate whether the long-term sequelae associated with delirium can be averted."
More information: JAMA. 2010;304[4]:443-451.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Obesity rise linked to disability increase among elderly in Latin America and the Caribbean

29 july 2010--Thanks to rising obesity rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, elderly people there are becoming more likely to suffer from disabilities, according to a paper recently published by University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The UTMB study drew on data from a Pan-American Health Organization and National Institute on Aging survey that covered more than 6,000 people over age 65 in six cities: Bridgetown, Barbados; São Paulo, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; Havana, Cuba; Mexico City, Mexico; and Montevideo, Uruguay. Across the board, the investigators found that obese seniors were more likely to have significant trouble walking, bathing, dressing, eating, getting in and out of bed and using the toilet.
In this survey, a subject was defined as obese if he or she had body mass index (weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) equal or greater than 30.
"This greater prevalence obesity is a new thing in Latin America and the Caribbean, the result of people moving from rural to urban areas and shifting their nutritional habits and other aspects of their lives to a more Western pattern," said UTMB assistant professor Soham al Snih, lead author of "Obesity and Disability: Relation Among Older Adults Living in Latin America and the Caribbean," which appeared in the June 15 issue of the American journal of epidemiology "At the same time, we're seeing a substantial increase in life expectancy. The close relationship that we found between obesity and disability in older adults suggests that we really need to work to prevent these populations from becoming obese."
Without major efforts to promote healthy eating and exercise in Latin American and Caribbean populations, al Snih said, current trends will produce large numbers of people who are especially vulnerable to chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis — conditions that could increase the degree of disability among the elderly, and which will severely strain the health care resources of poorer countries.
"We need to reorient people to better nutrition, we need to screen for these diseases and do as much as we can to prevent them, and we need to involve these populations in exercise and increase their activity level," al Snih said. "It's very important, because otherwise it will cost much more in the long run."
In addition to highlighting the connection between increasing obesity rates and increasing disability among elders, al Snih noted that the UTMB study provides a rare look at the prevalence of obesity in various populations of older adults in Latin America and the Caribbean, where much public health data focuses instead on childhood through middle age. Current rates of obesity among the elderly ranged from a low of 13.3 percent in Havana to a high of 37.6 percent in Montevideo. (According to the National Health and Nutrition Survey of 2007-2008, the U.S. obesity rate for men over 60 is 37.1 percent; for women over 60 it is 33.6 percent).
Provided by University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Text And Email Alerts Welcomed By Older Patients - British Psychological Society

Text and email alerts could help older patients remember appointments and medication instructions, ultimately reducing NHS costs and potentially improving their own recovery.

27 july 2010--This is one of the findings from post-graduate researcher, Lyndsay Hughes, from the University of Hertfordshire, who presented her research on Wednesday 21st July at the British Psychological Society's Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group conference at Sheffield Hallam University.

The study investigated ownership and use of email and mobile phone technologies in a sample of 112 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were attending NHS clinics.

From this sample 73% of older patients had an email address and 93% owned a mobile phone. Those in the eldest category (over 65) also reported a high use of mobile phones with more than 63% stating they were "confident" at reading texts.

Almost half of those who had an email address or mobile phone said that they would like an email/text reminder for appointments. A quarter of patients who had access to these technologies said they would like an email/text medication reminder.

Lyndsay explained: "This shows that older patients with rheumatoid arthritis access emails and texts regularly and would like text or email reminders for appointments and medication use.

Even in the oldest age category of over 65's email and text reminders may be a useful means of increasing clinic attendance and medication adherence. As low attendance and adherence is associated with disease progression, these outcomes will not only improve patients health they could reduce NHS Costs."

For the full conference programme please visit the Psypag website.

British Psychological Society

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why more education lowers dementia risk

A team of researchers from the UK and Finland has discovered why people who stay in education longer have a lower risk of developing dementia – a question that has puzzled scientists for the past decade.

26 july 2010--Examining the brains of 872 people who had been part of three large ageing studies, and who before their deaths had completed questionnaires about their education, the researchers found that more education makes people better able to cope with changes in the brain associated with dementia.

Over the past decade, studies on dementia have consistently showed that the more time you spend in education, the lower your risk of dementia. For each additional year of education there is an 11% decrease in risk of developing dementia, this study reports.

However, these studies have been unable to determine whether or not education – which is linked to higher socioeconomic status and healthier lifestyles – protects the brain against dementia.

This is not the case, the new study lead by Professor Carol Brayne of the University of Cambridge has found. Instead, the study shows people with different levels of education have similar brain pathology but that those with more education are better able to compensate for the effects of dementia.

According to co-author Dr Hannah Keage of the University of Cambridge: "Previous research has shown that there is not a one-to-one relationship between being diagnosed with dementia during life and changes seen in the brain at death. One person may show lots of pathology in their brain while another shows very little, yet both may have had dementia. Our study shows education in early life appears to enable some people to cope with a lot of changes in their brain before showing dementia symptoms."

Compared with previous research, this study was able to answer the question because of its large size and statistical power.

The researchers used data from the EClipSE collaboration, which combines the three European population-based longitudinal studies of ageing (the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study, the Cambridge City Over-75s Cohort Study and Vantaa 85+, a Finnish study).

The studies have assessed participants for up to 20 years and are three of only six such studies in the world.

The results have important implications for public health at a time when populations in many countries are ageing.

"Education is known to be good for population health and equity. This study provides strong support for investment in early life factors which should have an impact on society and the whole lifespan. This is hugely relevant to policy decisions about the importance of resource allocation between health and education," says Professor Brayne.

The results are published today in the journal Brain. The study was funded by the BUPA Foundation, the European Union and the Medical Research Council.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gene linked to aging also linked to Alzheimer's

SIRT1 gene appears to control production of the devastating protein fragments

CAMBRIDGE, Mass, 25 july 2010 -- MIT biologists report that they have discovered the first link between the amyloid plaques that form in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and a gene previously implicated in the aging process, SIRT1.

The researchers found that SIRT1 appears to control production of the devastating protein fragments, termed A-beta peptides, that make up amyloid plaques. They also showed that in mice engineered to develop Alzheimer's plaques and symptoms, learning and memory deficits were improved when SIRT1 was overproduced in the brain, and exacerbated when SIRT1 was deleted.

The results, reported in the July 23 issue of the journal Cell, indicate that drugs that activate SIRT1 could be a promising strategy to combat Alzheimer's, says Leonard Guarente, the MIT biology professor who led the study.

Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects up to one-third of people who reach the age of 80. Patients suffer from memory loss and other cognitive impairments believed to be the result of damage from amyloid plaques.

Amyloid plaques form when proteins called amyloid precursor proteins (APPs) are broken into smaller amyloid peptides. However, APPs can also be cleaved into harmless protein fragments.

In this study, the MIT researchers showed that SIRT1 activates the production of an enzyme that cleaves APPs into harmless fragments instead of the Alzheimer's-associated amyloid peptides. Mice engineered to produce excess SIRT1 had reduced peptide levels, while mice with SIRT1 knocked out showed increased peptide levels.

The SIRT1 gene, which produces proteins called sirtuins, has previously been shown to regulate many cell activities, especially those involved in stress response and calorie deprivation. Guarente first drew attention to sirtuins about 15 years ago when he discovered that the yeast version of the gene, SIR2, regulates longevity in yeast. Later work revealed similar effects in worms, mice and rats.


Other authors of the Cell paper are MIT postdoctoral associates Gizem Donmez and Dena Cohen and junior Diana Wang. The research was funded by an American Parkinson Disease Association fellowship, a grant from the National Institutes of Health and a gift from the Paul F. Glenn Foundation.

Source: "SIRT1 Suppresses beta-Amyloid Production by Activating the alpha-Secretase Gene ADAM10," Gizem Donmez, Diana Wang, Dena E. Cohen, and Leonard Guarente. Cell, July 23, 2010.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Study links more time spent sitting to higher risk of death

Risk found to be independent of physical activity level

23 july 2010--A new study from American Cancer Society researchers finds it's not just how much physical activity you get, but how much time you spend sitting that can affect your risk of death. Researchers say time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality, regardless of physical activity level. They conclude that public health messages should promote both being physically active and reducing time spent sitting. The study appears early online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Increasing obesity levels in the United States are widely predicted to have major public health consequences. A growing epidemic of overweight and obesity has been attributed in part to reduced overall physical activity. And while several studies support a link between sitting time and obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease risk factors (11, 16, 17), and unhealthy dietary patterns in children and adults (18-20), very few studies have examined time spent sitting in relation to total mortality (21-23). Thus, public health guidelines focus largely on increasing physical activity with little or no reference to reducing time spent sitting.

To explore the association between sitting time and mortality, researchers led by Alpa Patel, Ph.D. analyzed survey responses from 123,216 individuals (53,440 men and 69,776 women) who had no history of cancer, heart attack, stroke, or emphysema/other lung disease enrolled in the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention II study in 1992. They examined the amount of time spent sitting and physical activity in relation to mortality between 1993 and 2006. They found that more leisure time spent sitting was associated with higher risk of mortality, particularly in women. Women who reported more than six hours per day of sitting were 37 percent more likely to die during the time period studied than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day. Men who sat more than 6 hours a day were 18 percent more likely to die than those who sat fewer than 3 hours per day. The association remained virtually unchanged after adjusting for physical activity level. Associations were stronger for cardiovascular disease mortality than for cancer mortality.

When combined with a lack of physical activity, the association was even stronger. Women and men who both sat more and were less physically were 94% and 48% more likely, respectively, to die compared with those who reported sitting the least and being most active.

"Several factors could explain the positive association between time spent sitting and higher all-cause death rates," said Dr. Patel. "Prolonged time spent sitting, independent of physical activity, has been shown to have important metabolic consequences, and may influence things like triglycerides, high density lipoprotein, cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, resting blood pressure, and leptin, which are biomarkers of obesity and cardiovascular and other chronic diseases."

The authors conclude that "public health messages and guidelines should be refined to include reducing time spent sitting in addition to promoting physical activity. Because a sizeable fraction of the population spends much of their time sitting, it is beneficial to encourage sedentary individuals to stand up and walk around as well as to reach optimal levels of physical activity."


Article: "Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults." Alpa V. Patel, Leslie Bernstein, Anusila Deka, Heather Spencer Feigelson, Peter T. Campbell, 5 Susan M. Gapstur, Graham A. Colditz, and Michael J. Thun. Am J Epid Published online July 22, 2010 (DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwq155).

Link to abstract:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Depression May Increase Chances of Getting Alzheimer's

As if depression wasn't bad enough on its own, new research suggests older adults with depressive symptoms are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

22 july 2010--Alzheimer's is a fatal brain disorder marked by memory loss and an inability to function in daily life. Researchers have long known that depression and Alzheimer's disease are linked, but it wasn't clear whether depression was a risk factor for Alzheimer's or a symptom of the disease. [Alzheimer's self-test works well]

Now, two studies published in the July 6 issue of the journal Neurology conclude that depression is indeed separate from Alzheimer's and that depressive symptoms can raise the risk of dementia by 50 percent.

The studies didn't address the question of why depression might contribute to later cognitive decline. One theory, said study author Robert Wilson, a neuropsychologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, is that depression fundamentally alters the brain.

"There may be some actual structural changes associated with depression that render depressed individuals, by the time they reach old age, a little bit more vulnerable" to dementia, Wilson told LiveScience.

Risk factor or symptom?

Alzheimer's is caused by protein plaques and tangles that build up in and around nerve cells in the brain, causing cell death. Exactly why the plaques and tangles form is a mystery, but previous brain-anatomy studies suggested depression isn't to blame, Wilson said.

To Wilson, it seemed likely that depression was a risk factor for dementia, not a symptom of the disease. To test the theory, he and his colleagues analyzed data on older adults from Chicago's South Side who had undergone evaluation for depression and Alzheimer's every three years. About 350 of these individuals were diagnosed with dementia, which is most commonly caused by Alzheimer's.

By comparing the participants' self-reported depression ratings and dementia diagnoses, the researchers found "virtually no change" in depressive symptoms seven years prior to the dementia diagnosis and three years after it, Wilson said. Interviews with family members and caregivers confirmed that observable signs of depression also held steady.

The results suggest depression is not an inevitable symptom of Alzheimer's, Wilson said.

"It's not to say that people with Alzheimer's never have depression," he said. "We think they're as likely to have depression as they were before the disease."

Depression and dementia are linked, however. The second study, headed by epidemiologist Jane Saczynski of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, used data from the famous Framingham Heart Study to track depression and dementia in 949 people over 17 years.

At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had any dementia symptoms; by the end, 136 had developed Alzheimer's and 28 had other dementias. Of those who had depressive symptoms at the beginning of the study, 21.6 percent later developed dementia, compared with 16.6 percent of non-depressed individuals. After controlling for factors like smoking and genetics, the researchers found that depression raised the risk of later dementia by 50 percent.

The long time frame makes it less likely that the participants already had dementia-related damage at the beginning of the study, Saczynski said. And because the depression showed up so much earlier than the dementia, the study, like Wilson's, supports the notion of depression as a dementia risk factor, not a symptom.

Dementia by a thousand cuts

Exactly how a mood disorder like depression can contribute to Alzheimer's disease isn't known, but the effect is probably cumulative.

One theory, Saczynski said, is that depression weakens the body's defenses against dementia by affecting the brain's blood supply. Cardiovascular disease (another risk factor for Alzheimer's) and depression are often clinically linked, Saczynski said, perhaps because of reduced blood flow to the brain. These vascular changes might render the brain more vulnerable to Alzheimer's-related damage.

Another possibility is that the chronic stress of depression changes the brain's structure. Studies on animals find that the brains of mice and rats kept in stressful conditions show changes in areas associated with memory and learning.

Something similar seems to happen in humans. One study, published in May in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry and co-authored by Rush University's Wilson, revealed that Catholic nuns and priests who scored high on anxiety and depression measures had different brains than other clergy did. The nerve cells in the depressed group's hippocampi ¾ brain areas associated with memory and emotion ¾ were shorter and less branched-out than normal nerve cells.

The researchers didn't link these brain changes to Alzheimer's, but the findings suggest depression "takes a toll," Wilson said.

Blunting the vulnerability

If depression is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, it is just one of many. Family history is another, as is the presence of a gene called ApoE4. Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise and cognitive engagement may also contribute, although a National Institutes of Health panel determined in May that the evidence for these factors is not yet strong enough to warrant recommendations for Alzheimer's prevention.

In the case of depression, these lifestyle factors could make a difference. Exercise and diet might combat vascular disease linked to depression, Saczynski said. And, Wilson said, stressed mice and rats that exercise, take antidepressants and eat well show fewer brain changes than those that don't.

"Diet and exercise seem to lessen the impact," Wilson said. "So if we're on the right track here, there do seem to be tools that can blunt the vulnerability."

10 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp
Alzheimer's Disease: Bad News and Good News
7 Ways the Mind and Body Change With Age

Original Story: Depression May Increase Chances of Getting Alzheimer's

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dense Breasts + Hormones Up Cancer Risk After Menopause

Breast cancer risk particularly increased with estrogen plus progestin

21 july 2010-- Postmenopausal women with high breast density, especially those undergoing hormone therapy with estrogen plus progestin, are at higher risk for developing breast cancer, according to a study published online July 19 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Karla Kerlikowske, M.D., of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco, and colleagues evaluated data on 587,369 women who underwent 1,349,027 screening mammography exams. Breast cancer was diagnosed among 14,090 women. The researchers used a survival model to determine five-year breast cancer risk for subgroups of women classified by their Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BIRADS) breast density, menopausal status, age, and current hormone therapy use, assuming a body mass index of 25 kg/m².

The researchers found that, among women aged 55 to 59 years with low breast density (BIRADS-1), the five-year breast cancer risk was 0.8 percent for those not using hormone therapy and 0.9 percent for those using estrogen and estrogen plus progestin. Among women aged 55 to 59 years with very high breast density (BIRADS-4), the five-year breast cancer risk was 2.4 percent for those not using hormone therapy, 3.0 percent for those using estrogen, and 4.2 percent for those using estrogen plus progestin. Compared to those with average breast density (BIRADS-2), risk of advanced-stage breast cancer was 1.7-fold higher for postmenopausal women using hormone therapy who had BIRADS-4.

"Approximately 50 percent of postmenopausal women have high or very high breast density, are at high breast cancer risk, and may be considering or using hormone therapy. Postmenopausal women with high breast density may want to consider the added risk of breast cancer when deciding on whether to start or stop hormone therapy, especially estrogen plus progestin," the authors conclude.

One author disclosed financial ties to Eli Lilly.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Depression Linked to Erectile Dysfunction May Raise CV Risk

Severe depressive symptoms in ED associated with higher incidence of major cardiovascular events

20 july 2010-- Depressive symptoms in men with erectile dysfunction (ED) constitute an independent risk factor for the incidence of a major cardiovascular event (MACE), according to a study published online July 13 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Elisa Bandini, M.D., of the University of Florence in Italy, and colleagues interviewed 2,303 male patients at a clinic for sexual dysfunction using a Structured Interview on Erectile Dysfunction with three scales to explore the organic, relational, and intra-psychic factors of the condition. The researchers assessed depression in the cohort using the Middlesex Hospital Questionnaire for depressive symptoms (MHQ-D) and correlated it to the incidence of MACE, as recorded by the City of Florence Registry Office, in a subset of 1,687 subjects followed for a mean 4.3 years in a longitudinal study.

The researchers identified a positive relationship between MHQ-D score in the ED patients and increasing difficulty achieving an erection sufficient for penetration. Among the subjects in the longitudinal study, there were 139 MACE incidents (15 fatal), with the unadjusted incidence of MACE significantly associated with baseline depressive symptoms. Also, having severe depressive symptoms was independently associated with a higher MACE incidence in a regression model that also included arteriogenic ED, the partner's reduced sexual desire, age, chronic diseases, and an index of psychopathology.

"In particular, our study demonstrates that depressive symptomatology constitutes an independent risk factor for cardiac morbidity and mortality in men with ED. The need for a regular screening for cardiac morbidity in men with ED is even greater in those patients showing depressive symptoms associated with ED," the authors write.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Study shows that major Alzheimer's risk gene causes alterations in shapes of brain protein deposits

19 july 2010--Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have used a newly discovered class of biomarkers to investigate the possibility that the shape of brain protein deposits is different in people with Alzheimer's who have the highest-risk gene type than in those with the condition who have a neutral risk gene type. The study is being presented July 14 at the 2010 Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, the Mount Sinai Professor in Alzheimer's Disease Research, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, and Associate Director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, led the study. Mount Sinai labs led by Patrick R. Hof, MD, Regenstreif Professor of Neuroscience and Vice-Chair for Translational Neuroscience of the Department of Neuroscience and Dara L. Dickstein, PhD, Assistant Professor, Neuroscience also collaborated on the study.

Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is a gene containing instructions needed to make a protein that helps carry cholesterol in the bloodstream. The APOE gene, which comes in several different forms, is related to increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. People with APOE ε4/ε4 gene type have the highest risk of developing the disease and people with APOE ε3/ε3 have a neutral risk. Discovering the important mechanisms underlying how APOE ε4/ε4 increases Alzheimer's risk has been one of the most vexing mysteries facing Alzheimer's researchers for over a decade.

Luminescent conjugated oligothiophenes (LCOs) or luminescent conjugated polymers (LCPs), the newly discovered class of biomarkers, can stick to protein structures in the body and emit colors reflecting the different shapes or forms of the proteins. Among other uses, LCPs/LCOs are currently being employed in test tubes, animal models, and autopsied Alzheimer's brains to study the structure of proteins deposits caused by the disease. The new markers bind to the two well-established hallmarks of Alzheimer's – beta amyloid plaques and tau tangles – and glow different colors depending on which forms of the deposits they "stick" to (e.g., plaques often "glow" orange, while tangles "glow" yellowish green).

In the study, frozen brain sections from people who died with Alzheimer's were stained using two LCPs/LCOs: pentamer formyl thiophene acetic acid (pFTAA) and polythiophene acetic acid (PTAA). Using PTAA, the researchers observed that Alzheimer patients with APOE ε4/ε4 gene type had core and cerebrovascular amyloid of different shapes, while in people with APOE ε3/ε3, the two amyloid structures had the same shape. Using pFTAA revealed that tau tangle densities in ε4/ε4 Alzheimer patients that were apparently greater than those with ε3/ε3.

"The findings support our hypothesis that APOE genotype changes amyloid structure," Dr. Gandy said. "This is important because the different shapes might respond differently to treatments that attempt to clear amyloid deposits from the brain. We already know, for example, that APOE ε4/ε4 patients respond less well to anti-amyloid antibody with bapineuzumab."


LCOs/LCPs were pioneered by Peter Nilsson, PhD, Assistant Professor of the Department of Chemistry, Linköping University, Sweden. The study also involved collaborating teams from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany, led by Frank Heppner MD, Director of the Department of Neuropathology and Washington University, St Louis, led by David Holtzman MD, Professor and Chair of Neurology.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of few medical schools embedded in a hospital in the United States. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 15 institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institute of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report. The school received the 2009 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sniffing insulin may help memory lost to Alzheimer's

HONOLULU, 17 july 2010-- Squirting insulin up the noses of patients with early forms of Alzheimer's disease showed signs of improving their memory, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

Patients who got the treatment for four months showed improvements in tests of memory recall that lasted for two months.

"We believe our results are very promising and they warrant future trials," said Dr. Suzanne Craft of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington in Seattle, who presented her findings at a meeting of the Alzheimer's Association in Honolulu.

Alzheimer's disease is a fatal and incurable deterioration of the brain that affects 26 million people globally. It is the most common form of dementia.

Several studies have suggested that people with Alzheimer's have reduced levels of insulin in the brain, even in the earliest stages. Insulin is important for communication between brain cells and is needed for brain function.

Craft's team wanted to see what would happen if they delivered insulin directly to the brain.

They studied 109 non-diabetic patients with Alzheimer's disease or a precursor condition called mild cognitive impairment.

A third of the patients got a placebo and the other two-thirds received different doses of insulin that had been loaded into a nebulizer and squirted up their nose twice daily for four months.

Patients who got the lower dose of insulin showed significant improvements on all primary measures of thinking and memory and in a test of their ability to do daily activities.

In 15 insulin-treated patients who agreed to a spinal tap, the team found a link between improved memory and improvements in measurements of key proteins linked with Alzheimer's disease.

Craft said the treatment is a long way from being useful to patients, but the findings are strong enough to be studied in a large clinical trial.

Current Alzheimer's drugs only treat symptoms, but so far no drugs have been shown to improve memory in patients with Alzheimer's.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Early diagnosis can cut Alzheimer's costs: study

HONOLULU, 16 july 2010-- Identifying dementia early can cut the cost of care by nearly 30 percent, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday, a finding that may reduce the heavy financial burden of the disease on the health care system.

They said routine screening that identified patients with early signs of dementia helped cut average healthcare costs by nearly $2,000 per patient in the first year, often by eliminating money spent on unnecessary tests and treatments.

"That runs into billions of dollars we could potentially save," Dr. Riley McCarten of the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center told reporters at the Alzheimer's Association meeting in Honolulu.

On Tuesday experts at the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association proposed new guidelines for diagnosing the fatal and incurable brain disease even before patients have symptoms.

The U.S. government, private insurance and individuals spend $172 billion a year to treat people with Alzheimer's disease, a fatal and incurable deterioration of the brain that affects more than 26 million people globally. It is the most common form of dementia.

By 2050, the cost of Alzheimer's care will reach $1.08 trillion a year in the United States, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

McCarten said most people in the United States with dementia are never diagnosed, and they often turn up in the emergency room with an acute problem when what they really have is a fatal brain disease.

"People lurch from one crisis to another," he said. "There is a tremendous amount of healthcare resources dedicated to acutely managing a chronic disease."


McCarten and colleagues at seven Veterans Administration medical centers looked to see how much they could save by routinely screening patients with a two-minute memory test.

More than 8,000 people over age 70 took the test and 26 percent failed. Those who failed were offered a 90-minute work-up to diagnose dementia, and about a third of those who failed the initial screening were tested. Of these, 97 percent had some form of cognitive impairment and 76 percent had dementia.

People who got a diagnosis and their families met with case managers to devise a care plan, and the team tracked their health costs for a year.

After subtracting the cost of the evaluation, patients saved an average of $1,700 annually, McCarten said.

"We found cost savings in the short run -- within one year," he said. McCarten said early diagnosis gives patients the chance to have a say in their own care, and it gives families time to come to grips with the disease.

A separate study by researchers at Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer found that a large portion of the financial burden of caring for Alzheimer's patients falls on families and caregivers.

Their Internet survey of nearly 1,000 families of Alzheimer's patients found they spend an average of $1,000 per month out of pocket to care for a family member in a nursing home, and $375 a month to care for them at home.

The team also found that families spend nearly 70 hours a week caring for an Alzheimer's patient at home, and close to 30 hours a week when their family member is in a nursing home.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Palliative care lacking in much of the world

HONG KONG, 15 july 2010-- Most people who are dying around the world have inadequate or no access to painkillers, hospice and palliative care, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit on Wednesday.

The report blamed the cultural taboos surrounding death, government avoidance of the issue, poor public awareness and untrained healthcare workers for the problem, which affects even advanced countries like the United States and Japan.

While more than 100 million people worldwide would benefit from hospice and palliative care each year, less than 8 percent access it, according to the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance.

"The focus is on curative care, where doctors focus on curing patients at all costs; the U.S. is an extreme example of that," said Tony Nash, EIU global director and key author of the report, which gave a "Quality of Death Index" covering 40 countries.

"There really isn't an acceptance of hospice and palliative care as a viable option, they are seen almost as surrendering once you enter those environments," Nash said in a telephone interview from Singapore.

Britain topped the index with the best quality-of-death care, followed by Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Belgium. Near the bottom were China, Brazil and Uganda, with India ranked 40th.

The United States was ranked 9th, dragged down by the financial burden of healthcare near death, which reflects the high overall cost of healthcare, according to the report.

Singapore was ranked 18th, Hong Kong 20th and Japan 23rd.

The rankings took into account factors like availability of painkillers, hospices and public funding, transparency between doctor and patient, training of healthcare workers and whether palliative care is incorporated into national health policies.

The report cited India as having least access to painkillers because of strict laws against illicit drug use. Even doctors and nurses in some large cancer hospitals in India were not trained to administer morphine, the report said.

Five billion people live in countries with insufficient or no drugs controlling severe or moderate pain, according to the World Health Organization. The world's population is 6.8 billion.

The report said strong taboos surrounded death in Japan, China and India, adding that in some cases, relatives forbade healthcare workers from informing patients of their conditions.

It called for more discussion and public debate on providing end-of-life care, saying that would raise public awareness, encourage governments to incorporate palliative care into national health policies and open the way for healthcare workers to be trained in this area.

Only seven countries in the index -- Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, Turkey and Britain -- have national health policies that include palliative care. (

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Updated Alzheimer's guidelines add very early stage

HONOLULU, 14 july 2010-- Proposed new guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer's released on Tuesday would look at the disease at its earliest stages, when clumps of a protein called amyloid are just beginning to form in the brains of people who are otherwise healthy.

This pre-clinical stage about 10 years before dementia sets in is seen as the best place to intervene in the disease, and it is why new imaging agents for PET scans, spinal fluid tests and other so-called biomarkers that predict Alzheimer's are becoming so important to researchers and drug companies.

The changes, presented at the Alzheimer's Association meeting in Honolulu, are the first update of the criteria used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease in more than 25 years. They are the work of three expert panels put together by the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association.

They suggest Alzheimer's should be diagnosed in three stages -- advanced disease, mild disease and the new category called pre-clinical disease.

"I think we're realizing that the process of Alzheimer's disease begins many years before dementia," Dr. Reisa Sperling of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who led the group on pre-clinical Alzheimer's disease, said in an interview.

Many researchers believe most Alzheimer's drugs have failed because they were tried in people whose disease was too advanced to do any good.

Currently, only an autopsy can confirm that a person has Alzheimer's disease, a fatal and incurable deterioration of the brain that affects more than 26 million people globally.

Doctors diagnose Alzheimer's by excluding other potential causes of memory loss, such as stroke, tumors and heavy drinking. They can also administer simple paper-and-pencil tests.

Bill Thies, chief medical officer of the Alzheimer's Association, said the changes reflect an increased scientific understanding of Alzheimer's, including the use of biomarkers tracked by brain scans, blood and spinal fluid tests.

Many of these new tests will still need to be validated before the recommendations are fully adopted, Thies said.

"I do think it is useful to stage Alzheimer's disease," said Sperling, who runs clinical trials on Alzheimer's drugs.

She said many diseases, including cancer, heart disease and kidney disease, are diagnosed on the basis of tests, even before symptoms appear.

"We shouldn't put Alzheimer's disease to a higher standard than we do every other disease," she said.

The guidelines are just the first step. The NIA, a part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Alzheimer's Association are seeking comment on the new guidelines from other Alzheimer's experts, and they plan to include those comments and publish them in a medical journal.

Current Alzheimer's drugs only treat symptoms, but so far no drugs can change the course of the disease.

Larger Head Size Tied to Less Decline in Alzheimer's Patients

Greater head circumference may protect against cognitive impairment with atrophy

14 july 2010 -- Greater head circumference appears to be protective against cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer's disease, according to research published in the July 13 issue of Neurology.

Robert Perneczky, M.D., of the Technische Universität München in Germany, and colleagues analyzed the results of cognitive testing, APOE genotyping, and brain magnetic resonance imaging on 270 patients with Alzheimer's disease to determine whether there is a correlation between head circumference and cognitive performance in people with the same level of brain pathology.

The researchers found a significant decrease in cognitive function with brain atrophy, and also a significant interaction between head circumference and atrophy. In patients with higher levels of atrophy, those with a greater head circumference had higher levels of cognition.

"This study suggests that larger head circumference is associated with less cognitive impairment in the face of cerebral atrophy. This finding supports the notion that head circumference (and presumably brain size) offers protection against Alzheimer's disease symptoms through enhanced brain reserve," the authors conclude.

Four authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Low vitamin D increases risk of dementia in elderly

LONDON , 13 july 2010– Older people with low levels of vitamin D appear more likely to have problems with memory, learning and thinking, suggesting low vitamin D could give an early warning for dementia risk, scientists said on Monday.

Researchers from Britain, Italy and the United States studied 850 Italians aged 65 or older and found that those who were severely vitamin D deficient were 60 percent more likely to experience substantial general cognitive decline, and 31 percent more likely to experience problems with mental flexibility.

"This is the first study to identify a clear link between low vitamin D levels and cognitive decline," said David Llewellyn of the Peninsula Medical School at Britain's Exeter University, who led the study.

"We have now been able to demonstrate a connection between having low levels of vitamin D and going on to develop cognitive problems."

Since an estimated that one billion people worldwide have insufficient levels of vitamin D, Llewellyn said the findings were "a cause for real concern."

Giving vitamin D supplements to older people to boost their levels could be "a highly promising therapeutic target for the prevention of dementia," he said, particularly since supplements are cheap, safe and have already been shown to help prevent to reduce the risk of falls and fractures.

Most vitamin D is made by the body as a natural by-product of the skin's exposure to sunlight. It can also be found in a few foods such as oily fish and is vital for health, as it helps cells absorb calcium and is key for bone strength.

Some recent studies have also suggested vitamin D may protect against cancer, artery disease and tuberculosis.

In this study, Llewellyn's team found that older people who were severely deficient in vitamin D -- defined as having blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of less than 25 nanomoles per liter -- were 60 percent more likely to have substantial cognitive decline over a 6-year period studied.

They were also 31 percent more likely to show decline in a test measuring executive function than those with good vitamin D levels. The findings were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal.

Dementia is a brain-wasting condition that affects around 35 million people worldwide.

Its most common form is Alzheimer's disease, in which patients gradually to lose their memory, their ability to navigate and understand the world around them and to look after themselves. Despite decades of research, doctors still have few effective weapons against it.

Llewellyn's team said they thought Vitamin D may help prevent the degeneration of brain tissue by having a role in formation of nervous tissue, maintaining levels of calcium in the body, or clearing of beta-amyloid, the substance that forms the brain plaques that are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Experts estimated that in the United States and Europe, between 40 percent to 100 percent of older adults are deficient in vitamin D and the problem is aggravated in the elderly as they spend more time indoors and their skin becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D with age.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Exercise, Vitamin D Seem to Cut Alzheimer's Risk: Researchers

12 july 2010-- Physical activity and adequate levels of vitamin D appear to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, according to two large, long-term studies scheduled to be presented Sunday at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Hawaii.

In one study, researchers analyzed data from more than 1,200 people in their 70s enrolled in the Framingham Study. The study, which has followed people in the town of Framingham, Mass., since 1948, tracked the participants for cardiovascular health and is now also tracking their cognitive health.

The physical activity levels of the 1,200 participants were assessed in 1986-1987. Over two decades of follow-up, 242 of the participants developed dementia, including 193 cases of Alzheimer's.

Those who did moderate to heavy amounts of exercise had about a 40 percent reduced risk of developing any type of dementia. People with the lowest levels of physical activity were 45 percent more likely to develop any type of dementia than those who did the most exercise. These trends were strongest in men.

"This is the first study to follow a large group of individuals for this long a period of time. It suggests that lowering the risk for dementia may be one additional benefit of maintaining at least moderate physical activity, even into the eighth decade of life," study author Dr. Zaldy Tan, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, VA Boston and Harvard Medical School, said in an Alzheimer's Association news release.

The second study found a link between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia later in life.

Researchers in the United Kingdom analyzed data from 3,325 people aged 65 and older who took part in the third U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The participants' vitamin D levels were measured from blood samples and compared with their performance on a measure of cognitive function that included tests of memory, orientation in time and space, and ability to maintain attention. Those who scored in the lowest 10 percent were classified as being cognitively impaired.

The study found that the risk of cognitive impairment was 42 percent higher in people who were deficient in vitamin D, and 394 percent higher in those with severe vitamin D deficiency.

"It appears that the odds of cognitive impairment increase as vitamin D levels go down, which is consistent with the findings of previous European studies. Given that both vitamin D deficiency and dementia are common throughout the world, this a major public health concern," study author David Llewellyn, of the University of Exeter Peninsula Medical School, said in the news release.

Skin naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. However, most older adults in the United States have insufficient vitamin D levels because skin becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D as people age and there's limited sunlight for much of the year.

"Vitamin D supplements have proven to be a safe, inexpensive and effective way to treat deficiency," Llewellyn said. "However, few foods contain vitamin D and levels of supplementation in the U.S. are currently inadequate. More research is urgently needed to establish whether vitamin D supplementation has therapeutic potential for dementia."

Previous research has pointed to a number of factors that may be associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer's, especially cardiovascular risk factors, said William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer at the Alzheimer's Association.

He added that "the Alzheimer's Association and others have repeatedly called for longer-term, larger-scale research studies to clarify the roles that these factors play in the health of the aging brain."

These new studies "are some of the first reports of this type in Alzheimer's, and that is encouraging, but it is not yet definitive evidence," Thies said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's disease.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Blood Protein Reflects Severity and Progression in Alzheimer's

Clusterin identified as a 'peripheral signature' of Alzheimer's but not a stand-alone biomarker

09 july 2010-- Elevated plasma concentration of clusterin is associated with Alzheimer's disease pathology, severity, and rate of clinical progression, according to research published in the July issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Madhav Thambisetty, M.D., of King's College London, and colleagues, using data on subjects from two studies of Alzheimer's disease, compared blood samples from subjects with the disease, subjects with mild cognitive impairment, and healthy subjects to identify associations of blood proteins with brain atrophy, disease severity, and clinical progression rate. In an extension study in six-month-old transgenic mice modeling Alzheimer's disease, the researchers also looked for associations between candidate proteins and brain amyloid.

The researchers found that clusterin/apolipoprotein J was associated with disease severity at baseline, entorhinal cortex atrophy, and rapid disease progression. Among subjects with Alzheimer's disease, increased clusterin messenger RNA in the blood also was observed. A greater concentration of clusterin in blood was associated with a greater burden of amyloid-β in the medial temporal lobe. In the mouse model, the researchers found increased blood clusterin, age-related increased brain clusterin, and amyloid and clusterin together in brain plaques.

"We identified clusterin as a plasma protein associated with disease pathology, severity, and progression in Alzheimer's disease. Although these findings do not support the clinical utility of plasma clusterin concentration as a stand-alone biomarker for Alzheimer's disease, they reveal a robust peripheral signature of this amyloid chaperone protein that is responsive to key features of disease pathology," the authors write.

Kings College London has registered as intellectual property a process for the use of plasma proteins, including clusterin, as Alzheimer's disease biomarkers, with two of the study authors named as inventors. Another study author disclosed receiving research support from pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Doctor-Patient E-Mails Are a Healthy Addition, Research Shows

08 july 2010-- Patients with diabetes or hypertension or both who communicated with their doctors via e-mail got better care and better health outcomes, new California research contends.

The improvements as a result of the e-mail exchanges included such measures as blood sugar and blood pressure control, according to a report appearing in Health Affairs.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has called for implementing "secure patient-physician messaging" as part of electronic health records by 2013.

Kaiser Permanente health system started phasing in secure e-mail communication nationwide in 2004. In southern California, some three million patients as well as all primary and specialty care Kaiser doctors signed up for it and, by the end of 2008, 35,423 adult patients (7.8 percent of members in that geographical area) and 3,092 primary care physicians had actually used it.

The study authors, from Kaiser Permanente, analyzed 630,807 e-mail messages between patients and doctors from March 2006 to December 2008, then compared them to baseline data from the previous year. The vast majority of the e-mails (85 percent) were initiated by the patients.

Those who emailed their doctors saw improvements of 2.4 percent to 6.5 percent in blood sugar control and screening, cholesterol screening and control as well as screening for retinopathy and nephropathy (kidney disease).

Also, more patients with diabetes or hypertension alone achieved blood pressure levels under 140/90.

And the more frequently emails were exchanged, the greater the improvements.

According to prior studies, patients most often emailed to report some kind of change in their condition, to talk about lab results and to discuss medication issues.

Patients also tended to respect the doctor's time, with three-quarters sending messages on actual medical issues as opposed to "their mother's favorite meatloaf recipe," said Terhilda Garrido, vice president for health information technology transformation and analytics at Kaiser Permanente and senior author of the study.

"It sounds a little cliche . . . but the hypothesis [about why this works] is that putting the information in the patient's hands makes them feel empowered and, therefore, in control of their condition," Garrido added.

"A lot of our patients say this actually makes them closer or more connected to their physician, and there's information in the health literature that that kind of bonding and improved relationship is very supportive of improved health outcomes," she said.

The appeal of electronic communication is not catching on quite as quickly in the wider world, however. A recent Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found that fewer than 1 in 10 American adults utilizes electronic medical records or turns to e-mail to contact his or her physician.

Dr. Noelle LoConte, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center in Madison, who uses e-mail in her practice, said she gets "surprisingly few" e-mails each day, only five or six.

Still, for her, the system is working.

"For me, it's easier to do e-mail than to constantly be on the phone because I can decide when I'm going to open the e-mail account," LoConte said. Often, that means after the kids go to sleep and before they wake up.

As for the patients, she's heard no complaints and "they still have the phone," she said.

More information

The National Institutes of Health has more on electronic health records.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

USPSTF To Update Osteoporosis Guidelines With Recos For Screening Men And Women At Low Risk For Fracture

In 2002, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended bone density screening for women 65 years or older and women aged 60 to 64 at increased risk for osteoporotic fractures. At the time, the Task Force made no recommendations for or against screening men or women in other patient populations.

07 july 2010--Researchers reviewed research published between 2001 and 2009 to determine the effectiveness and harms of osteoporosis screening in reducing fractures for men and postmenopausal women without known previous fractures; the performance of risk-assessment instruments and bone measurement tests in identifying persons with osteoporosis; optimal screening intervals; and efficacy and harms of medications to reduce primary fractures.

The researchers found that although methods to identify risk for osteoporotic fractures are available and medications to reduce fractures are effective, no trials directly evaluate screening effectiveness, harms, and intervals for this patient population.

A draft recommendation statement will be posted for public comment on the USPSTF Web page for a period of four weeks. The USPSTF will consider posted comments when finalizing the recommendations.

News from the Annals of Internal Medicine: July 6, 2010

Angela Collom
American College of Physicians

Monday, July 05, 2010

Alzheimer's imaging study identifies changes in brain's white matter

MRI reveals that changes occur in high-risk seniors before symptoms appear

LEXINGTON, Ky. 05 july 2010 − Scientists at the University of Kentucky's College of Medicine have identified changes in the brains of normal individuals at high risk for Alzheimer's disease that could prove important for early detection of the disease.

The research, led by Brian Gold, associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, focused on the brain's white matter, which forms the majority of deep parts of the brain and consists primarily of myelinated nerve cell processes, or axons. These myelinated axons serve to connect the brain's gray matter regions, which contain nerve cell bodies.

"The brain's white matter can be thought of as a set of telephone wires which enable communication between gray matter 'thinking regions'," Gold said.

Previous studies have demonstrated decline in both gray and white matter tissue types in individuals with Alzheimer's. In the present study, the authors sought to determine which of these changes are present in normal seniors at high risk for Alzheimer's disease, a likely target group for emerging interventions.

The high-risk group consisted of individuals whom have both genetic and family risk factors for Alzheimer's disease but do not yet show cognitive changes. The low-risk control group consisted of individuals who had neither risk factor but were similar to the high-risk group in terms of age, education level and cognitive functioning.

The study used several magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to assess the integrity of gray matter and white matter brain tissue in the high and low risk groups. In particular, a recently developed form of MRI called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used to assess the integrity of the brain's white matter. This technique allows for assessment of the microstructural integrity of axons and their surrounding myelin.

Results indicated that the two groups did not differ in the tissue volumes of several gray matter regions know to contribute to memory function. However, the high-risk group showed decreased integrity in white matter tracts that inter-connect gray matter regions involved in memory function. Both the axonal and myelin integrity of these white matter tracts were reduced.

These data suggest that changes in white matter connections may be among the earliest brain changes in Alzheimer's disease, which may prove important for early detection by non-invasive imaging. In addition, the findings may have implications for the development of new preventative treatment interventions in Alzheimer's disease, which could attempt to protect axon and myelin integrity in seniors at risk for this neurological disorder.


The findings were published in an article in the journal Neuroimage. This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Low vitamin D linked to the metabolic syndrome in elderly people

A new study adds to the mounting evidence that older adults commonly have low vitamin D levels and that vitamin D inadequacy may be a risk factor for the metabolic syndrome, a condition that affects one in four adults. The results were presented at The Endocrine Society's 92nd Annual Meeting in San Diego.

04 july 2010--"Because the metabolic syndrome increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, an adequate vitamin D level in the body might be important in the prevention of these diseases," said study co-author Marelise Eekhoff, MD, PhD, of VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam.

The researchers found a 48 percent prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. The study consisted of a representative sample of the older Dutch population: nearly 1,300 white men and women ages 65 and older.

Nearly 37 percent of the total sample had the metabolic syndrome, a clustering of high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, abnormal cholesterol profile and high blood sugar.

Subjects with blood levels of vitamin D (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D) lower than 50 nanomoles per liter, considered vitamin D insufficiency, were likelier to have the metabolic syndrome than those whose vitamin D levels exceeded 50. That increased risk especially stemmed from the presence of two risk factors for the metabolic syndrome: low HDL, or "good" cholesterol, and a large waistline.

There was no difference in risk between men and women, the authors noted.

The study included subjects who were participating in the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. Although the data were from 1995 and 1996, Eekhoff said they expect that vitamin D inadequacy remains prevalent among whites in the Netherlands.

Using follow-up data from 2009, the researchers plan to study how many of the subjects with low vitamin D levels developed diabetes.

"It is important to investigate the exact role of vitamin D in diabetes to find new and maybe easy ways to prevent it and cardiovascular disease," Eekhoff said.


The study's other authors were Mirjam Oosterwerff, MD, Paul Lips, MD, PhD, and Natasja Van Schoor, PhD, all from VU University Medical Center.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Study shows age doesn't necessarily affect decision-making

Many people believe that getting older means losing a mental edge, leading to poor decision-making. But a new study from North Carolina State University shows that when it comes to making intuitive decisions – using your "gut instincts" – older adults fare as well as their juniors.

03 july 2010--The researchers tested groups of young adults (aged 17-28) and community-dwelling older adults (aged 60-86) – meaning they live in the community, rather than in a nursing home – to see how they fared when making decisions based on intuitive evaluation. For example, study participants were asked to choose from a list of apartments based on each apartment's overall positive attributes. Under such conditions, young and older adults were equally adept at making decisions.

"But not every decision can be made that way," says Dr. Thomas Hess, a professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of the study. "Some decisions require more active deliberation. For example, those decisions that require people to distinguish pieces of information that are important from those that are unimportant to the decision at hand." And when it comes to more complex decision-making, Hess says, older adults face more challenges than their younger counterparts.

In one portion of the study, participants were given a list of specific criteria to use in selecting an apartment. That list was then taken away, and each participant had to rely on his or her memory to incorporate the criteria into their decision-making.

However, there was considerable variation among the older adults who participated in the study – some did very well at the complex decision-making. "Older adults with a higher education did a better job of remembering specific criteria and utilizing them when they made decisions," says lead author Tara Queen, a psychology Ph.D. student at NC State. "Ultimately, they made better choices."

"This tells us that the effects of age on decision-making are not universal," Hess says. "When it comes to making intuitive decisions, like choosing a dish to order from a menu, young and old are similar. Age differences are more likely to crop up when it comes to complex decision-making, such as choosing a health-care plan based on a complex array of information. But even then, it appears that any negative effects of aging will be more evident in those with lower levels of education."

The research can be used to change the way we present information to older adults, Hess adds. Queen explains that "presenting older adults with overwhelming amounts of information is less beneficial to them. For example, different people have different priorities. Information can be broken down into categories. People could then decide which categories are most important to them, and dig down for additional information as needed."

Queen and Hess are currently doing additional research to determine exactly how the complexity of information being presented to older adults affects their decision-making – knowledge that could allow for more specific measures that could be used to help older adults continue to make good decisions.


The study, "Age Differences in the Effects of Conscious and Unconscious Thought in Decision Making," was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging and the Retirement Research Foundation. The study is published in the June issue of Psychology and Aging.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Closing in on genes that help people live to 100

WASHINGTON, 02 july 2010 – The oldest among us seem to have chosen their parents well. Researchers closing in on the impact of family versus lifestyle find most people who live to 100 or older share some helpful genes.

But don't give up on diet and exercise just yet.

In an early step to understanding the pathways that lead to surviving into old age, researchers report in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science that a study of centenarians found most had a number of genetic variations in common.

That doesn't mean there's a quick test to determine who will live long and who won't — a healthy lifestyle and other factors are also significant, noted the team led by Paola Sebastiani and Thomas T. Perls of Boston University.

Nevertheless, Perls said the research might point the way to determining who will be vulnerable to specific diseases sooner, and there may be a possibility, down the road, to help guide therapy for them.

The team looked at the genomes of 1,055 Caucasians born between 1890 and 1910 and compared them with 1,267 people born later.

By studying genetic markers the researchers were able to predict with 77 percent accuracy which came from people over 100.

"Seventy-seven percent is very high accuracy for a genetic model," said Sebastiani. "But 23 percent error rate also shows there us a lot that remains to be discovered."

The centenarians could be fitted into 19 groups with different genetic signatures, they found. Some genes correlate with longer survival, others delayed the onset of various age-related diseases such as dementia.

"The signatures show different paths of longevity," Sebastiani said.

In general, the centenarians remained in good health longer than average, not developing diseases associated with old age until in their 90s, according to the study.

The researchers were surprised, Sebastiani said, that they found little difference between the centenarians and the control group in genetic variations that predispose people to certain illnesses.

"We found that what predisposes to a long life is not lack of disease associated variants, but the presence of protective variants," she said at a briefing.

In addition, 40 percent of "super-centenarians" aged 110 and over had three specific genetic variants in common.

Perls cautioned that this is a very complex genetic puzzle and "we're quite a ways away, still, in understanding what pathways are governed by these genes."

"I look at the complexity of this puzzle and feel very strongly that this will not lead to treatments that will get people to be centenarians," he said. But it may help in developing a strategy and screenings that will help find what treatments will be needed down the road.

While this study, begun in 1995, focused on Caucasians, the researchers said they plan to extend it to other groups, including studying Japan, which has large numbers of elderly.

"Inheritability of longevity has been looked at, so genes do play a role," said Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler of the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University.

But so do other factors "such as driving motorcycles fast and smoking," said Kendler, who was not part of the research team.

The 77 percent accuracy rate reported in this study is better than other groups have been able to do, Kendler added.

The U.S. study found that about 85 percent of people 100 and older are women and 15 percent men.

"Men tend to be more susceptible to mortality in age-related diseases," Perls said. "Once they get a disease they more readily die. Women, on the other hand, seem to be better able to handle these diseases, so they tend to have higher levels of disability than men, but they live longer than men."

The study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Aging and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Testosterone Gel Increases Risk Of Heart Attacks And High Blood Pressure In Older Men - Treatment Phase Of Clinical Trial Stopped

According to a trial in older men using testosterone gel treatment, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, using testosterone gel results in a higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and high blood pressure (hypertension) compared to a placebo.

The trial was stopped because of these adverse events. The study was supported by a grant to Shalender Bhasin, M.D., at Boston Medical Center from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Decreased muscle strength may contribute to difficulties in mobility, such as in walking or climbing stairs, which can limit older persons' independence. Testosterone treatment has been shown to improve muscle strength in some older men, but it is not yet known whether it would reduce mobility limitations in older men with low testosterone levels. The TOM (Testosterone in Older Men) Trial was designed to address this question. It was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of the effects of six months of testosterone gel treatment on strength and ability to walk and climb stairs in 209 older men with low testosterone levels and mobility limitations. The testosterone gel used in this study was administered to the skin daily. The 209 men in the trial had an average age of 74 and high rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The treatment phase of the trial was stopped on Dec. 31, 2009, following a review by the study's Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB). The DSMB is an independent panel of medical and statistical experts set up from the start of the trial to check regularly for the occurrence of adverse health events in participants and to detect any possible risks from treatment. In December 2009, the board found that 23 of the 106 men who had received testosterone experienced adverse cardiovascular-related events during the study, compared to five of the 103 men who received placebo. The cardiovascular-related events included heart attack, heart rhythm disturbances and elevated blood pressure, and one death from a suspected heart attack. The DSMB weighed the severity of the adverse events in relation to the potential benefits and recommended that participants stop taking study medications and that enrollment be stopped.

As soon as the DSMB made its recommendation, the treatment phase of the trial was halted. All participants were promptly notified and asked to meet with study physicians to discuss any questions they might have. The men who experienced cardiovascular events were treated by their personal physicians for their specific conditions. No new participants will be enrolled in the study. The study team will continue to monitor the health of all participants for at least another year after stopping testosterone use to further evaluate effects of the treatment.

The report in the New England Journal of Medicine provides detailed data about the outcomes and adverse events in participants. The authors note that physicians and patients, especially older men, should consider this study's findings on adverse effects along with other information on the risks and benefits of testosterone therapy. They also note that further research is needed to clarify the safety issues raised by this trial.

The authors caution that the ability to draw broader conclusions about the safety of testosterone therapy based on these findings is constrained by several factors, including this study's small size and the fact that the study's population was older and had higher rates of chronic diseases and mobility limitation than individuals in most other studies.

In addition, the trial's eligibility criteria excluded men with severely low testosterone levels, limiting the ability to make inferences about safety in this population. The authors also note that the testosterone doses and serum levels in this trial may be higher than those usually used in clinical practice and in some previous clinical trials. NIA is funding six other trials studying the effects of testosterone. All of the principal investigators of those trials and their DSMBs and Safety Officers have been informed of the findings in the TOM Trial. After reviewing these findings, and other evidence relating to safety of testosterone treatment, the DSMBs and Safety Officers recommended continuation of the trials, with provision of additional information to participants and additional safety precautions. NIA has reviewed these recommendations and concurs with them.

"Adverse Events Associated with Testosterone Administration"
Shehzad Basaria, M.D., Andrea D. Coviello, M.D., Thomas G. Travison, Ph.D., Thomas W. Storer, Ph.D., Wildon R. Farwell, M.D., M.P.H., Alan M. Jette, Ph.D., Richard Eder, B.A., Sharon Tennstedt, Ph.D., Jagadish Ulloor, Ph.D., Anqi Zhang, Ph.D., Karen Choong, M.D., Kishore M. Lakshman, M.D., Norman A. Mazer, M.D., Ph.D., Renee Miciek, M.S., Joanne Krasnoff, Ph.D., Ayan Elmi, B.A., Philip E. Knapp, M.D., Brad Brooks, B.S., Erica Appleman, M.A., Sheetal Aggarwal, B.S., C.C.R.P., Geeta Bhasin, B.A., Leif Hede-Brierley, Ashmeet Bhatia, M.B., B.S., Lauren Collins, R.N.P., Nathan LeBrasseur, Ph.D., Louis D. Fiore, M.D., and Shalender Bhasin, M.D.
New England Journal of Medicine10.1056/NEJMoa1000485

Source: National Institute on Aging