Health & Wellness


Can Language Skills Ward Off Alzheimer's? A Nuns' Study

Adding to the deep body of research associating mental acuity with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, a study published online on July 8 by the journal Neurology suggests that people who possess sophisticated linguistic skills early in life may be protected from developing dementia in old age - even when their brains show the physical signs, like lesions and plaques, of memory disorders.

That discrepancy is not unheard of: many elderly patients develop the brain lesions, plaques and tangled neurological-tissue fibers that are indicative of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, but not all of them exhibit the memory loss and confusion that typically characterize these disorders. In fact, the number of such patients may be greater than researchers first thought. In a November 2008 study, a team of scientists used a new positron emission tomography (PET) brain-imaging technique developed by Drs. William Klunk and Chester Mathis of the University of Pittsburgh to image the brains of live patients - a leap forward in a field that long had to rely on postmortem analyses of brain tissue to confirm diagnoses after the fact - and showed that some 21% of patients with physical signs of dementia suffered no outward symptoms of cognitive impairment.


Exercise Helps Heart Disease, Increases Survival Better than Angioplasty

At the European Association of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation meeting recently held in Barcelona, Spain, new heart research was presented that shows one treatment in particular can provide remarkable help for patients with certain forms of serious heart disease. It's not a new drug or surgical procedure. Instead, it's a natural therapy -- plain old-fashioned regular exercise.

In fact, in several studies just presented at the meeting, exercise reduced the markers of heart disease in patients following coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG). What's more, it improved indications of disease in people with heart failure, a condition usually thought to be incurable and often just treated with symptom-relieving drugs. But the news that's perhaps most likely to make some interventional cardiologists' hearts skip a beat or two was the evidence presented that showed that exercise improved cardiac event-free survival in coronary patients better than angioplasty with stents.

Also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), angioplasty is commonly used to help people with coronary artery disease whose arteries are narrowed and even blocked by a build-up of sticky plaque. By threading a thin tube through a blood vessel in the arm or groin, interventional cardiologists perform angioplasty to restore blood flood through a clogged artery. A tiny balloon at the end of the tube is inflated when it reaches the exact spot of blockage. That pushes the plaque outward against the walls of the artery, restoring blood flow. A small metal device called a stent is also carried by the tube and deployed at the site of the blockage in order to prop open the artery.


Go to the Source of the Problem: Arthritis is Built-Up Toxicity in the Joints

According the Associated Press, patients, particularly arthritis patients, are "fretting" over reduced access to acetaminophen, a drug that's known to cause liver damage. One patient claims the lack of access to this known poison might encourage those in pain to turn to street drugs for relief. While no one wants to be in pain, the real shame is that it's not common knowledge that arthritis is often simply a build up of toxic matter in the joints - toxic matter that can be removed by deeply cleansing the body internally. The inflammation of the surrounding tissues occurs as a result of the proximity to these acidic toxins hidden in the joints.

The root cause of arthritis is something you might want to know because one in five adults have been diagnosed with arthritis, and three out of five of those are under 65. These days one in 250 children have also developed what used to be an older person's disease.

The reasons for this penetration into younger individuals are obvious when you understand how toxicity accumulates in the body, and when you understand just how toxic common diets and lifestyles have become. Combined with the fact that relatively few people make a concerted effort to remove the effects of "normal" diets and lifestyles, we're seeing exactly what you'd expect to see.


Laughter Differs in Children with Autism

According to a recent paper entitled "Laughter Differs in Children with Autism: An Acoustic Analysis of Laughter Produced by Children with and without the Disorder" in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, children diagnosed with autism produce different laughs than their nonautistic peers.

"We revealed that children with autism produce very engaging laughs that we call 'voiced' laughs," said William Hudenko, the lead author on the paper and assistant professor of psychology at Ithaca College.

The study recorded laughter during a series of playful interactions with an examiner. The results showed that children with autism exhibited only one type of laughter, compared to two types of laughter for nonautistic children. There was no difference in laugh duration, frequency, change in or number of laughs per interaction.


Hidden Dangers of Processed Foods

A stroll down your grocery store's aisles can be a tempting experience. Rows and rows of delicious food all wrapped up in colorful packages, encouraging you to give it a try with catchy names and creative graphics.

Good food, delicious food that's appealing to the eye, and convenient to boot. Anything that yummy has to be nourishing, right?


'Allergy Gene' Identified by Scientists

A key gene mutation that more than doubles the risk of asthma, hay fever and eczema has been identified by scientists.

The filaggrin gene helps skin produce a protective barrier against the foreign bodies that trigger allergies.

An analysis of 24 previous studies has shown people with defects in this gene are much more likely to develop unwelcome reactions such as sneezing and itchy eyes, severe dermatitis, asthma, hay fever and eczema.


One Secret to How Tuberculosis Bacterium Sticks With You

Mycobacterium tuberculosis is arguably the world's most successful infectious agent because it knows how to avoid elimination by slowing its own growth to a crawl. Now, a report in the July 10 issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, offers new insight into the bugs' talent for meager living.

"Tuberculosis can resist the host immune system and remain latent for decades," said Michael Glickman of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. To do so, the mycobacterium responsible must resist an arsenal of DNA-damaging mutagens produced within the macrophage, the immune cell in which it lives. "It's incompletely understood how it can do that. We've identified one such mechanism."

The discovery could lead to new drugs that might eliminate strains of TB that have grown resistant to those that are currently available.


Newborn Brain Cells Show The Way

Although the fact that we generate new brain cells throughout life is no longer disputed, their purpose has been the topic of much debate. Now, an international collaboration of researchers made a big leap forward in understanding what all these newborn neurons might actually do. Their study, published in the July 10, 2009, issue of the journal Science, illustrates how these young cells improve our ability to navigate our environment.

"We believe that new brain cells help us to distinguish between memories that are closely related in space," says senior author Fred H. Gage, Ph.D., a professor in the Laboratory for Genetics at the Salk Institute and the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases, who co-directed the study with Timothy J. Bussey, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge, UK, and Roger A. Barker, PhD., honorary consultant in Neurology at Addenbrookes Hospital and Lecturer at the University of Cambridge.

When the first clues emerged that adult human brains continually sprout new neurons, one of the central tenets of neuroscience - we are born with all the brain cells we'll ever have - was about to be overturned. Although it is never easy to shift a paradigm, a decade later the question is no longer whether neurogenesis exists but rather what all these new cells are actually good for.


Study Examines Effects Of Stress On Weight Gain In US Population

Stressing out can cause people to gain weight, according to a study appearing in the July 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. This new study is believed to be one of the first of its kind to look at the relationship between weight gain and multiple types of stress - job-related demands, difficulty paying bills, strained family relationships, depression or anxiety disorder - in the U.S. population.

"Today's economy is stressing people out, and stress has been linked to a number of illnesses - such as heart disease, high blood pressure and increased risk for cancer. This study shows that stress is also linked to weight gain,'' according to Jason Block, M.D., M.P.H., who conducted the research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar® at Harvard University. Block practices internal medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital and is on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.


Children and Pregnant Women Targeted in U.S. Swine Flu Mass Vaccination Program

The U.S. government is about to unleash a sweeping new vaccination program that claims to protect people from swine flu. The vaccines, which are of course completely useless against any mutated strain of the H1N1 influenza virus, are nevertheless quite useful at suppressing the immune function of those who receive them. Well-designed medical studies conducted over the years have consistently shown that the people who catch the flu (influenza) with the greatest frequency are precisely those who get the most flu shots.

To those who know anything about the immune system, vaccines and influenza, it may seem shocking to learn that the U.S. influenza vaccine program will first target those with the weakest immune systems to begin with: Toddlers as young as six months old, pregnant women and adults with degenerative disease. This is precisely what Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today.