Men at Higher Risk for Mild Memory Loss Than Women

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Men may be at higher risk of experiencing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or the stage of mild memory loss that occurs between normal aging and dementia, than women, according to a study published in the January 25, 2012, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“These results are surprising, given that women generally have higher rates of dementia than men,” said study author R.O. (Rosebud) Roberts, MB ChB, MS, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “The risk of MCI in men and women combined was high in this age group of elderly persons. This is disturbing given that people are living longer, and MCI may have a large impact on health care costs if increased efforts at prevention are not used to reduce the risk.”

For the study, a group of 1,450 people from Olmsted County, Minn., between the ages of 70 and 89 and free of dementia at enrollment underwent memory testing every 15 months for an average of three years. Participants were also interviewed about their memory by medical professionals. By the end of the study period, 296 people had developed MCI.

The study found that the number of new cases of MCI per year was higher in men, at 72 per 1,000 people compared to 57 per 1,000 people in women and 64 per 1,000 people in men and women combined. MCI with memory loss present was more common at 38 per 1,000 people than MCI where memory loss was not present, which affected 15 per 1,000 people. Those who had less education or were not married also had higher rates of MCI.

“Our study suggests that risk factors for mild cognitive impairment should be studied separately in men and women,” said Roberts.

Another finding of interest in the study showed that among people who were newly diagnosed with MCI, 12 percent per year were later diagnosed at least once with no MCI, or reverted back to what was considered “cognitively normal.” Roberts said the majority of people with MCI, about 88 percent per year, continue to have MCI or progress to dementia.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Robert H. and Clarice Smith and Abigail van Buren Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program and was made possible by the Rochester Epidemiology Project.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of 24,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

Released: 1/17/2012

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/study-men-at-higher-risk-for-mild-memory-loss-than-women

To Turn Up the Heat in Chilies, Just Add Water!

Newswise — Biologists have learned in recent years that wild chilies develop their trademark pungency, or heat, as a defense against a fungus that could destroy their seeds. But that doesn’t explain why some chilies are hot and others are not.

New research provides an answer: Hot chilies growing in dry areas need more water to produce as many seeds as non-pungent plants, but the Fusarium fungus is less of a threat in dryer environments so chilies in those areas are less likely to turn up the heat. In wetter regions, where Fusarium thrives, wild chilies build up their reserves of spicy capsaicin in self-defense.

“Despite the reduced benefit of pungency in dry environments, hot plants still occur there, as does the deadly fungus. That suggests that the greater presence of non-pungent plants that produce substantially more seeds is the result of a fitness-based tradeoff,” said David Haak, lead author of a paper describing the research published Wednesday (Dec. 21) inProceedings of the Royal Society B. The Royal Society is the United Kingdom’s academy of science.

Haak, a post-doctoral researcher at Indiana University, conducted the research as part of his doctoral work at the University of Washington. Co-authors of the paper are Leslie McGinnis of the University of Michigan, who did the work while a UW undergraduate; Douglas Levey of the University of Florida and Joshua Tewksbury, a UW biology professor who leads the research group.

The scientists examined pungency differences by comparing the proportion of pungent plants with that of non-pungent plants in 12 populations of wild chilies in southeastern Bolivia along a 185-mile line that gradually progressed from a relatively dry region to a wetter region. They conducted plant censuses in focal populations five times between 2002 and 2009, and tagged plants in each census so they could determine new seedlings the next time.

They found that, starting in the dryer northeast part of the section, 15 to 20 percent of the plants had pungent fruit, and pungency increased along the line toward the wetter southwest, where they never found a single plant that did not produce pungent fruit.

They also selected three populations of chili plants that each produced both pungent and non-pungent fruit and spanned the range of rainfall and pungency differences. They then grew seeds from those plants in the UW Botany Greenhouse to examine what affect water availability had on pungency.

The 330 plants that resulted from those seeds were grown under identical conditions until they reached their first flowering, then were separated into two groups – one that received plenty of water and one that was stressed by receiving only the amount of water available to plants in the driest area of Bolivia from which seeds were taken.

The scientists found that under water-stressed conditions, non-pungent plants produced twice as many seeds as pungent plants. That suggests the pungent plants trade some level of fitness for protection from the Fusarium fungus, Haak said.

The researchers determined the pungent plants have developed a reduced efficiency in water use, so in dryer areas they produce fewer seeds and are more limited in reproduction. In wetter areas, non-pungent plants are at a reproductive disadvantage because they are much more likely to have their seeds attacked by the fungus.

“It surprised us to find that the tradeoff to produce capsaicin in pungent plants would involve this major physiological process of water-use efficiency,” Haak said.

He noted that over the entire range, 90 to 95 percent of the chili fruits had some level of fungal infection, and pungent plants were better able to defend themselves.

The research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation; the National Geographic Society; Sigma Xi, the scientific research society; and the UW Department of Biology.

Released: 12/20/2011

Source: University of Washington

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/to-turn-up-the-heat-in-chilies-just-add-water

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Depression

DALLAS – Jan. 5, 2012 – Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression, according to UT Southwestern Medical Center psychiatrists working with the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. It is believed to be the largest such investigation ever undertaken.

Low levels of vitamin D already are associated with a cavalcade of health woes from cardiovascular diseases to neurological ailments. This new study – published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings – helps clarify a debate that erupted after smaller studies produced conflicting results about the relationship between vitamin D and depression. Major depressive disorder affects nearly one in 10 adults in the U.S.

“Our findings suggest that screening for vitamin D levels in depressed patients – and perhaps screening for depression in people with low vitamin D levels – might be useful,” said Dr. E. Sherwood Brown, professor of psychiatry and senior author of the study, done in conjunction with The Cooper Institute in Dallas. “But we don’t have enough information yet to recommend going out and taking supplements.”

UT Southwestern researchers examined the results of almost 12,600 participants from late 2006 to late 2010. Dr. Brown and colleagues from The Cooper Institute found that higher vitamin D levels were associated with a significantly decreased risk of current depression, particularly among people with a prior history of depression. Low vitamin D levels were associated with depressive symptoms, particularly those with a history of depression, so primary care patients with a history of depression may be an important target for assessing vitamin D levels. The study did not address whether increasing vitamin D levels reduced depressive symptoms.

The scientists have not determined the exact relationship – whether low vitamin D contributes to symptoms of depression, whether depression itself contributes to lower vitamin D levels, or chemically how that happens. But vitamin D may affect neurotransmitters, inflammatory markers and other factors, which could help explain the relationship with depression, said Dr. Brown, who leads the psychoneuroendocrine research program at UT Southwestern.

Vitamin D levels are now commonly tested during routine physical exams, and they already are accepted as risk factors for a number of other medical problems: autoimmune diseases; heart and vascular disease; infectious diseases; osteoporosis; obesity; diabetes; certain cancers; and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, multiple sclerosis, and general cognitive decline.

Investigators used information gathered by the institute, which has 40 years of data on runners and other fit volunteers. UT Southwestern has a partnership with the institute, a preventive medicine research and educational nonprofit located at the Cooper Aerobics Center, to develop a joint scientific medical research program aimed at improving health and preventing a wide range of chronic diseases. The institute maintains one of the world’s most extensive databases – known as the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study – that includes detailed information from more than 250,000 clinic visits that has been collected since Dr. Kenneth Cooper founded the institute and clinic in 1970.

Other researchers involved in the study were Dr. Myron F. Weiner, professor of psychiatry and neurology and neurotherapeutics; Dr. David S. Leonard, assistant professor of clinical sciences; lead author MinhTu T. Hoang, student research fellow; Dr. Laura F. DeFina, medical director of research at The Cooper Institute; and Benjamin L. Willis, epidemiologist at the institute.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/mentalhealth to learn more about clinical services in psychiatry at UT Southwestern.

Released: 1/5/2012

Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/low-vitamin-d-levels-linked-to-depression-ut-southwestern-psychiatrists-report

Time for a Change? Johns Hopkins Scholars Say Calendar Needs Serious Overhaul

Newswise — Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University have discovered a way to make time stand still — at least when it comes to the yearly calendar.

Using computer programs and mathematical formulas, Richard Conn Henry, an astrophysicist in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and Steve H. Hanke, an applied economist in the Whiting School of Engineering, have created a new calendar in which each new 12-month period is identical to the one which came before, and remains that way from one year to the next in perpetuity.

Under the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, for instance, if Christmas fell on a Sunday in 2012 (and it would), it would also fall on a Sunday in 2013, 2014 and beyond. In addition, under the new calendar, the rhyme “30 days hath September, April, June and November,” would no longer apply, because September would have 31 days, as would March, June and December. All the rest would have 30. (Try creating a rhyme using that.)

“Our plan offers a stable calendar that is absolutely identical from year to year and which allows the permanent, rational planning of annual activities, from school to work holidays,” says Henry, who is also director of the Maryland Space Grant Consortium. “Think about how much time and effort are expended each year in redesigning the calendar of every single organization in the world and it becomes obvious that our calendar would make life much simpler and would have noteworthy benefits.”

Among the practical advantages would be the convenience afforded by birthdays and holidays (as well as work holidays) falling on the same day of the week every year. But the economic benefits are even more profound, according to Hanke, an expert in international economics, including monetary policy.

“Our calendar would simplify financial calculations and eliminate what we call the ‘rip off’ factor,’” explains Hanke. “Determining how much interest accrues on mortgages, bonds, forward rate agreements, swaps and others, day counts are required. Our current calendar is full of anomalies that have led to the establishment of a wide range of conventions that attempt to simplify interest calculations. Our proposed permanent calendar has a predictable 91-day quarterly pattern of two months of 30 days and a third month of 31 days, which does away with the need for artificial day count conventions.”

According to Hanke and Henry, their calendar is an improvement on the dozens of rival reform calendars proffered by individuals and institutions over the last century.

“Attempts at reform have failed in the past because all of the major ones have involved breaking the seven-day cycle of the week, which is not acceptable to many people because it violates the Fourth Commandment about keeping the Sabbath Day,” Henry explains. “Our version never breaks that cycle.”

Henry posits that his team’s version is far more convenient, sensible and easier to use than the current Gregorian calendar, which has been in place for four centuries – ever since 1582, when Pope Gregory altered a calendar that was instituted in 46 BC by Julius Caesar.

In an effort to bring Caesar’s calendar in synch with the seasons, the pope’s team removed 11 days from the calendar in October, so that Oct. 4 was followed immediately by Oct. 15. This adjustment was necessary in order to deal with the same knotty problem that makes designing an effective and practical new calendar such a challenge: the fact that each Earth year is 365.2422 days long.

Hanke and Henry deal with those extra “pieces” of days by dropping leap years entirely in favor of an extra week added at the end of December every five or six years. This brings the calendar in sync with the seasonal changes as the Earth circles the sun.

In addition to advocating the adoption of this new calendar, Hanke and Henry encourage the abolition of world time zones and the adoption of “Universal Time” (formerly known as Greenwich Mean Time) in order to synchronize dates and times worldwide, streamlining international business.

“One time throughout the world, one date throughout the world,” they write in a January 2012 Global Asia article about their proposals. “Business meetings, sports schedules and school calendars would be identical every year. Today’s cacophony of time zones, daylight savings times and calendar fluctuations, year after year, would be over. The economy — that’s all of us — would receive a permanent ‘harmonization’ dividend.”

View a website about the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar here:
http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/calendar.html

Read Hanke and Henry’s January 2012 Global Asia article about calendar reform here:
http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=13940

Released: Released: 12/27/2011

Source: Johns Hopkins

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/time-for-a-change-johns-hopkins-scholars-say-calendar-needs-serious-overhaul

Health News….Breakthrough in Treatment to Prevent Blindness

Photo Credit: UCSF, Bruce Gaynor, MD, performs an ocular examination on a patient in Ethiopia, where there is a high prevalence of trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.

Newswise — A UCSF study shows a popular treatment for a potentially blinding eye infection is just as effective if given every six months versus annually. This randomized study on trachoma, the leading cause of infection-caused blindness in the world, could potentially treat twice the number of patients using the same amount of medication.

“The idea is we can do more with less,” said Bruce Gaynor, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology. “We are trying to get as much out of the medicine as we can because of the cost and the repercussions of mass treatments.”

In a paper published this month in The Lancet(http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2811%2961515-8/fulltext), researchers conducted a cluster-randomized trial, using an antibiotic called azithromycin to treat trachoma in Ethiopia, which has among the highest prevalence in the world. They picked 24 communities and randomized the two treatment options: 12 villages were given azithromycin every six months and the other 12 were treated every 12 months.

“What we found was the prevalence of trachoma is very high at baseline. Forty to 50 percent of the children in these communities have this condition,” Gaynor said. “They are the most susceptible and it can quickly spread from person to person by direct or even indirect contact.”

Researchers tracked both groups and found the prevalence of infection decreased dramatically.

“We found that from as high as 40 percent, the prevalence of trachoma went way down, even eliminated in some villages regardless of whether it was treated in an annual way or a biannual way,” Gaynor said. “You can genuinely get same with less.”

Their finding is significant because of how easily the disease spreads. Trachoma can be transmitted through touching one’s eyes or nose after being in close contact with someone who is infected. It can also be spread through a towel or an article of clothing from a person who has trachoma. Even flies can transmit the disease.

Approximately 41 million people are infected with trachoma globally, and 8 million go blind because of lack of access to treatment. More than 150 million doses of azithromycin have been given out worldwide to treat this disease. Unlike other antibiotics, resistance to azithromycin has not been found in Chlamydia trachomatis, the bacteria that causes trachoma.

This and the paper’s major finding give hope to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Latin America and Australia, where trachoma is still a major problem.

“We will now be able to reach more people and make the treatment go twice as far as before,” Gaynor said. “This will make a huge impact in slowing down trachoma-related blindness globally.”

Gaynor is the corresponding author of the paper; the lead author is Teshome Gebre, PhD, of the Carter Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Atlanta, GA; co-authors are Berhan Ayele, MSc, and Mulat Zerihun, MPH, and Paul M. Emerson, PhD, of the Carter Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Atlanta, GA; Asrat Genet, MD, of Amhara Regional Health Bureau, Ethiopia; Thomas Lietman, MD, of the Francis I. Proctor Foundation, UCSF Dept. of Ophthalmology, UCSF Dept. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and UCSF Institute for Global Health; Travis C. Porco, PhD, of the Francis I. Proctor Foundation, UCSF Dept. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and UCSF Institute for Global Health; Nicole E. Stoller, MPH, Zhaoxia Zhou, BA, Jenafir I. House, MPH, Sun N. Yu, MPH, and Kathryn J. Ray, MS, of the Francis I. Proctor Foundation; Jeremy D. Keenan, MD, of the Francis I. Proctor Foundation and UCSF Department of Ophthalmology.

The study was supported by funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Released: 12/21/2011

Source: University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/breakthrough-in-treatment-to-prevent-blindness

Truly Amazing….New Cotton Fabric Cleans Itself When Exposed to Ordinary Sunlight

Imagine jeans, sweats or socks that clean and de-odorize themselves when hung on a clothesline in the sun or draped on a balcony railing. Scientists are reporting development of a new cotton fabric that does clean itself of stains and bacteria when exposed to ordinary sunlight.

Newswise — Imagine jeans, sweats or socks that clean and de-odorize themselves when hung on a clothesline in the sun or draped on a balcony railing. Scientists are reporting development of a new cotton fabric that does clean itself of stains and bacteria when exposed to ordinary sunlight. Their report appears in the ACS’ journal Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Mingce Long and Deyong Wu say their fabric uses a coating made from a compound of titanium dioxide, the white material used in everything from white paint to foods to sunscreen lotions. Titanium dioxide breaks down dirt and kills microbes when exposed to some types of light. It already has found uses in self-cleaning windows, kitchen and bathroom tiles, odor-free socks and other products. Self-cleaning cotton fabrics have been made in the past, the authors note, but they self-clean thoroughly only when exposed to ultraviolet rays. So they set out to develop a new cotton fabric that cleans itself when exposed to ordinary sunlight.

Their report describes cotton fabric coated with nanoparticles made from a compound of titanium dioxide and nitrogen. They show that fabric coated with the material removes an orange dye stain when exposed to sunlight. Further dispersing nanoparticles composed of silver and iodine accelerates the discoloration process. The coating remains intact after washing and drying.

The authors acknowledge funding from Donghua University and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Released: 12/16/2011

Source: American Chemical  Society (ACS)

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/new-cotton-fabric-cleans-itself-when-exposed-to-ordinary-sunlight

Some Great Ideas on How to Minimize Your Stress During this Holiday Season

Photo Credit: Royalty-Free image, Minimize your holiday stress by making time for yourself and getting a good night's sleep, says a Ryerson University psychology expert.Newswise — The holidays are a festive time of year filled with friends and family. But with our focus so much on others, we can forget ourselves and become inexplicably stressed and sad. The key to enjoying the upcoming season is being aware of the things (and people) that affect us:

1. Manage your expectations: With so much going on, particularly with other people, this may not be the best time to expect perfection. Don’t set yourself up for undue stress by hosting parties for dozens of people, complete with a gourmet menu and stunning décor. Starting with modest and achievable expectations increases the likelihood that you will avoid disappointment.

2. Add a good night’s sleep to your “to-do” list”: Don’t deprive yourself of sleep to get more done. Sleep deprivation is a major mood killer—consider scaling back your to-do list and get some rest. An irritable host will be noticed long before the place cards and napkin rings that you stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish.

3. Mind your sleep schedule over the holidays: Sleep is a major factor in mood. With a holiday schedule full of late night parties, hours of travel, shopping, cooking and cleaning you quickly find yourself deprived of a few hours night after night. Adopting a sleep schedule that is radically different from the schedule you keep during the year can produce jetlag-like symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, and poor mood. Children are especially susceptible to this: watch your young child’s mood disintegrate with a later and more varied holiday schedule.

4. Avoid “crashing”: The holidays are filled with foods that initially boost our mood and then produce longer term sugar crashes, sluggishness, and bloating. Eat healthy meals throughout the holidays and snack on healthier options such as fruits and vegetables before a party so that you are less likely to fill up on junk food and sweets. Including healthier foods in your diet will stabilize your blood sugar, rather than cause it to spike, which means a happier and more energetic you.

5. Know your limits: We all know the holidays can be a prime time for the airing of family issues and grievances. If visiting a particular relative ruins the holidays for you, devise a new plan that limits your exposure to that person or situation. If having dinner with a cantankerous aunt leaves you with resentment and ill feelings for days afterwards, skip it. It’s better to exercise good self-care over the holidays than to agree to plans that will result in a tense atmosphere and hurt feelings.

6. Make time for you: People often forget to prioritize themselves throughout the year and it gets even worse over the holidays. Take some time just for yourself. If you haven’t had a chance to do this during the day, set aside time before bed to wind down and relax. Even a half hour walk or soak in the tub at the end of the day will make a world of difference.

7. Still tossing and turning all night?: If you find yourself lying in bed with visions of budgets, menus and obligations running through your head – get out of bed. Leave your room to find something that relaxes you and return to bed when you are sleepy. Being upset or awake in the place where you should be finding rest can lead to longer term associations between your bed and stress and anxiety.

Released: 12/8/2011

Source: Ryerson University

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/minimize-your-stress-this-holiday-season-ryerson-expert

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