Health & age-related problems

Smoking may counteract benefit of moderate drinking on stroke risk

March, 2010

A large long-running study has found that though non-smokers who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol were 37% less likely to develop stroke than non-drinkers, this association was not found among smokers.

A 12-year study following the drinking and smoking habits of 22,524 people aged 39-79 has found that in non-smokers, people who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol were 37% less likely to develop stroke than non-drinkers. This association was not found among smokers. The finding may explain the inconsistency in previous studies into the relationship between light to moderate drinking and stroke.

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The findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto, April 10 - 17, 2010.

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Memory of emotions persist beyond memory of the event for memory-impaired

April, 2010

A study involving severe amnesiacs has found that induced feelings of happiness or sadness persist long after the memory of the event. The findings challenge the idea that by minimizing a specific memory of past trauma, associated sadness will also decrease, and also point to the need for care in dealing with those with impaired memory — don’t assume that any induced emotion will vanish as quickly as the memory of it.

A study involving five patients with severe amnesia due to damage in the hippocampus, resulting in a condition comparable to Alzheimer's, has found that memory tests given 5-10 minutes after sad and happy film clips showed little (if any) memory of the details, but the generated emotion lasted for 20 to 30 minutes afterward. Interestingly, normal controls also felt happy for about the same length of time, but the impact of sad scenes was shorter. The findings challenge the idea that by minimizing a specific memory of past trauma, associated sadness will also decrease. Indeed, it may be that forgetting the details of unhappy events prolongs the effects. The findings also point to the need for care in dealing with those with impaired memory — don’t assume that any induced emotion will vanish as quickly as their memory of it.

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[471] Feinstein JS, Duff MC, Tranel D. Sustained experience of emotion after loss of memory in patients with amnesia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [Internet]. 2010 ;107(17):7674 - 7679. Available from: http://www.pnas.org/content/107/17/7674.abstract

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Obesity gene, carried by more than a third of the US population, leads to brain tissue loss

April, 2010

A variant of a gene called the fat mass and obesity associated (FTO) gene causes people to gain weight and puts them at risk for obesity. Now a new study suggests that this gene variant is also associated with loss of brain tissue, in that, if you have this gene variant, your weight is associated with neuron loss, and if you don't, it isn’t.

A variant of a gene called the fat mass and obesity associated (FTO) gene causes people to gain weight and puts them at risk for obesity. The gene variant is found in nearly half of all people in the U.S. with European ancestry, around one-quarter of U.S. Hispanics, 15 percent of African Americans and 15 percent of Asian Americans. A new study involving 206 healthy elderly subjects from around the U.S. now suggests that this gene variant is also associated with loss of brain tissue. It’s not clear why, but the gene is highly expressed in the brain. Those with the "bad" version of the FTO gene had an average of 8% less tissue in the frontal lobes, and 12% less in the occipital lobes. The brain differences could not be directly attributed to other obesity-related factors (cholesterol levels, hypertension, or the volume of white matter hyperintensities), which didn’t vary between carriers and non-carriers. But if you have this gene variant, your weight is associated with neuron loss, and if you don't, it isn’t. The finding emphasizes the need for those with the gene to fight weight gain (and brain loss) by exercising and eating healthily.

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Low vitamin D levels related to lower cognitive function in MS sufferers

April, 2010

A study involving multiple sclerosis sufferers has found very high rates of vitamin D deficiency, and that higher levels of vitamin D3 and its byproducts were associated with better scores on cognitive tests (especially reasoning and planning), and less brain atrophy and fewer brain lesions.

A study involving 236 persons with multiple sclerosis has found that only 7% of those with secondary-progressive MS showed sufficient vitamin D in their blood, compared to 18.3% of patients with the less severe relapsing-remitting type, and that higher levels of vitamin D3 and its byproducts were associated with better scores on cognitive tests (especially reasoning and planning), and less brain atrophy and fewer brain lesions. Lower-than-normal vitamin D status is known to be associated with a higher risk of developing MS

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The results were reported at the American Academy of Neurology's 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto, April 10–17, 2010.

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