Preliminary research shows that the shingles vaccine can provide some level of stroke protection for seniors.
For this study, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed Medicare records for more than one million patients over the age of 66 years. All of the patients had received the shingles vaccine between 2208 and 2014; the incidence of stroke was tracked for four years afterward.
The overall stroke risk dropped 20 percent for patients under the age of 80 years who received the shingles vaccine. In patients 80 years and older, the risk dropped about 10 percent.
Shingles is a viral infection that has been tied to an increased risk of stroke. It is caused by the chickenpox virus and is characterized by a painful bout of rashes and blisters. For patients who have previously had chickenpox, there is a greater risk for eventually developing shingles. The vaccine can reduce the shingles risk by about half. The CDC recommends that all adults age 50 and older get the shingles vaccine.
The research team, led by senior scientist Quanhe Yang, found that stroke protection from the shingles vaccine was particularly strong among patients between 66 and 79 years of age.
It’s unclear what the cause of the reduced stroke risk is, but it might have something to do with inflammation. Patients who have shingles have a greater risk of heart attack and stroke due to the body’s inflammatory response to the illness.
Peer-review and follow-up research using the CDC’s preferred shingles vaccine is needed. The study was performed with a vaccine that is no longer the vaccine of choice.
A recent study from the University of Plymouth indicates that being able to view greenery and nature from your workplace or home can lead to less frequent or intense harmful cravings—like cravings for junk food, alcohol, and cigarettes.
This new research builds off of previous research that looked at a link between reduced cravings and exercising outdoors. And while it’s well known that spending time outdoors has been linked to a more positive mindset, this new study suggests that exercise may not be necessary to experience some of the benefits of the outdoors. It’s the first study to explore the idea of how seeing green spaces and wellbeing are linked, and it can potentially lead to a focus on more environmental protection and programs.
For the study, participants filled out an online survey that had questions about usual cravings, frequency of negative emotions, and daily exposure to nature (exposure to greenery in neighborhoods, amount of foliage visible from the home, garden access, and frequency of visiting public parks).
The participants with daily access to gardens or other green spaces had a lower frequency of harmful cravings. Being able to view nature from the participant’s home had similar results. While the researchers took exercise into account, participants appeared to report less cravings after viewing nature regardless of exercise.
The study, published in the journal Health & Place, can help to provide insight into how to help those struggling with addictions, and also stresses the importance of investing in and protecting green spaces in communities.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition that most commonly affects patients as they reach their older years. However, new research indicates that those who have a history of Alzheimer’s in their family could start experiencing memory problems as early as in their 20s.
The study, published in the journal eLife and performed by researchers at the University of Arizona and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), used data collected by an online memory test called MindCrowd.
MindCrowd participants between the ages of 18 and 85 were analyzed. For every age group under 65, the impact of family history of Alzheimer’s disease was accounted for. In total, there were 59,571 participants.
On average, those under 65 with a family history of Alzheimer’s did not perform as well on the memory test when compared to those with no family history in the same age group. The effect appeared to be prevalent in participants with diabetes, those with less formal education, and men.
This study is the first of its kind to look into tangible warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, which has been considered a hereditary disease that is passed on from one generation to the next.
By evaluating these risk factors and how family history is associated, early steps can be taken to help patients keep their brains sharp.
A recent study funded by Veteran Affairs’ Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) found that post-9/11 veterans with a history of multiple traumatic brain injuries are at a greater risk of considering suicide. This is compared with veterans who had no brain injuries. The study was published in the journal Psychological Services.
The study looked at interviews with more than 800 veterans who served in combat roles in Afghanistan and Iraq. About half of the veterans had experienced one traumatic brain injury (TBI). Nearly 20 percent of those veterans with multiple TBIs had recent suicidal ideation. This is compared with only 11 percent of veterans who had only one TBI and 9 percent of those with no history of TBIs.
The veterans with at least one TBI also reported poorer sleep quality and higher rates of depression. The researchers relied on the Beck Scale to determine which veterans were at risk, and a licensed health professional conducted a suicide risk assessment for these participants.
The study was led by Dr. Robert Shura, a neuropsychologist at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in North Carolina.
Dr. Robert Shura, a neuropsychologist at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in North Carolina, led the study. He stressed the importance of identifying characteristics of veterans likely to think about suicide—which is a prime moment for intervention.
Dr. Shura also indicated that this study is just one piece in a complex puzzle. And while there’s no direct explanation for why TBI history can increase suicidal thoughts, it could be that chronic pain, sleep issues, and trouble adjusting to life at home after traumatic events can all contribute. More research is needed on the subject to help doctors provide the best care for veterans returning from deployment.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, visiting elderly friends and family members can improve their health. In fact, elderly people with a strong support system appear to be less likely to develop dementia. On the other hand, elderly people who are surrounded by negativity can actually suffer from an increased risk of dementia.
The long-term study was performed by researchers at the University of East Anglia. They worked with scientists from three other schools in the United Kingdom. The researchers tracked six items from a health and lifestyle questionnaire in people aged 50 years and older. The study lasted 10 years and involved 10,055 individuals. All of the participants were dementia-free when the study began.
After gathering baseline information about the participants’ current levels of social support—both positive and negative—changes were measured every two years. During the course of the study, 3.4% of the participants developed a form of dementia. Researchers noted that a slight increase in positive social support reduced the risk of dementia by 17%, while negative social support increased the risk of dementia by 31%.
Positive social support involves a handful of quality connections, while negative social support can include relationships with others who are unreliable and fault-finding.
Dr. Mizanur Khondoker, the study’s co-author and a senior lecturer in medical statistics, pointed out that a rich network of close relationships reducing risk of cognitive decline is not a new concept. “However, a relationship or social connection that does not work well can be a source of intense interpersonal stress,” he stated.
Dementia is a debilitating brain condition. This study helps to explore the importance of relationships, especially in aging. However, additional research is needed to truly understand the possible links.
You’ve likely heard the expression, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” And for patients who are living with multiple sclerosis (MS), that expression may have some truth to it. New research has emerged that shows that a diet full of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains—and with few added sugars and processed and red meats—is associated with a reduced risk of disability in patients with MS.
But the benefits go beyond reduced disability risk, especially for those with a healthy lifestyle. For this research, a healthy lifestyle is defined as a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal weight, and avoiding smoking.
MS is characterized by the body’s immune system attacking myelin, the fatty substance that coats nerve cells, and the nerve cells themselves. The damage that is done can result in numbness, fatigue, tingling, dizziness, blurred vision, and walking problems.
MS and Diet
Researchers aren’t sure exactly how a healthy diet can help patients with MS, but it may be because healthy diets typically help to reduce inflammation. Since MS creates inflammation, it’s logical that a diet that reduces it will improve symptoms. Additionally, losing weight as a result of eating right can reduce pressure on joints.
MS and Exercise
In most cases, it is safe for MS patients to exercise—although the doctor should be consulted first. If tolerated, exercise can help to maintain muscle strength, allowing for a quicker recovery if a relapse occurs. Patients should aim for aerobic exercise three to four times a week and find a physical activity that they enjoy, if their doctor approves exercise.
While there is still research needed to determine how lifestyle factors improve MS, there are associations there that are worth exploring.