Friday, May 22, 2009

Alzheimer’s research links postponed retirement with later onset

I am glad that there is at least SOME humility expressed below about the implications of the correlation. That early signs of Alzheimers might tend to force people into retirement seems not to have been considered. So which is it?" Early retirement causes Alzheimers or Alzheimers causes early retirement?" Nobody knows -- despite the confident pronunciamentos from some of the people quoted below. The usual epidemiological crap

Working until 65 or beyond could postpone the onset of dementia. A study of 382 men found a significant association between later retirement and later onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The research supports previous theories that keeping the mind active for as long as possible can help to postpone mental decline. In contrast to earlier studies, however, the researchers found that the quality or duration of the men’s education or the type of work they did had no impact on the age of onset of the disease.

The team from Cardiff University and the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, identified men with “probable” Alzheimer’s disease from clinical databases from the Medical Research Council and Alzheimer’s Research Trust. They compared their retirement dates and found that every extra year worked postponed the onset of dementia symptoms by nearly six weeks.

The National Institute for Economic and Social Research has suggested that the official retirement age be raised to 70 within a decade to mitigate the effects of government debt.

Publishing their findings today in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the study authors say that the association between later retirement age and later Alzheimer’s onset was “significant”. But, they add, there could be several explanations for this, including previous ill health having influenced a decision to retire. Further studies were needed across a wider group of people to confirm the findings, they said.

The Alzheimer’s Society said: “There could be a number of reasons why later retirement in men is linked with later onset of dementia. Men who retire early often do so because of health conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes, which increase your risk of dementia. It could also be that working helps keep your mind and body active, which may reduce risk of dementia. “The best way to reduce your risk of dementia is to combine keeping physically active, with eating a balanced diet and getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly.”

There are 700,000 people in Britain with dementia, 417,000 of whom suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. It is expected that a further one million people will develop dementia in the next ten years. The average age of retirement for the men in the study was 63.3 years. The average age of onset of Alzheimer’s was 75.6 years.

Simon Lovestone, scientific adviser to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust and the paper’s co-author, said: “The intellectual stimulation that older people gain from the workplace may prevent a decline in mental abilities, thus keeping people above the threshold for dementia for longer. Much more research is needed if we are to understand how to delay, or even prevent, dementia.”

Rebecca Wood, chief of the research trust, which funded the study, said: “More people than ever retire later in life to avert financial hardship, but there may be a silver lining: lower dementia risk. Much more research into lifestyle factors is needed if we are to whittle down the £17 billion a year that dementia costs our economy.”


MA: State set to mimic NYC calorie listing regs

It has been a year since the nation's biggest city became the first to order McDonald's, Starbucks, and other restaurant chains to post calories on menu boards as prominently as prices.

Now, as health regulators in Massachusetts appear poised to adopt similar rules this morning, residents might want to listen to hungry, harried New Yorkers to know what is coming. From the West Side to the East Side, fast-food aficionados insist they still peek at the calorie counts and, sometimes, make healthier choices when they see, for example, that an angus burger with bacon and cheese at McDonald's is laden with 820 calories.

But the lure of sweet, calorie-rich offerings remains powerful - even if customers know that a single, creamy coffee drink can pack 400 calories or more. Consider Niles Patel. He visited a Midtown Manhattan McDonald's yesterday afternoon, and after reflecting on the menu board summary, he ordered a chicken sandwich wrap, containing just 260 to 340 calories. But he topped off his meal with a sundae, loaded with roughly the same tally of calories. "I do pay attention to it," Patel, 33, of North Bergen, N.J., said of the calorie listing, "but there's no rhyme or reason to whether I follow it."

Surveys by the New York City Department of Health suggest that the calorie counts at least make people think a bit more about what they put in their stomachs. Since the calorie regulation went into effect in New York last May, 67 percent of patrons at national chains reported they saw the postings, and 25 percent of those who noticed the listings said the information factored into their orders.

"That works out to hundreds of thousands of people a day because so many people eat fast food every day," said Dr. Lynn Silver, assistant commissioner for chronic disease prevention in New York. "But the information needs to be front and center on the menu boards to be seen by most people," Silver said.

The calorie rules, which have been adopted in cities as far-flung as Philadelphia and Seattle in the past year, were born of frustration among doctors and health specialists who watched with growing alarm as the nation's collective waistline ballooned during the past two decades. Two of three American adults weigh too much.

And with studies showing that Americans consume one-third of their calories outside the home, fast-food chains, with standardized menus and a penchant for super-sizing, have become a top target for regulators. Even before New York made it the law, Subway sandwich shops, like the one on Ninth Avenue near 53d Street, started listing calories next to prices. The manager, Mustapha Laababer, said a few times every day, customers grill him about the calorie readings. "They care about calories," Laababer said, "especially women....

Fast-food chains have, for the most part, been measured in their response to the calorie posting laws, although several, including Canton-headquartered Dunkin' Donuts, have called for a single national standard rather than a patchwork of local regulations.

In Massachusetts, the rule is expected to win approval today from the Public Health Council, an appointed board of doctors, public health specialists, and consumer advocates. It would apply to chains with 20 or more restaurants in the state. Establishments would have until November of next year to comply, and the regulations would not apply to grocers or school cafeterias.

John Auerbach, the Massachusetts public health commissioner, said his agency was realistic about what the calorie-posting law can accomplish. "We need to work on many fronts in terms of changing people's behaviors and encouraging healthy nutrition and more exercise," Auerbach said. "And menu labeling is certainly one piece of it, but it's not the entire answer to the problem."


Alair heat treatment cuts asthma emergencies

Any good news about asthma is very welcome

AN experimental asthma treatment that uses heat to reduce airway constriction provided some relief from severe asthma that is poorly controlled with medications, US researchers said. They said the Alair device, made by privately held Asthmatx Inc of Sunnyvale, California, cut the rates of extreme asthma attacks by 32 per cent and reduced trips to the emergency room by 84 per cent in patients with severe asthma.

Patients missed fewer days of work or school because of asthma symptoms and had more symptom-free days compared with people who received a placebo, according to results of the late-stage clinical trial.

The Alair device uses a thin tube to gently heat the walls of the lung's air passages, killing off some of the muscle tissue to reduce narrowing of the airways. "In asthma, what happens is these patients develop enlarged smooth muscles surrounding their bronchial tubes," Dr Mario Castro of Washington University said. "That contributes to asthma attacks.

Dr Castro and colleagues tested the device in 297 patients with severe asthma in six countries. Researchers split the patients into two groups. Two-thirds got three treatments with the Alair device, and the rest received a placebo treatment, in which the heat was not applied. The patients were followed closely for a year. Overall, 79 per cent of patients who got the experimental treatment improved. Dr Castro said the other group also improved, [placebo] but the treatment group showed a statistically significant improvement.

He said all of the patients were taking inhaled drugs combining a corticosteroid and a long-acting beta-agonist, such as in GlaxoSmithKline Plc's best-selling drug Advair. But they were still not getting adequate relief.

Asthmatx Inc is seeking US Food and Drug Administration approval for the device, with a decision expected in spring. The treatment has been approved in Europe.


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