August 27, 2015

Two TED Talks Related to Upcoming Discussion of Brain Healing and Parkinson's

It's 9pm Thursday, and I'm just getting around to writing today's post. So, looking for something quick and easy, I came up with these two TED talks. I had saved them because they relate to a post I intend to run next week on neural plasticity (the brain's ability to heal itself) and Parkinson's.

First comes the highly popular talk by the positive psychology expert Shawn Achor. Most people believe that once they land that long-awaited promotion, make more money, get their kids into the right schools, lose a few pounds or find a meaningful relationship, then they'll be happy. But based on recent discoveries in the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience, Achor says this formula has it backwards. As it turns out, happiness actually fuels success, not the other way around.


Achor's TED talk has been viewed by millions. It's a bit too slick and cute for my taste. Much more to my liking is this talk by Dr. Libby McGugan, an emergency physician from Glascow, Scotland. When I looked at the video, YouTube showed 1,682 views. You go, girl!

August 26, 2015

Another Call for "Less Medicine, More Health"

That's the title of an excellent book by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch.

An internist at the White River Junction Veterans Administration Medical Center in Vermont, and a researcher at the Dartmouth Institute, Welch presents an informal, witty, and wise argument that less "care" may result in better health and less harm to the patient.

He systematically debunks seven widely held assumptions about the value of more tests and treatments. His book is "more narrative, with fewer numbers, and perhaps most importantly, no scary tabular and graphical data and no superscript references."

The Seven Assumptions
Welsh devotes a chapter to each assumption, and he ends each chapter with a "prescription" of simple, actionable strategies to avoid too much medical care.

August 25, 2015

Nine Risk Factors for Alzheimer's

An article published online last week in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry describes nine risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The data from this study suggests that these nine factors contribute to two thirds of all AD cases worldwide.

What’s more, these remarkably varied risk factors are all modifiable; there is something we can do about them. That’s important because there is no cure for the disease that affects over 44 million people around the world… and hundreds of millions of family members and caregivers.

Eager to study the complexity of AD development, researchers in China and California undertook a monumental enterprise: reviewing all relevant studies published in English from 1968 to July, 2014 (in PubMed and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews).

From the 16,906 studies they reviewed, the scientists identified 323 that offered data they could include in their own study. From those 323 studies, the team found 93 separate possible AD risk factors that involved more than 5,000 people.

Because they were especially concerned with the causes – the complexity – of dementia development, the researchers pooled the metadata from all the applicable studies and evaluated the evidence based on its strength.

First, the Evidence
The team found “grade 1 level evidence” (evidence obtained from at least one properly designed randomized controlled trial) that the following medical exposures were protective against dementia development: 
  • The female hormone estrogen
  • Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs)
  • Drugs to lower high blood pressure
  • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
The scientists found the same quality of evidence – protective against AD – for these dietary exposures:
  • Folate (a water-soluble B vitamin naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement)
  • Vitamins C and E
  • Coffee

On the other hand, the scientists found a strong association between the following and a heightened risk of developing AD:

August 21, 2015

CurcuWIN: A Caution and an Example of Patient Forum Usefulness

A few days ago, I reported that I planned a switch to the CurcuWIN brand of curcumin -- the active ingredient of the Indian curry spice turmeric -- known for its effective anti-inflammatory properties.

A recent update about curcumin supplements by ConsumerLab prompted my decision.

I'm a member of two online forums for people with Parkinson's: Patientslikeme and HealthUnlocked. Before bedtime last night, I sent posts to both forums about my planned switch to CurcuWIN.

This morning, two responses awaited me, both from a HealthUnlocked member.

August 20, 2015

Exercise for My Aging Brain: Less Is Not More but It Might Be Good Enough

No doubt I'll never find a study that claims less exercise is better than more. However, a new study suggests that a small amount of exercise may improve our ability to think as we age... and that more exercise may not necessarily be better.

We all know that working out is good for us. But precisely how much exercise do we need to gain various health benefits? Is the same dose of exercise that promotes heart health equally good for brain health?

For the new study, scientists at the University of Kansas Alzheimer's Disease Center tried to determine just how much exercise we need to improve our thinking skills.

The team recruited 101 sedentary, healthy adults with no symptoms of dementia or cognitive impairment. Those subjects were all 65+, the age when people typically begin to show worrisome declines in memory and cognition.

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