Flu season is upon us again. The flu is a highly contagious disease that can strike suddenly, at any age. While many people can ride out the flu safely, thousands of Americans die from the flu each year and many more are hospitalized. The flu can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, diarrhea and blood infections. Individuals over the age of 65, very young children and pregnant women, as well as those with chronic conditions such as heart disease or a weakened immune system are at greater risk for serious complications of the flu. Luckily, the flu is easily preventable with a vaccine that is readily available at your doctor's office. Being vaccinated can help ensure that you don't get the flu this season or that if you do get it, your symptoms will be less severe. The attached brochure will provide you with more information on the risks of benefits of getting vaccinated and the different types of vaccinations available. Speak to your doctor about the right option for you. The flu can strike suddenly so don't delay!Influenza (Flu) Vaccine (Inactivated or Recombinant): What you need to know
We all know that the better our physical stamina in middle age, the more likely we are to retain our independence and cope with everyday activities in old age, such as carrying our shopping and getting dressed. An interesting new study published in the Journal of Aging and Health reveals a link between intelligence and midlife physical performance, as measured by a number of strength resistance tests.
In this study, researchers examined the relationship between intelligence in early adulthood and subsequent physical performance between the age of 48 and 56 years. They found that every 10 point increase in intelligence in early adulthood was linked to increases in physical stamina and balance later on.
Although it is likely that childhood factors, exercise, health status and socioeconomic background may also affect physical performance in later life, it's equally likely that more intelligent people find it easier to understand health information - such as advice on lifestyle and exercise - and put it into practice, which may explain the findings.
Last month, Medical News Today reported the findings of three studies showing that not only is it likely that physical exercise reduces risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia - it may also serve as an effective treatment. For example, one study found that aerobic exercise reduces the levels of a certain protein in the brain that is characteristic of Alzheimer's– an effect that cannot be achieved by any currently approved medication. Just another reason to keep exercising! (www.medicalnewstoday.com)Influenza (Flu) Vaccine (Inactivated or Recombinant): What you need to know
A new study published in the journal Neurology reveals that older individuals with high levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol in their saliva had smaller brain volumes, which was associated with poorer performance on tests of memory and thinking.
The authors of the study believe their findings could lead to a saliva test that helps determine which individuals may be at risk for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, as well as strategies to try to reduce the negative impact of cortisol on cognitive function.
Previous studies have suggested that depression raises the risk of dementia for older adults but experts aren't sure why. High levels of cortisol have been found in individuals with depression and the thinking is that the cortisol has a negative impact on the area of the brain that controls moods.
The researchers set out to investigate this theory further, analyzing the cortisol levels, brain volumes and cognitive skills of 4,244 adults of an average age of 76 who were free of dementia. Compared with subjects in the low cortisol group, those with high cortisol levels were found to have overall brain volumes around 16 millimeters smaller. Furthermore, participants with high cortisol levels performed worse on memory and thinking tests than those with low levels of the hormone.
The researchers admit that because their study only looked at a short time period, they are unable to determine what occurs first - the high levels of cortisol or the loss of brain volume. Researchers believe it is possible that the loss of brain volume that can occur with aging may impair the brain's ability to stop the negative effects of cortisol and this can lead to further brain cell loss. (www.medicalnewstoday.com)
It's known that high blood pressure during middle age is a risk factor for cerebrovascular disease -- impaired blood flow in the brain. But the effect of high blood pressure on the brain during old age is less clear. In fact, some studies have suggested that lower blood pressure in old age, rather than higher blood pressure, might boost a person's odds for mental decline. Therefore, a new study focused on whether discontinuing high blood pressure medications might make any difference to an older person's thinking and memory.
The new study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, included 385 people, aged 75 and older, with mild memory and thinking problems. While all were taking high blood pressure medications, none had serious heart disease. Half of the participants were randomly selected to stop their high blood pressure treatment, while the other half continued their medication as usual. Both groups were followed for four months, according to a team led by Dr. Justine Moonen, of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. However, by the end of that time, the Dutch team saw no improvement in the participants' mental functioning, whether they stopped the medications or not.
According to Dr. Luca Giliberto, an investigator at the Litwin-Zucker Research Center for the Study of Alzheimer's Disease, the issue of blood pressure control and mental function in the elderly is worth looking into, because the vessels that supply blood to the brain deteriorate with advancing age. He explains that it becomes more difficult for our brains to adapt to varying blood pressure as we age. High blood pressure can cause "mini-strokes" that could impair mental function, while low blood pressure may negatively impact blood supply to the brain. All this may end up contributing to mental decline. He therefore feels studies such as this are extremely important. He added, however, that this particular study has its limitations, especially because people with serious heart disease were not studied. And he believes that the study period may have been too short for any real effect to become apparent. According to the researchers, future studies with longer follow-up might help determine if seniors with poor blood circulation in the brain could benefit from more relaxed blood pressure targets. (www.medicinenet.com)