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Walking ‘Could Ward off Dementia and Mental Decline’

Elderly people who get about by walking are less likely to suffer mental decline or even dementia, a study says.

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Brain scans revealed that older people walking between six and nine miles a week appeared to have more brain tissue in key areas.

The Pittsburgh University study of 299 people suggested they had less “brain shrinkage“, which is linked to memory problems.

The research was reported in the journal Neurology.

The volunteers, who had an average age of 78, were checked for signs of “cognitive impairment” or even dementia.

The Pittsburgh team also had access to brain scan results from four years previously which measured the amount of “grey matter” in their brains.

Brain health

This is found at various parts of the brain and is known to diminish in many people as they get older.

Each of them had been quizzed in their 60s about the number of city blocks they walked each week as part of their normal routine.

The results showed that those who walked at least 72 blocks – six to nine miles – a week had a greater volume of grey matter.

Four years after the scans, 40% of the group had measurable cognitive impairment or even dementia.

Those who walked the most were half as likely to have these problems compared with those who walked the least.

Dr Kirk Erickson, who led the study, said: “If regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health and improve thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative.”

Susanne Sorensen, from the Alzheimer’s Society, said that the study was further evidence that a healthy heart could lead to a healthy brain.

She added: “One of the benefits of this research is that it eliminates the impact other socio-economic factors may play and focuses specifically on walking rather than exercise more generally.

“Although a link has been found between lack of exercise and brain shrinkage, we need more research to find out why physical activity may affect the brain.

“The best way to reduce your risk is to take regular exercise, eat healthily, don’t smoke and get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked.”


Source
: BBC News

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Fish-Eating Moms’ Diet Affects Kids, Study Shows

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Since the current guidelines on fish consumption were issued, Dr. Emily Oken, a physician and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, has led studies to examine the sum effect of eating fish.

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One of those was published in May in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers asked 341 pregnant women in Massachusetts about their diet and tested their blood mercury levels during the second trimester. Then, when their children were 3, they were tested in a range of thinking and movement tasks.

Children of mothers who ate more than two servings of fish per week had higher scores than kids of non-fish-eating moms, even when other influences of early childhood development, such as birth weight and breast-feeding duration, were factored out. No measurable benefit was seen in kids born to women who ate fewer than two servings of fish per week, which corresponds to the current FDA/EPA advice.

The improvements in kids were even more striking in kids of moms with lower mercury levels, suggesting that choosing low-mercury fish is key. Researchers did ask about broad categories of fish, but, Oken says, it’s a big uncertainty in this kind of research. “We don’t really know a lot of detail about the kind of fish that women are eating.”

On the flip side, children of mothers with the highest mercury levels in their blood scored poorly, and if their moms ate less fish, the detriments were greater.

In short, Oken was able to demonstrate both the benefits of fish eating and the risks of mercury intake. When both fish and mercury are taken together, Oken’s study suggests that the good may outweigh the bad, at least in the fish-eating habits of her subjects.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Drugs lead to brain brake failure

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 A single dose of morphine was found to lower the inhibitions of rats, even after the drug had left their systems, a finding that may help scientists better understand addiction in humans, US researchers said.

In rats, the painkiller blocked the brain’s ability to strengthen connections, or synapses, that ratchet down reward or pleasure, researchers from Brown University reported in the journal Nature.

“What we have found is that the inhibitory synapses can no longer be strengthened 24 hours after treatment with morphine, which suggests that a natural brake has been removed,” said Julie Kauer, a professor of molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology at Brown.

“This happens 24 hours after the animal had one dose of morphine. There is no morphine left in the brain. It shows that it is a persistent effect of the drug,” she said in a telephone interview.

Kauer said the finding adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting a link between learning and addiction and may help in the development of drugs to treat addiction. “Strengthening synapses, we think, is the beginning of the formation of memory,” she said.

By shutting off the natural ability to strengthen connections that inhibit pleasure, the brain may be learning to crave drugs, she said.

Kauer said the brain has two kinds of neurons  those that excite the nerve connections and those that inhibit or depress them.

“If inhibition is reduced, you get runaway excitability,” she said. This imbalance may boost the firing of neurons that make dopamine, the brain’s “pleasure chemical” activated after rewarding experiences such as eating, sex, and the use of addictive drugs.

Kauer found the changes in a small section of the midbrain that is involved in the reward system. While her study looked at the early response to addictive drugs, she intends to study the effect over time.

Source:The Times Of India