Health Updates 3 January 2012

  • Good nutrition keeps the brain in shape: “A diet rich in vitamins and healthy fats may help older adults stay cognitively sharp, an observational study suggested.  In older adults who don’t have dementia, high plasma levels of vitamins B, C, D and E, as well as high plasma marine omega-3 fatty acids were associated with better cognitive performance and a healthier brain as seen on MRI…But a poor diet, indicated by high plasma trans fat levels, predicted both lower cognitive scores and reduced total cerebral brain volume….the cohort study couldn’t determine whether these dietary patterns cause brain atrophy or cognitive decline, or were simply markers for some other factor.  If the nutritional blood biomarkers do predict changes in the brain and cognition, the next step may be to see if dietary intervention based on the biomarkers would help…”. (Crystal Phend, MedPage Today)
  • Protocol to treat anorexia is faulted: “When a malnourished teenager with anorexia nervosa is admitted to the hospital, weight gain is a top priority – and food is medicine.  But doctors mete out meals with caution, providing fewer calories than needed at first because the patients may be so frail that major swings in diet can be life-threatening.  The strategy, called ‘start low, advance slow’ often results in further weight or fluid loss during the first day or two of hospitalization.  Now some researchers and health providers, both in the United States and abroad, are challenging the start-low approach, suggesting that many patients could be fed more aggressively as long as they are closely monitored for medical complications.”  (NY Times)
  • The claim: listening to music can relieve pain: “Can the right sonata soothe the pain of a medical operation?  A growing number of doctors have been using music in clinical settings, believing that it might have analgesic effects on patients – or at least take their minds off an otherwise painful procedure.  Scientists only now are seeking to determine whether the notion is more romance than reality.”  The studies are interesting, but more work needs to be done.  The bottom line: “Listening to music during or after a medical procedure may relieve pain, but more research is needed to determine whether the effect is significant.” (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)
  • Resting heart rate as simple biomarker: “A large study has found that a rise in resting heart rate over a decade may indicate an increased risk of death from coronary artery disease.  Norwegian researchers studied 30,000 healthy men and women age 20 and older, checking heart rates at intervals 10 years apart.  The scientists followed the subjects through 2008, recording the number of deaths from coronary heart disease….Compared with those who heart rates remained stable at 70 beats per minute or less, those whose rates increased to 85 or more were almost twice as likely to die of heart disease.  For those with resting rates between 70 and 85 beats per minute at the first test, an increase to greater than 85 was associated with an 80 percent increase in death rate.”  Researchers concluded that the resting heart rate is a “simple, cost-free and strong biomarker that should be monitored regularly”. (Nicholas Bakalar, NY Times)

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