Old age does not begin until 74, researchers suggest in a new report which looks at the real impact of an ageing population


Old age does not begin until 74, researchers suggest in a new report which looks at the real impact of an ageing population
Old age does not begin until 74, researchers suggest in a new report which looks at the real impact of an ageing population 

Collecting the state pension and bus pass at 65 has traditionally been seen as a watershed moment where middle age ends and the twilight years begin.

But new research suggests that old age now starts at 74, with middle age lasting at least nine years longer than current estimates.

Academics from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, Austria, argue that old age should be measured not by age, but by how long people have left to live.

In the 1950s a 65-year-old in Britain could expect to live a further 15 years.

But today’s baby boomers are expected to live far longer after retirement. A recent estimate by the Office for National Statistics suggests that the average retiree can look forward to drawing their pension for up to 24 years – as much as 50 per cent longer than their parents’ generation.

Researchers say that old age should be defined as having 15 or fewer years left to live, which for the baby boomers means that they are still middle aged until their 74th year.

“If you don’t consider people old just because they reached age 65 but instead take into account how long they have left to live, then the faster the increase in life expectancy, the less aging is actually going on,” said Sergei Scherbov, World Population Program Deputy Director, at IIASA.

“Older people in the future will have many characteristics exhibited by younger people today.

“What we think of as old has changed over time, and it will need to continue changing in the future as people live longer, healthier lives. 200 years ago, a 60-year-old would be a very old person. Someone who is 60 years old today, I would argue is middle aged.”

Researchers at IIASA applied new measures of ageing to future population projections for Euopre up to the year 2050.

Categorising the point at which ‘old age’ begins is important for policy makers because it used as an indicator of increased disability, dependence and decreased labour force participation.

It is why the government is predicting a pensions black hole as more and more people retire and dip into savings pots.

According to government projections, public spending on the basic state pension will soar from £66bn in 2015/16 to £276bn in 2060/61.

Chancellor George Osborne has brought forward plans to raise the state pension age. It will now rise to 68 in the mid-2030s rather than 2046 as previously planned.

However the report authors argue that 65-year-olds today are healthier, less dependent on others and more mentally agile than ever before and so economic projection must take that into account.

Alan Walker, professor of social policy and social gerontology at the University of Sheffield, agreed that old age now begins much later than traditional assessments, but said there was a huge disparity in how long people could expect to live for.

“Our conceptions of ‘old age’ are hopelessly out of date because of population ageing,” he said.

“For many people, 70 is the new 50 and signifies the quiet revolution that has taken place in longevity.

“However I would not want to pin an arbitrary age, such as 74, because there is such huge diversity in later life. There is a massive nine year difference in average life expectancy between the poor and the affluent and a shocking 19 year difference in healthy life expectancy.

“But certainly the research is right in pointing to the fact that society has to catch up urgently with the new demographic reality, for example in the labour market.”

An average man who retired in 2012 can expect to live until the age of 86.2 years while a woman who turned 65 last year would have 23.9 years still to live on average, the ONS estimates.

Additionally one in seven 65-year-old women and one in 12 newly retired men will live to celebrate their 100th birthday.

Professor Peter Ellwood at Cardiff University said that older people were increasingly fit and healthy well into their 80s.

He has been conducting a ground-breaking 35-year study which shows adopting a healthy lifestyle dramatically cuts the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart-attack, stroke and dementia.

“It is important not just to live longer but to live healthier,” he said, “It should not just be about adding years to life, but adding life to years.

“We have found that living a healthy lifestyle is better than any pill and have proved that it is possible to fit and active after the age of 65.”

Members of the Caerphilly Health Study which showed a heathy lifestyle protects against a range of illnesses
Members of the Caerphilly Health Study which showed a heathy lifestyle protects against a range of illnesses

 

The New Science On Old Age: 10 Ways To Live Longer


the pinnacle of health

Balancing good foods, physical activity, a positive view on life, and love can help you live longer, according to studies. 

The average human lifetime has been increasing steadily over the course of centuries, as we’ve found ways to improve medicine, sanitation, safety, work conditions, and overall self-awareness, at least in first world countries. Today, the average life expectancy at birth is about 68.5 years for males and 73.5 years for females — but plenty of people are living well past 80 and even 90. What’s the best way to ensure you’ll live longer? Below are 10 tips to keep in mind.

Manage Stress

When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to get sick due to a compromised immune system. You’re also more likely to see bags under your eyes turn into wrinkles, or grey hairs peek out amid your natural color. When you’re stressed, fatigue is an everyday feeling, and you having fun seems like a distant memory of your college days.

Then there’s all the research that shows that chronic stress can contribute to heart problems, diabetes, obesity, cancer, asthma, depression, and even Alzheimer’s. The reason why stress can have such a huge impact on our bodies is because it shortens telomeres, the protective caps at the end of chromosomes, which are associated with health and longevity. When telomere length is compromised, our cells age faster.

But here’s the thing: You don’t have to be miserable. Learning to cope with stressful events, depression, or anxiety can make a huge difference on your health and longevity. Slowing down can benefit you even on a cellular level; it prevents them from aging and dying sooner, and can stop your telomeres from shortening.

“[S]tressful events can accelerate immune cell aging in adults, even in the short period of one year,” said Dr. Eli Puterman, an author of a study on stress. “Exciting, though, is that these results further suggest that keeping active, and eating and sleeping well during periods of high stress are particularly important to attenuate the accelerated aging of our immune cells.”

Exercise

What’s the single best thing you can do for your health? Exercise. A recent study found that working out and staying active reduces the risk of pretty much every single chronic disease out there — from cancer to obesity. Exercise lowers symptoms in knee arthritis patients by 47 percent, dementia and Alzheimer’s by 50 percent, diabetes by 58 percent, and anxiety by 48 percent. Feeling stressed and fatigued? Go for a run; it will do you wonders. Studies have shown that more intense exercise is better for you than mild to moderate, but any amount of walking or standing will help.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking can lead to lung cancer, heart disease, skin problems, teeth impairment, and accelerated aging. According to the CDC, overall mortality for male and female smokers in the U.S. is up to three times higher than for non-smokers; cigarette smoke accounts for one of every five deaths each year. For every month or year you quit, you add more years onto your life.

Don’t Do Hard Drugs Or Drink Too Much

Another no-brainer is to stay away from hard drugs like heroin or cocaine (marijuana is a different story; some research shows it may actually be good for you, especially in reducing anxiety and relieving headaches). Drug overdoses and drug-related deaths are pretty high up on the list of causes of death in the U.S., particularly among young people. On that note, becoming an alcoholic will wreak havoc on your liver and other organs, as well as your brain and mental health.

Think Young!

Feeling young can make you young — at least that’s what one recent JAMA Internal Medicine study from the University College London found. The researchers learned that people who felt three or more years younger than they were actually had a lower death rate than people who felt their own age or more than a year older. These results are pretty fascinating, and they’re inspiration for us to not worry about turning one year older; it’s what’s inside that counts!

Avoid A Sedentary Lifestyle

Sitting all day is just as bad as smoking. You can, however, fight this by getting a half-hour workout in daily, using a standing desk at work, taking walks on your lunch break, and getting up every few minutes to stretch and move around. Watch this video to see more of how sitting affects your body and brain.

As you get older, it’s even more important to be physically active. Doing things like cleaning, washing dishes, gardening, or walking will cut your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

Good Foods (Mediterranean Diet)

An easy way to eat well is to follow a Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in heart-healthy fish like salmon, protein-packed nuts, and scores of vegetables. Research has shown over and over that sticking to this food regimen could make you live longer, along with providing you with health benefits like protection against heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Eating well doesn’t have to mean eating bland, boring foods like raw vegetables. It can mean washing down whole grain pastas, seafood, bread and olive oil, and eggplant parmesan with glasses of wine. Europeans like the French and Greeks are notorious for eating well but staying skinny — and it’s because they eat everything in moderation.

Be A Student For Life

Don’t fall into the trap that as you grow older, your mind gets fuzzier and your memory is shot. Instead, change up your boring daily routine to add something new. Go to lectures, museums, and read challenging books to keep your mind sharp. Learn a new language. Travel someplace new. Keeping your mind young and sharp has actually been shown to help you live longer.

Keep Close Friends

It’s true: Loneliness and social isolation can be harmful to your mental, emotional, and even physical health, while having a close network of friends around can do you good. One recent study published this year found thatloneliness could lead to an early death at the same rate that obesity does. Having social support can reduce your stress levels, risk of suicide, and depression. Especially in the modern day and age when people communicate solely through digital means and live alone, staying in touch with your friends is important.

Stay positive!

Finding a purpose in your life will help you live longer, according to a 2014 study. Whether you’re in college, working, or retired, making goals for yourself and challenging yourself is going to improve your outlook on life, which will make you happier and keep you healthier. At the end of the day, it’s all about being positive, focusing on the good things, and never giving up. So next time you’re feeling lost and stuck, make some short-term and long-term goals for yourself. Then take the steps to achieve them. Having a sense of purpose will increase your productivity and positivity and help you feel better about yourself, reducing stress in the meantime.

Benefits of Dementia Screening Still Unclear.


Dementia screening instruments, such as the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), can adequately pick up cognitive impairment in the primary care setting, but many of these tools have not been extensively studied, and there’s no empirical evidence that using them improves decision-making or important outcomes, according to a new literature review.

The review authors also suggest that despite decades of research, it’s still unclear whether cognitive or exercise interventions have a clinically significant effect.

The review was published online October 21 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

No Basis for Routine Screening

Primary care clinicians may fail to recognize cognitive impairment using routine history and physical examination, according to the study authors. Most patients aren’t diagnosed until at least the moderate stage of the disease, they note.

In 2003, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded that there was insufficient evidence to recommend for or against routine screening for dementia in older adults. The current review was conducted in an effort to update these recommendations.

The review included 5 key questions:

1.     Does screening for cognitive impairment in community-dwelling older adults in primary care settings improve decision making or patient, family, caregiver or societal outcomes?

2.     What is the test performance of screening instruments to detect cognitive impairment in these elderly patients?

3.     What are the harms of screening?

4.     Do interventions for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or mild to moderate dementia improve decision-making or outcomes?

5.     What are the harms of interventions for cognitive impairment?

An extensive review of the literature turned up no studies to answer the first question and only 1 study that addressed the third question. The review therefore concentrated on questions 2 (with 55 fair- to good-quality studies), 4 (131 studies), and 5 (66 studies).

Although the new review included twice the number of studies than existing reviews, its findings were generally consistent with previous findings.

Only 12 brief instruments have been assessed more than once in well-designed studies evaluating their ability to detect dementia in primary care–relevant populations. Only 4 studies were of good quality, with the rest having fair quality and various risks of bias.

In this analysis, the MMSE was the best-studied instrument, with pooled estimates across 14 studies resulting in a sensitivity of 88.3% and a specificity of 86.2% for the most commonly reported cut points. But the MMSE has the longest administration time and is not available for public use without cost, said the authors.

The Clock Drawing Test, Mini-Cog, Memory Impairment Screen, Abbreviated Mental Test, Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire, Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test, 7-Minute Screen, and Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE) are available for public use in primary care settings but have been studied only in English.

Most of these instruments can have an acceptable test performance, but not much evidence supported their use, with reproducibility in primary care populations limited and optimum cut-points unknown, according to the authors.

Only 6 instruments were used in more than 1 study assessing diagnostic accuracy to detect MCI in primary care populations. Overall, the sensitivity for detecting MCI for each of these instruments, except for the IQCODE, was lower than that for detecting dementia.

Screening Harmful?

The reviewers identified 1 systematic review and 118 trials that addressed the benefits of the treatment or management of mild to moderate dementia, MCI, or both. Most trials (90%) were of fair quality. Medication trials were exclusively or partially industry funded.

The review included a well-conducted systematic review of US Food and Drug Administration–approved medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease that included 39 randomized controlled trials of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AchEIs), as well as 9 additional randomized controlled trials.

Overall, on the basis of these fair- to good-quality trials, AchEIs can improve cognitive function and global functioning in the short term, but the pooled magnitude of these changes is small, with a change of about 1 to 3 points on the Alzheimer`s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale (ADAS-cog).

“The average effect of these changes may not be clinically meaningful as defined using commonly accepted values,” the authors write.

It’s still unclear whether AchEIs can improve physical functioning “given the inconsistent and sparsely reported findings,” they add.

On the basis of 10 fair- to good-quality trials of memantine, a drug approved for moderate to severe AD that has also been evaluated in patients with mild to moderate dementia or MCI, this agent had a benefit similar to that seen with AchEIs on global cognitive functioning in patients with moderate dementia.

These small average effects of change in cognitive function with AchEIs and memantine must be balanced by common adverse effects associated with them, the authors note.

None of the trials of other medications or dietary supplements, including low-dose aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and vitamins, found a benefit on cognitive or physical function in people with mild to moderate dementia or MCI.

The review found no studies to substantiate or refute concerns about harms of screening. However, the authors said that the harms of screening are poorly studied.

“Some have argued that these harms are minimal, whereas others have argued that the harms of screening and mislabeling persons with dementia are real given the variation in practice of diagnostic confirmation of disease. If broader adoption of screening for cognitive impairment is implemented, it would be wise to better understand these tradeoffs.”

Caregiver Burden

Overall, in trials of interventions targeting caregivers, there was generally a consistent finding of small benefit on caregiver burden and caregiver depression outcomes.

Pooled analyses of 24 trials showed a small but statistically significant effect (standardized mean difference, –0.23 [95% confidence interval (CI)], –0.35 to –0.12l) on caregiver burden. And pooled analyses of 30 trials showed a small but statistically significant effect (standardized mean difference of 0.21 [95% CI, –0.30 to –0.13]) on caregiver depression.

“The clinical meaning of these changes in caregiver burden and depression are, on average, probably small at best,” the authors write.

As well, the authors pointed out that many of the studies of complex interventions for caregivers were conducted outside the United States and may not be freely available.

There was limited reporting of findings for outcomes such as global stress or distress, anxiety, and health-related quality of life for caregivers.

Although evidence is limited and findings inconsistent, cognitive stimulation with or without cognitive training seemed to improve global cognitive function at 6 to 12 months for patients with MCI or dementia. However, the authors add, “the certainty and magnitude of effect of cognitive stimulation is still unclear.”

Exercise interventions also have limited evidence to support their use in patients with MCI or mild or moderate dementia. However, 3 of the better-conducted trials did suggest a benefit of exercise in global cognitive function or physical functioning and health-related quality of life.

The review did not address several important aspects of screening test performance, including the psychometric properties of testing other than sensitivity and specificity.

According to expert consensus guidelines, early detection of cognitive decline may lead to optimal medical management and ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes and reduced costs, but there is little or no empirical evidence to support this, the authors concluded.

“How and whether clinician decision-making and patient and family decision-making are affected by earlier identification of cognitive impairment or earlier management of patients with dementia and their caregivers are important aspects to understand in order to better manage this rapidly growing health care problem,” they write.

Research comparing which criteria — for example, age, comorbid conditions, or functional status — should lead primary care clinicians to perform cognitive assessment is much needed, the authors add. Additional evaluation of brief instruments in more representative populations is also needed.

Right Decision

Commenting on the review for Medscape Medical News was Malaz Boustani, MD, chief operating officer, Indiana University Center for Innovation and Implementation Science and chief innovation and implementation officer, Indiana University Health, Indianapolis.

Dr. Boustani’s research team, with support from the National Institute on Aging, is conducting the first randomized controlled trial to evaluate the benefit and harm of dementia screening in primary care. The trial has now enrolled more than 500 patients (of an eventual target of 4000) and final results are expected in 2017.

According to Dr. Boustani, the USPSTF decision not to recommend routine screening for dementia in primary care was the right one.

“The required data to make such an important and vital decision is not there yet,” he said.

J. Riley McCarten, MD, associate professor, Department of Neurology, University of Minnesota Medical School, medical director, Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), and medical director, The Memory Clinic, University of Minnesota Medical Center, Minneapolis, believes that the time for screening has arrived.

“We have the tools to identify dementia and to intervene” in what is a costly and rapidly growing major health care problem, said Dr. McCarten. “To successfully address this tragedy, we must first make diagnosing it a priority.”

Dr. McCarten took issue with the study authors’ conclusion that although screening can identify people with dementia, no empirical evidence exists to determine whether interventions affect decision-making. “Pretending that knowing whether someone has dementia has no effect on decision-making is illogical—and dangerous,” he said.

It’s impossible to “uncouple” identifying dementia—in this case, through screening—from decision-making about dementia, said Dr. McCarten. “Once dementia is identified, decisions are made based on that knowledge.”

Screening identifies patients for whom an intervention is needed, and the intervention necessarily involves decision-making specific to each patient, provider, and family, added Dr. McCarten. “We end up comparing a variety of interventions based on decisions made by and for persons with known dementia.”

Source: Medscape.com

Shorter Sleep Duration and Poorer Sleep Quality Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarker.


Poor sleep quality may impact Alzheimer’s disease onset and progression. This is according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who examined the association between sleep variables and a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. The researchers found that reports of shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality were associated with a greater β-Amyloid burden, a hallmark of the disease. The results are featured online in the October issue of JAMA Neurology.

“Our study found that among older adults, reports of shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality were associated with higher levels of β-Amyloid measured by PET scans of the brain,” said Adam Spira, PhD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health. “These results could have significant public health implications as Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and approximately half of older adults have insomnia symptoms.”

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 5.1 million Americans may have the disease, with first symptoms appearing after age 60. Previous studies have linked disturbed sleep to cognitive impairment in older people.

In a cross-sectional study of adults from the neuro-imagining sub-study of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging with an average age of 76, the researchers examined the association between self-reported sleep variables and β-Amyloid deposition. Study participants reported sleep that ranged from more than seven hours to no more than five hours. β-Amyloid deposition was measured by the Pittsburgh compound B tracer and PET (positron emission tomography) scans of the brain. Reports of shorter sleep duration and lower sleep quality were both associated with greater Αβ buildup.

“These findings are important in part because sleep disturbances can be treated in older people. To the degree that poor sleep promotes the development of Alzheimer’s disease, treatments for poor sleep or efforts to maintain healthy sleep patterns may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer disease,” said Spira.  He added that the findings cannot demonstrate a causal link between poor sleep and Alzheimer’s disease, and that longitudinal studies with objective sleep measures are needed to further examine whether poor sleep contributes to or accelerates Alzheimer’s disease.

Older Workers Should Think Young.


It Can Help Deal With Young Co-Workers and Younger Bosses

At age 42, Shona Sabnis is one of the “older” workers in the New York office of public-relations firm Edelman. Though she prides herself on being able to get along with most people, she is sometimes puzzled by the actions of her 20-something co-workers who, in turn, don’t understand why the senior vice president of public affairs likes to distribute physical newspaper clippings.

Peter Ferguson

While dealing with a situation at the office, Ms. Sabnis was told by a junior co-worker that she should be handling her client differently. It wasn’t phrased as a suggestion, which surprised her since she knew the co-worker wasn’t that familiar with the account.

She later enlisted a 26-year-old co-worker to help her to get a better sense of where her young co-workers are coming from. He told her about the motivations of individual co-workers and what their expectations were. “I found that I was projecting my reality when I was that age on them and their reality seems very different,” says Ms. Sabnis. “I don’t always assume anymore that I know what they want. Now I ask them if I need to know.” Ms. Sabnis says she feels that she is now able to deal with young co-workers with more understanding.

With as many as four generations bumping elbows in the same office, a lack of understanding and empathy between groups can generate serious workplace tension that can alienate co-workers. That is why experts say that getting into a young mind-set through mentorships and relationship building can help older workers better identify with young co-workers and—inevitably—younger bosses. Thinking young can also offer valuable insight into emerging millennial workplace and customer trends that can help to extend careers. Especially since millennials—people born between 1981 and the early 2000s—will make up 36% of the American workforce by next year, estimates the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation.

Start with a clean slate. Don’t let stereotypes color your perception of young co-workers. People tend to act on their beliefs, which makes it difficult to establish productive workplace relationships if you automatically believe, for example, that all 20-somethings are narcissistic or lazy, says Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University who’s written books on successful aging and decision-making.

“People think they should be compromising or tolerant of certain behaviors but, instead, we should be understanding. It is more important to be mindful of an individual’s motivations. Make sense of why people do what they do,” says Ms. Langer. “You might drive behind somebody that is driving slow and be angry because they’re old. But in reality, that individual might be driving as fast as they are capable and it could be dangerous to do otherwise. If you saw what they saw, you’d probably respond the same way.”

Catch up on things that you feel like you’re falling behind on by participating in a reverse mentorship or group training. Many companies will pair an older employee with a younger employee who can offer fresh insight on technology, communication styles and social media as well as offer inside insight into the needs of other young co-workers, says Lisa Orrell, a workplace consultant from San Jose, Calif., who specializes in generational management. “The reverse mentorship can also give insight into the new generation of buyers and decision makers who are also millennials. Social-media channels [are] how they are all communicating, collaborating and doing research on what to buy.”

Keep an open mind about organizational shifts that companies will be making to accommodate new modes of working. Millennials enjoy working in collaborative and decentralized work environments, for example, that de-emphasize protocol and hierarchy. This may include a more open workplace culture that encourages frequent communication and unprecedented outspokenness, says Ms. Orrell.

Don’t dwell on the past at the office or talk about how things used to be unless you’re using past accomplishments to bolster present and future goals, says Russ Hovendick, president of Client Staffing Solutions in Sioux Falls, S.D. “Your young co-workers are in the early stages of their careers and motivated by what’s happening now. They’re not thinking about retirement—nor should you out loud when you’re trying to put yourself into a relevant context.”

You want to relate to interviewers and hiring managers that you have plans for the future and aren’t just looking for someplace to hole up until retirement.

Super-vaccine could eliminate need for annual flu jabs within five years after successful trials.


  • New universal vaccine being developed by British and European scientists
  • Job would provide lifetime immunity against all flu viruses
  • First ever successful human trials have taken place
  • Larger trails involving thousands of people now planned
  • Researchers believe the new vaccine could be available in 2018
A new ‘Holy Grail‘ flu vaccine which gives lifelong protection against all strains of the virus could be available within five years.
A new universal vaccine which could provide lifetime protection against every type of flu has shown successful results for the first time in small trials

Scientists from Britain and Europe are getting ready to start large-scale trials of a universal vaccine after early tests on humans proved successful.

If all goes to plan the new injection would stop the need for annual flu jabs and could save thousands of lives every year.

It could also be effective against highly dangerous forms of the disease, such as Spanish flu, even if they mutate, preventing global pandemics like the one which killed 100million people in 1918.

Despite carrying out human trials on almost 100 patients over many years, this is the first positive news.

Professor John Oxford, British flu expert and a key researcher of the study, said that his team are ‘wildly enthusiastic’ about the vaccine’s prospects.

The programme has recently received a multi-million pound EU grant to fund its research.

At the moment vaccines work by identifying viruses by their ‘coats’, however as viruses mutate these change, making old vaccines ineffective.

The universal vaccine works by attacking proteins hidden within the virus which are common throughout harmful strains.

If it works, the 'Holy Grail' vaccine would eliminate the need for annual flu jabs and could save thousands of lives every year and prevent global flu pandemics If it works, the ‘Holy Grail’ vaccine would eliminate the need for annual flu jabs and could save thousands of lives every year and prevent global flu pandemics

The news comes at the end of a week which has seen a new strain of bird flu re-emerge in China and after it was reported to have passed between humans in August.

A 32-year-old woman was said to have died after caring for her father who was infected by the H7N9 strain of bird flu.

A new strain of bird flu, H7N9, has begun spreading in China after killing 45 people earlier in the yearA new strain of bird flu, H7N9, has begun spreading in China after killing 45 people earlier in the year

Reports of human infection began in March this year but have trailed off in the last few months having killed at least 45 people out of 136 cases.

However as poultry stocks swell ahead of Chinese new year a 35-year-old man in the eastern province of Zhejiang has been hospitalised and the World Health Organisation confirms two more people are in hospital with another 88 being sent home.

A nasal flu spray has also been made available for all children aged between two and three years old, and will eventually be extended into a national programme for all under-16s.

While children are less likely to die from flu compared with the elderly, they are key spreaders of flu, and can become very ill if they have asthma, heart or lung conditions.

While specialists agree that the vaccine could help protect elderly relatives of younger children, Dr Richard Halvorsen disagrees.

Speaking to the Sunday Express, he said: ‘It is rare for children to die from flu and giving extra vaccines a year is a lot of extra vaccinations.’

If trials of the new flu super-jab are successful it could be available for use by 2018.

CATCHING A CHANGING KILLER – THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE VACCINE

Bird Flu Virus. January 2004

Traditional vaccines work by training an immune system to identify a disease and increasing the body’s defences, usually by injecting weak or dead parts of a disease into the patient.

Flu vaccines work by attacking the ‘coat’ of a virus, the H and N protein shell which surrounds the disease.

However this is problematic as this coat changes every time the virus mutates, meaning flu vaccines are only truly effective for a year as the virus will change rapidly, meaning vulnerable patients, such as elderly people, have to have injections every year.

But, hidden within every dangerous strain of influenza, are two proteins known as M and NP proteins which do not change with mutations.

Researches have tried for years to develop a vaccine which could target and attack these parts of the virus, and now think they may have found the solution.

In small human trials they have shown the first successful results ever for a universal vaccine and are now rolling out wider trials of the new medicine.

If these are successful then the new jab could be on the market by 2018, saving thousands of lives each year.

Is the Prevalence of Dementia Changing?


 

 

In England, the prevalence fell from 8.3% to 6.5% during the past 20 years.

Dementia in the growing elder population is an important driver of healthcare costs and a matter of societal concern. Some trends might increase dementia prevalence (e.g., longer lifespan, increasing obesity and diabetes, survival after stroke), whereas others might reduce it (e.g., more-effective prevention of cardiovascular disease, improved early-life education). Between 1989 and 1994, researchers estimated dementia prevalence in three geographic areas in England by interviewing a population-based sample of more than 7500 older adults (age, ≥65). Now, investigators report results of an identical survey in a similar sample from the same areas between 2008 and 2011.

The overall prevalence of dementia fell significantly, from 8.3% to 6.5%. In care facilities, dementia prevalence rose from 58% to 73%; however, the proportion of elders living in such facilities declined from 5% to 3%. In both surveys, dementia prevalence was higher in women than in men in care and community settings.

COMMENT

This rigorous study is a persuasive piece of evidence that, at least in some settings, the prevalence of dementia in elders is declining and might be sensitive to societal efforts to improve education, primary prevention, and healthcare delivery.

Source: NEJM

Anemia Tied to Increased Dementia Risk.


Older adults who have anemia face increased risk for dementia, according to a prospective cohort study in Neurology.

Researchers studied some 2600 initially dementia-free older adults, 15% of whom had anemia at baseline. During 11 years’ follow-up, 18% of participants developed dementia. After adjustment for potential confounders such as age, sex, APOE genotype, comorbid conditions, and literacy, participants with anemia had a significant, 49% increase in risk for dementia relative to those without anemia.

The researchers say their findings are consistent with those from previous studies, and they suggest several possible mechanisms underlying the association. For example, the brain hypoxia that occurs with anemia might contribute to dementia risk, or anemia could be a marker of overall poor health. They call for additional research to determine whether hemoglobin levels should be the focus of prevention strategies.

Source: Neurology

Physical and cognitive functioning of people older than 90 years: a comparison of two Danish cohorts born 10 years apart.


Background

A rapidly increasing proportion of people in high-income countries are surviving into their tenth decade. Concern is widespread that the basis for this development is the survival of frail and disabled elderly people into very old age. To investigate this issue, we compared the cognitive and physical functioning of two cohorts of Danish nonagenarians, born 10 years apart.

Methods

People in the first cohort were born in 1905 and assessed at age 93 years (n=2262); those in the second cohort were born in 1915 and assessed at age 95 years (n=1584). All cohort members were eligible irrespective of type of residence. Both cohorts were assessed by surveys that used the same design and assessment instrument, and had almost identical response rates (63%). Cognitive functioning was assessed by mini-mental state examination and a composite of five cognitive tests that are sensitive to age-related changes. Physical functioning was assessed by an activities of daily living score and by physical performance tests (grip strength, chair stand, and gait speed).

Findings

The chance of surviving from birth to age 93 years was 28% higher in the 1915 cohort than in the 1905 cohort (6·50% vs 5·06%), and the chance of reaching 95 years was 32% higher in 1915 cohort (3·93% vs 2·98%). The 1915 cohort scored significantly better on the mini-mental state examination than did the 1905 cohort (22·8 [SD 5·6] vs 21·4 [6·0]; p<0·0001), with a substantially higher proportion of participants obtaining maximum scores (28—30 points; 277 [23%] vs 235 [13%]; p<0·0001). Similarly, the cognitive composite score was significantly better in the 1915 than in the 1905 cohort (0·49 [SD 3·6] vs 0·01 [SD 3·6]; p=0·0003). The cohorts did not differ consistently in the physical performance tests, but the 1915 cohort had significantly better activities of daily living scores than did the 1905 cohort (2·0 [SD 0·8] vs 1·8 [0·7]; p<0·0001).

Interpretation

Despite being 2 years older at assessment, the 1915 cohort scored significantly better than the 1905 cohort on both the cognitive tests and the activities of daily living score, which suggests that more people are living to older ages with better overall functioning.

Source: Lancet

 

Being a Lifelong Bookworm May Keep You Sharp in Old Age.


To keep their bodies running at peak performance, people often hit the gym, pounding away at the treadmill to strengthen muscles and build endurance. This dedication has enormous benefitsbeing in shape now means warding off a host of diseases when you get older. But does the brain work in the same way? That is, can doing mental exercises help your mind stay just as sharp in old age?

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Experts say it’s possible. As a corollary to working out, people have begun joining brain gyms to flex their mental muscles. For a monthly fee of around $15, websites like Lumosity.com and MyBrainTrainer.com promise to enhance memory, attention and other mental processes through a series of games and brain teasers. Such ready-made mind exercises are an alluring route for people who worry about their ticking clock. But there’s no need to slap down the money right away—new research suggests the secret to preserving mental agility may lie in simply cracking open a book.

The findings, published online today in Neurology, suggest that reading books, writing and engaging in other similar brain-stimulating activities slows down cognitive decline in old age, independent of common age-related neurodegenerative diseases. In particular, people who participated in mentally stimulating activities over their lifetimes, both in young, middle and old age, had a slower rate of decline in memory and other mental capacities than those who did not.

Researchers used an array of tests to measure 294 people’s memory and thinking every year for six years years. Participants also answered a questionnaire about their reading and writing habits, from childhood to adulthood to advanced age. Following the participants’ deaths at an average age of 89, researchers examined their brains for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, such as lesions,plaques and tangles. Such brain abnormalities are most common in older people, causing them to experience memory lapses. They proliferate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, leading to memory and thinking impairments that can severely affect victims’ daily lives.

Using information from the questionnaire and autopsy results, the researchers found that any reading and writing is better than none at all. Remaining a bookworm into old age reduced the rate of memory decline by 32 percent compared to engaging in average mental activity. Those who didn’t read or write often later in life did even worse: their memory decline was 48 percent faster than people who spent an average amount of time on these activities.

The researchers found that mental activity accounted for nearly 15 percent of the difference in memory decline, beyond what could be explained by the presence of plaque buildup. “Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents,” says study author Robert S. Wilson, a neuropsychologist at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicagoin a statement.

Reading gives our brains a workout because comprehending text requires more mental energy than, for example, processing an image on a television screen. Reading exercises our working memory, which actively processes and stores new information as it comes. Eventually, that information gets transferred into long-term memory, where our understanding of any given material deepens. Writing can be likened to practice: the more we rehearse the perfect squat, the better our form becomes, tightening all the right muscles. Writing helps us consolidate new information for the times we may need to recall it, which boosts our memory skills.

So the key to keeping our brains sharp for the long haul does have something in common with physical exercise: we have to stick with it. And it’s best to start early. In 2009, a seven-year studyof 2,000 healthy individuals aged 18 to 60 found that mental agility peaks at 22. By 27, mental processes like reasoning, spatial visualization and speed of thought began to decline.

Source: Smithsonian.com

 

 

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