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Medical News Today: Parkinson’s could be treated with shark compound, study suggests

Squalamine, a chemical compound found in dogfish sharks, has the potential to reduce the formation of toxic proteins related to the development of Parkinson’s disease, new research suggests.
[A dogfish shark]
Researchers suggest that the dogfish shark compound squalamine could help to treat Parkinson’s.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study reveals that squalamine halted the buildup and toxicity of the protein alpha-synuclein (α-synuclein) in roundworm models of Parkinson’s disease and human neuronal cells.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition characterized by tremors, movement problems, limb stiffness, and problems with balance and coordination.

In the United States, up to 1 million people are living with Parkinson’s, and each year, approximately 60,000 people in the country are diagnosed with the disease.

While the precise causes of Parkinson’s remain unclear, studies have suggested that the buildup of α-synuclein in the brain could play a role in its development.

In people with Parkinson’s, α-synuclein forms “clumps” that can cause brain cell death. Researchers are on the hunt for compounds that can block the formation of these clumps, which could help to treat or prevent the disease.

In the new study, study co-author Dr. Michael Zasloff, a professor of surgery and pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and colleagues suggest that squalamine might be a potential candidate.

Squalamine protected human neuronal cells from α-synuclein toxicity

Squalamine is a compound derived from tissues of the dogfish shark. First discovered in the early 1990s by Dr. Zasloff, squalamine has been shown to possess strong antimicrobial properties.

For this latest research, the team set out to determine how squalamine affected the accumulation and toxicity of α-synuclein.

Firstly, the researchers conducted a series of in vitro experiments to see how squalamine interacts with α-synuclein and lipid vesicles. Previous studies have shown that vesicles – small, membrane-enclosed structures in cells – play a key role in triggering the buildup of α-synuclein in neurons.

The team found that squalamine halted α-synuclein buildup by preventing the protein from binding to negatively charged lipid vesicles, where α-synuclein aggregates usually form.

Next, the researchers applied squalamine to human neuronal cells that were exposed to pre-formed α-synuclein aggregates. They found that the shark compound stopped α-synuclein aggregates from binding to the outer membrane of the cells, thus preventing the protein’s toxicity.

Oral squalamine prevented α-synuclein buildup in Parkinson’s model

The team then tested squalamine on the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. The first whole-genome sequencing study of C. elegans showed that the roundworms share at least 40 percent of their genes with humans, making them an ideal model for human disease.

In this study, the researchers genetically modified the C. elegans to overexpress α-synuclein in their muscle cells, which would cause them to become paralyzed as they developed.

However, when the researchers administered squalamine to the C. elegans orally, they found that the compound stopped α-synuclein aggregates from forming and prevented the toxic effects of the protein.

“We could literally see that the oral treatment of squalamine did not allow alpha-synuclein to cluster, and prevented muscular paralysis inside the worms.”

Dr. Michael Zasloff

Overall, the researchers believe their study suggests that squalamine has the potential to prevent α-synuclein buildup. They are in the process of organizing a clinical trial to test the compound in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The team notes that there are a number of questions that should be addressed by future research before squalamine can be considered a feasible treatment for Parkinson’s. For example, it is unclear whether squalamine can target areas of the brain susceptible to α-synuclein buildup when taken orally.

However, the researchers suggest that the shark compound could offer benefits via the gut.

“Targeting alpha-synuclein in the gut may perhaps in some cases be sufficient to delay the progress of other aspects of Parkinson’s disease, at least for symptoms concerning the peripheral nervous system,” says study co-author Prof. Michele Vendruscolo, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Learn how marijuana could help to slow Parkinson’s progression.

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Medical News Today: Acupuncture may relieve excessive crying in infants

Although benign, infantile colic is a stressful condition affecting both babies and parents. However, new research suggests that acupuncture may provide relief for colicky babies.
[baby in crib]
A new study suggests that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for babies’ excessive crying.

Infantile colic, or excessive crying, is defined as uncontrollable crying that lasts for “more than 3 hours per day, more than 3 days per week, for longer than 3 weeks.”

Globally, excessive crying affects around 10-40 percent of infants, the condition usually resolving itself by the age of 6 months.

Although infantile colic is believed to be benign, its causes remain unknown. Existing research has suggested a variety of potential causes, such as intolerance to lactose or cow’s milk protein, gastrointestinal inflammation, poor feeding habits, or maternal smoking.

Little can be done to console the baby during the colic episodes. Some studies have
indicated that probiotics might help, but the evidence available is insufficient for an actual probiotics-based treatment.

New research, published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, investigates whether acupuncture has a soothing effect on colicky babies.

Studying the effects of acupuncture in babies with inconsolable crying

Swedish researchers Kajsa Landgren and Inger Hallström examined 147 babies who had been diagnosed with infantile colic across four child health centers in Sweden.

The otherwise healthy infants were between 2-8 weeks old and had been fed a cow’s milk-free diet for at least 5 days prior to the study.

In addition to the usual care, the babies were offered four visits to the child health center, during which they received extra support and advice. The visits took place twice a week for 2 weeks.

The study consisted of a randomized controlled, single-blind, three-armed trial. The 147 babies were randomly assigned to three groups (A, B, or C). The first group received standardized minimal acupuncture at the LI4 acupuncture point. Group B received mildly stimulating acupuncture at a maximum of five acupressure points for up to 30 seconds. The last group did not receive any acupuncture.

The acupuncture treatment was carried out by 10 clinical practitioners, nine of whom were trained acupuncturists who had also received special training on colic-focused acupuncture.

Only the project coordinator and the acupuncturists knew which group each infant had been assigned to. Neither the nurse nor the parents were aware of the trial.

Acupuncture may be ‘an effective treatment option’

Overall, the amount of crying time decreased drastically across all three groups. Researchers note that this was not surprising, given that colic usually resolves itself spontaneously.

However, the decline in crying time was greater in the groups that had received acupuncture than in those that only received standard care. The reduction was noticeable by the second week of the acupuncture treatment, as well as during the follow-up period.

After 2 weeks, a significantly higher number of infants who received acupuncture treatment cried for under 3 hours per day, compared with those in the standard care group. These babies no longer fulfilled the criteria for colic.

The babies tolerated the treatment relatively well and no side effects were recorded. The baby did not cry at all in 52 percent of the administered treatments, and only 8 percent of the treatments caused crying that lasted for more than 1 minute.

“For those infants that continue to cry for more than 3 hours/day, acupuncture may be an effective treatment option,” conclude the authors.

However, they also point out that before seeking acupuncture treatment, parents should exclude cow’s milk from their baby’s diet and keep a record of their baby’s crying.

Learn how yoga and acupuncture may be effective for chronic pain management.

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Medical News Today: Ministrokes may cause dementia, study suggests

Ministrokes are a type of stroke that only lasts for a few minutes. New research suggests that the effect of a ministroke is more serious than previously thought.
[x ray of person after stroke]
New research suggests that ministrokes affect a wider area of the brain than previously thought, and that their effects last longer.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and long-term disability in the United States.

Transient ischemic attacks, or “ministrokes,” occur when an artery becomes briefly blocked by a blood clot. A ministroke is the same as a regular stroke – the only difference is that they last for a shorter period of time.

Existing research shows that anywhere between 25-30 percent of people who have experienced an ischemic stroke may go on to develop delayed vascular cognitive impairment or vascular dementia.

Ministrokes – also called cortical microinfarcts – cause minuscule lesions of approximately 0.05-3 millimeters in diameter, but an increasing amount of research seems to link ministrokes with cognitive decline and dementia.

Analyzing ministroke effects in mice

Motivated by the existing evidence, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) hypothesized that ministrokes might affect brain function on a greater scale than what is usually shown by histological evidence or MRI scans.

The team was led by Andy Shih, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Neurosciences at MUSC, and the findings were published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism.

Shih and team designed a mouse model so that they could study the effects of individual microinfarcts on the cortical tissue over several weeks following the ministroke.

Researchers used photothrombosis – an experimental stroke technique developed in 1985 to induce cerebral infarction in rats – to close up a single arteriole in the so-called barrel cortex of mice. The barrel cortex is part of the somatosensory cortex of mice, marsupials, and other rodents, and it has a specific structure that mirrors the whiskers on the snout.

For this experiment, researchers implanted cranial windows in the barrel cortex, and then compared functional readouts of brain activity with the location of the ministroke core.

They performed both in vivo and post-mortem brain analyses. The team used c-Fos expression and in vivo, two-photon imaging of single vessel hemodynamic responses in order to measure the precise scale of sensory-evoked neural activity.

Ministrokes have wider, longer-lasting impact than previously thought

The data revealed by the study suggests that a single ministroke affects a much larger area and has longer-lasting effects than previously understood.

The post-mortem c-Fos immunostaining showed that the ministroke had affected an area 12 times greater in volume than the microinfarct core.

Additionally, the single vessel two-photon imaging revealed that the neuronal activity across this affected area was depressed for 14-17 days after the ministroke.

The results were deemed “surprising” by the researchers.

“I knew larger strokes could have distant effects, but I was surprised that something of this scale could have such a large effect. The MRI signal increased and then went away as we had expected, but we were surprised on autopsy to see that there was still lots going on – tissue damage and neuroinflammation. Even after 3 weeks, the neurally evoked blood flow responses had only partially recovered. This means a microinfarct can come and go and you can see it briefly with MRI but it leaves a lasting impression on brain function – possibly for months.”

Andy Shih, Ph.D.

Significance of the findings

Shih explains the significance of the study both in terms of the methodology typically used to assess the impact of ministrokes, and the implications for preventive care.

“These infarcts are so small and unpredictable, we just have not had good tools to detect them while the person was still alive,” he says. “Until now, we just had post-mortem snapshots of these infarcts at the end of the dementia battle as well as measures of the person’s cognitive decline, which might have been taken years before the brain became available for study.”

Most ministrokes are difficult to detect with conventional neuroimaging techniques, as often the in vivo data does not match the post-mortem histological evidence. This makes it difficult for researchers to connect the ministrokes with the development of cognitive decline over time.

However, the research conducted by Shih and team bypassed these difficulties by creating a model allowing them to follow the effects of individual cortical ministrokes over several weeks.

Furthermore, Shih suggests that the findings might also shape future preventive practices. Given that microinfarcts have such a long-lasting impact over a wide area, several microinfarcts may cause “enough accumulated damage in the brain’s circuitry to equal the impact of a larger event.”

He adds:

“On a clinical level, maybe […] therapeutics can play a bigger role. Maybe drugs that we already have can mitigate the cumulative damage of microinfarcts […] If an MRI shows a person is at high risk for microinfarcts, maybe one day we can put them on a drug for a while to reduce the impacts of these lesions.”

Learn how alcohol may affect stroke risk.

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Medical News Today: Eating hot red chili peppers may help us live longer

New research brings some good news for lovers of spicy foods, after finding that eating hot red chili peppers might help to extend lifespan.
[Two red chili peppers]
Consuming hot red chili peppers might reduce mortality risk, say researchers.

A study of more than 16,000 people in the United States revealed that individuals who consumed red chili peppers had a lower risk of death from all causes over an average of 18 years than those who did not eat the spicy food.

Study co-authors Mustafa Chopan and Benjamin Littenberg, both from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, recently reported their findings in the journal PLOS One.

Chili peppers are the fruits of the Capsicum plant, which belongs to the nightshade family. There are many types of chili pepper, all of which have different heat levels.

In hot peppers, such as jalapeños, the fiery flavor comes from a compound called capsaicin. Studies have suggested that this compound can offer a wealth of health benefits.

A recent study reported by Medical News Today, for example, found that capsaicin might have the potential to halt breast cancer, while an earlier study linked the compound to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

According to Chopan and Littenberg, only one previous study – published in The BMJ in 2015 – has investigated how the consumption of spicy foods such as chili peppers can impact death risk. It found a link between regular consumption of such foods and reduced all-cause and cause-specific mortality.

The new study supports this association, after finding that people who eat hot red chili peppers might have a longer lifespan.

All-cause mortality risk 13 percent lower with red chili pepper intake

Chopan and Littenberg reached their findings by analyzing the data of 16,179 adults aged 18 or above who took part in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey III between 1988 and 1994.

At the point of survey, participants’ consumption of hot red chili peppers over the past month was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire.

The all-cause and cause-specific mortality of participants were monitored over a median follow-up period of 18.9 years using the National Death Index. During follow-up, 4,946 deaths occurred.

Compared with participants who did not consume hot red chili peppers, those who did were found to be at a 13 percent reduced risk of all-cause mortality.

Because of the relatively small number of deaths in this study, Chopan and Littenberg say that their data on how red chili pepper intake might impact specific causes of death is limited.

Still, the available data suggested that hot red chili pepper consumption was most strongly associated with a reduced risk of death from vascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.

While the researchers are unable the pinpoint the precise mechanisms by which red chili peppers might extend lifespan, the team says that it is likely down to capsaicin, which activities transient receptor potential (TRP) channels.

“Activation of TRP vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) appears to stimulate cellular mechanisms against obesity, by altering mediators of lipid catabolism and thermogenesis,” the researchers explain. “Protection against obesity leads to decreased risk of cardiovascular, metabolic, and lung diseases.”

“Capsaicin may also defend against heart disease via a TRP-mediated modulation of coronary blood flow,” they add.

New research ‘strengthens generalizability’ of previous findings

Overall, the team says that these latest findings support those of the 2015 study, linking spicy food intake to reduced risk of death by showing “a significant decrease in mortality associated with hot red chili pepper consumption.”

However, Chopan and Littenberg note that the earlier study was only conducted in Chinese adults, so the new research “strengthens the generalizability” of those findings.

The team concludes that:

“Given the observational nature of both investigations, causality can only be suggested, not confirmed. Further studies should aim to investigate the benefits of other spices and differential effects of certain chili pepper subtypes. Such evidence may lead to new insights into the relationships between diet and health, updated dietary recommendations, and the development of new therapies.”

Learn how eating whole grains could increase lifespan.

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Medical News Today: Why do older mothers have birth complications? New study investigates

As more and more women decide to become mothers later in life, the risk of experiencing pregnancy complications also increases. New research explores why this may be the case, suggesting that a delayed and longer labor may play a role.
[woman in labor]
New research explains some of the mechanisms behind childbirth complications.

An increasing number of women are choosing to have their first child later in life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that in the last 4 decades, the number of women choosing to have a child at the age of 35 or above has risen dramatically – from 1.7 per 1,000 births in 1973, to 11 per 1,000 in 2012.

Some studies suggest that the increase in first births to older mothers has also been accompanied by an increase in pregnancy complications.

An advanced maternal age is considered to be a factor in high-risk pregnancy, and older mothers are more likely to need a cesarean section in order to aid delivery. Some of the cases requiring assisted delivery suggest that there are issues with how well the uterus contracts during birth.

Researchers from King’s College London (KCL) in the United Kingdom have investigated the physiological changes in the mother’s body that could explain contraction-related pregnancy complications.

The study, published in the journal Physiology, used mouse models to examine the link between maternal aging and the structure of the uterus.

Analyzing uterus function in pregnant mice

The researchers, led by Dr. Rachel M. Tribe, reader in women’s health at KCL, used a pregnant mouse model to mimic human maternal aging. Typically, the fertility of a female mouse peaks at 3-5 months old, so 8-month-old mice were considered equivalent to a human mother aged 35.

Tribe and team analyzed the physiological functions of the cervix and uterine muscles of the pregnant mice. They looked at how the contractions take place, how the uterus responds to oxytocin, and the number of mitochondria available, as well as the signaling of progesterone.

Oxytocin is a hormone produced naturally by our bodies. Among its many functions, oxytocin is also released during childbirth to facilitate the contractions. The hormone can also be administered as a drug to induce labor.

Mitochondria are the so-called powerhouse of the cell. They are small parts inside a cell and are responsible for producing energy. In this study, researchers examined mitochondria in order to see how much energy they provided for uterus muscle contractions.

Progesterone is a hormone known to play a crucial role in pregnancy. Apart from helping the uterus to thicken and get ready for embryo implantation, it also strengthens the pelvic walls in preparation for the contractions. It is also responsible for reducing uterine activity, thus keeping the uterus “calm” until term.

Maternal age influences functioning of the uterus

The researchers found alterations in hormonal signals and muscle structure that could explain the delayed onset of labor.

In older mice, the ability of the muscles to contract was impaired. The muscles were also less responsive to contraction-inducing oxytocin and had lower numbers of energy-producing mitochondria.

Researchers also found alterations in progesterone signaling, which they believe caused a delay in labor.

“Our research highlights that there are key physiological and cellular changes associated with a mother’s age that result in labor dysfunction. The timing of delivery and progress of labor is directly related to maternal age and this can cause complications during birth.”

Dr. Rachel M. Tribe

Dr. Rima Patel, research associate at the Division of Women’s Health at KCL and study co-author, also weighs in on the contribution of the study.

“Our study uses a mouse model so further research involving measuring hormones and analyzing uterus tissue in older pregnant women is now needed. Studies like this in maternal aging are essential to inform future clinical management strategies for older mothers to ensure more hassle-free and successful births.”

Learn how first-time birth in later life may increase longevity.

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Medical News Today: Natural Remedies for ADHD

MNT Knowledge Center

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder, typically first diagnosed when an affected individual is elementary school age.

It is identified by behavior that makes it difficult for affected individuals to function effectively, or mature and develop as other children normally do. In general, people with ADHD behave in ways that show a pattern of:

  • Hyperactivity: Extremely high and changeable levels of agitated actions
  • Inattentiveness: Distracted, unfocused, unable to complete activities
  • Impulsivity: Acts hastily, without thinking of what could happen as a result

While most children and adults may occasionally behave in ways that seem hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive, it is the intensity and consistency of this sort of behavior that could result in an ADHD diagnosis.

List of natural remedies for ADHD

General interest in complementary and alternative medicine continues to grow. Particularly in light of concerns about the safety and effectiveness of standard medical treatments, half of all parents of children with ADHD use alternative treatments in some way, according to studies cited in Neural Plasticity.

Dietary supplement pills.
There is some evidence to suggest that supplements such as iron and zinc could help improve ADHD symptoms.

From taking supplements and avoiding food coloring to breathing exercises, a wide variety of natural remedies have been used to address ADHD and the symptoms that accompany it.

According to studies reviewed in Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, the natural supplements with the most evidence to support their use are:

  • Polyunsaturated fat supplements: For heart health and a possible reduction in inappropriate behavior and speech
  • Melatonin: May help with problems going to sleep
  • Iron and zinc: Could help to reduce ADHD symptoms when children are not getting sufficient amounts in their diets

Other clinical trials have found that a number of herbal treatments and nutritional supplements may be helpful in treating ADHD, according to a 2016 study. These include:

  • French Maritime pine bark extract, or pycnogenol: May increase visual-motor coordination and reduce hyperactivity and inattentiveness
  • Ginseng: Could reduce hyperactivity and inattentiveness
  • Ningdong: A Chinese medicinal that may be as effective at reducing ADHD symptoms as Western prescription medication
  • Bacopa: An Ayurvedic treatment, which preliminary studies suggested could reduce restlessness and improve self-control in children with ADHD

Combination therapy, in which one or more natural remedies are used in combination with each other or prescription medication, shows promise in addressing the many ways in which ADHD can affect individuals.

However, more research is needed to determine its efficacy and safety, as well as the strength at which it can be used safely in humans, if found to be effective.

Lifestyle changes that can help

Some practices – such as biofeedback, exercise, and connecting with nature – are widely considered to be calming. Researchers are studying these activities to see if they really do reduce symptoms of ADHD.

Neurofeedback, in which individuals with ADHD learn how to perform tasks while trying to maintain typical, and not hyper-aroused, brainwave patterns, has shown promising results. However, it is an expensive process and is only in the early stages of development.

Some studies have suggested that studying yoga, particularly its breathing, focusing, and relaxation components, can help to relieve certain symptoms of ADHD. Yoga, and regular exercise of any kind, is also regarded as a helpful and stress-reducing activity for parents and children with ADHD to pursue together.

Other studies have suggested that children with ADHD saw an improvement in their ability to concentrate after spending time in a green space. More research is needed to know how much time individuals need to spend in green spaces to see improvements, and how long these improvements can last.

Diet plan

Parents take their children for a walk.
Children with ADHD may be better at concentrating after spending time in a green space.

Conventional wisdom may link eating lots of sugar with hyperactivity in children, but research does not show this to be the case. Yeast is also not considered a likely culprit in ADHD.

However, eating a healthful, well-balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits, whole grains, and vegetables is beneficial for everyone. Individuals dealing with a complex brain disorder like ADHD will benefit from a sound diet.

Some researchers suggest avoiding the following foods:

  • Soft drinks
  • Fast food
  • Processed meat
  • Potato chips
  • High-fat dairy products
  • Red meat

In addition, since some children may be extremely sensitive to artificial food coloring and preservatives, avoiding exposure to these substances could help to address symptoms of ADHD.

How do recommendations differ depending on age group?

Most individuals with ADHD are diagnosed when they are children, but the condition can continue to affect individuals throughout their lives.

Creating systems for getting ready for school and other regular activities can help children with ADHD to learn how to recognize and feel comfortable following routines. Even something as simple as organizing storage for toys and clothes can help young people to learn how to manage their ADHD.

Adults with ADHD may find that organizational guidance from professionals can help them to manage their lives more effectively. Learning how to use calendars, lists, and reminders to keep on top of events can help to keep people focused and on schedule.

Just as with ADHD in children, treatment for adults with this condition seems to be most effective when it combines medication with therapy focused on changing behavior.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of therapy in which therapists work with patients to alter thought patterns in order to change behavior, has shown encouraging results in trials with adults.

Reasons why people may wish to avoid medical treatments

People with ADHD, as well as their families, may be reluctant to use traditional medical treatment and use prescription drugs due to:

  • Difficulty dealing with side effects
  • The prospect of long-term use of a drug that affects a child’s thinking
  • Worries about becoming dependent on a drug
  • Concerns about potential illegal use of their medication

Stimulants are often prescribed to address behavioral problems associated with ADHD, and this approach is effective in 70-80 percent of children, according to a study published in Neural Plasticity. However, some individuals cannot handle the side effects of these drugs, which can include:

Since most people are diagnosed with ADHD when they are children, starting medication at this time could mean that children are taking mind-changing drugs for several years, if not their entire childhood. Many parents are not comfortable with this.

Some medications for ADHD can lead to addiction in certain individuals. People with ADHD and their families may be reluctant to use these drugs because they don’t want to risk becoming dependent, or “hooked,” on the medication. Some people may also fear that their medication will be stolen because of its abuse potential.

Individuals with ADHD, and parents of children with ADHD, are encouraged to discuss their concerns about medication with their healthcare providers, and inform their physicians about “alternative” treatments they may be considering.

Overview of ADHD

A child makes a mess of his breakfast cereal.
ADHD is a common disorder that can lead to hyperactivity and impulsive actions.

In 2011, 11 percent of children aged 4-17 were diagnosed with ADHD, making it one of the more common brain disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Diagnosis of ADHD is made after a medical professional gives an individual a thorough evaluation. Medical evaluation and diagnosis usually happen during the elementary school years, although symptoms can appear in 3 year olds and continue into adulthood.

The disorder is most often treated with a combination of medication and behavioral therapy, which is counseling designed to help people change the way they act. ADHD is not the sort of condition that can be cured, although it can be managed.

It is not a contagious disease, although it may run in families due to a possible genetic link.


The key problems associated with ADHD reveal themselves in a variety of ways. For children, these can include:

  • Inability to pay attention in class
  • Difficulty completing assignments
  • Easily distracted
  • Inability to easily play quietly
  • Frustrated by waiting to take a turn
  • Fidgeting and moving around inappropriately
  • Interrupts games and play activities
  • Squirms in seat
  • Frequently loses things needed for assignments

As children mature, their ADHD symptoms usually begin to moderate and change. In adults and older teenagers, ADHD symptoms are often different from the more common behaviors seen in children. They may appear as:

  • Difficulty organizing activities
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Interrupting people’s conversations
  • Frequently talking too much
  • Finding it difficult to keep still
  • May avoid projects that call for sustained mental focus

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Medical News Today: Just 20 minutes of exercise enough to reduce inflammation, study finds

New research adds to the long list of health benefits brought by regular physical activity. As little as 20 minutes of exercise could have anti-inflammatory effects, according to a new study.
[legs of a runner]
A new study suggests that 20 minutes of exercise is enough to reduce the body’s inflammatory response.

The long-term health benefits of physical exercise are numerous; they include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, improving metabolism and weight control, as well as generally strengthening the heart, muscles, and bones.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, a regular dose of physical activity also lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.

New research, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, investigates the benefits of 20-minute exercise sessions on the body’s immune system.

Researchers from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine – led by Suzi Hong, Ph.D., from the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health – hypothesized that exercise would improve the body’s anti-inflammatory response by activating the sympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system helps to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. Physical exercise activates this system to help the body keep up.

During this time, the body releases hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream, which activate the adrenergic receptors of immune cells.

Analyzing the body’s immune response to exercise

More specifically, the researchers tested the hypothesis that a single 20-minute session of exercise would be enough to trigger sympathoadrenergic activation, which, in turn, would suppress the production of monocytic cytokines.

Monocytes are a type of white blood cell, or immune cell, that help to fight off bacteria and infections. Cytokines are a type of protein that help other cells to become so-called effector cells, which, in turn, kill off cancerous or infected cells.

TNF is one of these cytokines. TNF can induce cell differentiation and proliferation, but also cell death, including cancerous ones. TNF also has pro-inflammatory properties, which help the body to bring its inflammatory cells to the site of the injury, creating an immunological response.

Inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s immune response, but too much inflammation can lead to disease. Chronic inflammation may contribute to diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers asked 47 participants to walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes at an intensity rate adjusted to suit each individual’s fitness level. Hong and team took blood samples from the participants both before and immediately after the exercise sessions.

As little as 20 minutes of exercise reduces inflammation

The results revealed that a 20-minute session of moderate exercise can have anti-inflammatory effects.

The study confirmed the researchers’ hypothesis. Exercise did seem to produce an anti-inflammatory cellular response, which could be seen in the reduction of the cytokine TNF.

“Our study found one session of about 20 minutes of moderate treadmill exercise resulted in a 5 percent decrease in the number of stimulated immune cells producing TNF,” says Hong.

Although the anti-inflammatory benefits of physical activity are already known to researchers, Hong explains, this study explains the process in more detail.

“Knowing what sets regulatory mechanisms of inflammatory proteins in motion may contribute to developing new therapies for the overwhelming number of individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions, including nearly 25 million Americans who suffer from autoimmune diseases,” Hong adds.

The lead author also highlights the importance of this study for people with reduced strength or mobility who are under the impression that physical exercise needs to be extremely intense in order to be effective.

“Our study shows a workout session does not actually have to be intense to have anti-inflammatory effects. Twenty minutes to half an hour of moderate exercise, including fast walking, appears to be sufficient. Feeling like a workout needs to be at a peak exertion level for a long duration can intimidate those who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases and could greatly benefit from physical activity.”

Suzi Hong

Learn why weekend exercise may be just as good as being active every day.

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Medical News Today: Early-Onset Alzheimer’s: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Dementia is a general term used to describe symptoms of memory loss, personality changes, and intellectual impairments that are large enough to affect a person’s daily life.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. In the United States alone, there is a new case of Alzheimer’s disease every 66 seconds. Alzheimer’s typically affects people over 65, but early-onset Alzheimer’s accounts for 5 percent of cases.

Alzheimer’s is not considered a normal part of aging, but age is one of the most prevalent risk factors for the disease.

What is early-onset Alzheimer’s?

As the name may suggest, early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs when a person shows signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s in the earlier stages of their life. Early-onset Alzheimer’s is also called young-onset Alzheimer’s. The symptoms, however, remain the same.

More than 200,000 people have early-onset Alzheimer’s in the U.S. alone.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s typically affects people in their 40s and 50s, but rare cases have been reported in people in their 30s.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s displays all the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s. The rates of progression in Alzheimer’s differ from person to person, and it can therefore be difficult to provide a general guide.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Old man sitting on bench looking lost
Forgetting conversations, as well as names and places, may be a symptom of early-stage Alzheimer’s.

The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease are marked by gaps in memory and mental strength.

This is most noticeable in events such as:

  • Forgetting recent conversations
  • Misplacing commonly used items
  • Forgetting the names of people, places, and objects encountered regularly
  • Repetition of the same questions or statements
  • Poor judgement or confusion
  • Regular indecision
  • Mood changes such as anxiety and anger

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the symptoms can become worse. New symptoms, including obsessiveness, delusions, and increasing confusion, can occur.

In the later stages, more serious symptoms can present themselves. These could include hallucinations and a decline in physical ability.


Because early-onset Alzheimer’s is less common than many other disorders, including stress, it can easily be misdiagnosed. This can be frustrating for the person showing symptoms.

Anyone experiencing symptoms should see a doctor who specializes in Alzheimer’s treatments. The diagnosis process usually involves cognitive tests and a medical exam. It may also include brain imaging.


The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is age. With early-onset Alzheimer’s, age is also a risk factor.

Doctors are not completely certain what causes some people to develop early-onset Alzheimer’s while others only show signs after reaching 65 years of age.

Genes and Alzheimer’s

There are rare gene traits that may be linked to Alzheimer’s. People who inherit these genes tend to show symptoms in their 30s to 50s, and multiple members of the family in multiple generations will show signs of Alzheimer’s.

This is known as “familial Alzheimer’s disease.” If cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s seem to run in someone’s family, it is a good idea for them to be tested for it as well.

A child with parents who have the familial Alzheimer’s gene has a 50 percent chance of developing the disease themselves.

The aluminum link to Alzheimer’s

One theory regarding the cause of Alzheimer’s disease has been a link involving environmental and ingested aluminum.

While a correlation has repeatedly been found between an ingestion of aluminum and the incidence of Alzheimer’s, there is no evidence that aluminum consumption causes Alzheimer’s.

In 2009, a long-term study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology studied people aged 65 or older for 15 years.

The research found that cognitive decline was greater in people with a higher exposure to aluminum in their drinking water. The researchers suggested that aluminum from drinking water may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

Coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s

Person using a computer and notes to organise
Coping strategies such as daily reminders on phones and calendars may help people with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

It can be difficult to cope with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As the mind begins to decline, adjusting to new levels of personal ability can pose a challenge.

Accepting personal limitations and implementing coping methods can reduce the stress of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Strategies for coping with daily life include creating a list of things that are becoming harder to do, and then working with others to find ways to easily complete these tasks.

For example, daily reminders can be set into the phone for important tasks.

A specific daily routine can help to reduce the time spent each day figuring out which task is next.

The financial burden of early-onset Alzheimer’s

It is important to consider the costs facing the average person with Alzheimer’s.

Common costs include:

  • Visits to the doctor
  • Ongoing medical treatment
  • Medical equipment and usage
  • Prescription drugs, if necessary
  • Personal care products and services

These care costs will depend on where the person lives and how quickly the symptoms of Alzheimer’s are progressing.

Coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s in the workplace

For many people with early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, they can complete their jobs as usual with little to no outside help.

However, it is important to communicate any diagnosis with management and to keep them updated on any progress.

Depending on the rate of progression, a time may come when it is appropriate to consider leaving the workplace.

The effect of early-onset Alzheimer’s on relationships

A review in the International Journal of General Medicine indicates that many patients do not receive adequate care following their diagnosis.

As the symptoms worsen, the patient, their family, and their caregivers could experience stress. There may also be embarrassment surrounding the early changes in lifestyle.

Many people try to hide the situation from their family and friends, creating more stress and alienating themselves. It is important to be open and realistic in communication, and to express any needs directly.

In couples where one partner is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, it is equally important to have open conversations about the future of the condition.

Depending on how the disorder progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will begin to lose their independence.

This can be stressful for their partner, who may carry a lot of the burden of care. It may therefore be helpful to consider hiring a caregiver for certain tasks, such as paying bills, filling prescriptions, and organizing paperwork.

However difficult it may be, family members should discuss end-of-life issues while the person with Alzheimer’s is still able to make informed decisions.

A support group of friends, children, and family can make it easier to cope with the challenges of the disease.

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Medical News Today: Sedentary behavior raises dementia risk as much as genetic factors

For older adults, a lack of exercise may put their risk of developing dementia on par with that of adults who are genetically predisposed to the disease. This is the conclusion of a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
[An older man watching television]
Researchers suggest that sedentary behavior puts older adults at just as much risk of developing dementia as those who are genetically predisposed to the disease.

Worldwide, there are around 47.5 million people living with dementia. By 2030, this number is expected to rise to approximately 75.6 million.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for about 60-80 percent of all cases. In the United States alone, an estimated 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s.

One of the biggest risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease is the apolipoprotein E (APOE) e4 gene. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, adults who possess one copy of the APOE e4 gene are three times more likely to develop the disease than those without the gene, while those with two copies are 8-12 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

However, the researchers of the new study – including Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Canada – suggest that the risk of dementia may be just as high for older adults exhibiting sedentary behavior.

Inactivity may ‘negate the protective effects of healthy genes’

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans state that older adults should engage in around 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, every week.

However, a 2015 review published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity found that adults aged 60 and older spend approximately 9.4 hours a day sedentary, which is equivalent to about 65-80 percent of their waking day.

For their study, Heisz and colleagues set out to investigate the association between physical activity and dementia risk among older adults with and without the APOE e4 gene.

The researchers came to their findings by analyzing the physical activity and dementia development of 1,646 older adults who were part of the Canadian Study of Health and Aging. All participants were free of dementia at study baseline and followed up for around 5 years.

Among adults who did not carry the APOE e4 gene, the researchers found that those who did not exercise were more likely to develop dementia than those who exercised.

For APOE e4 gene carriers, however, there was no significant difference in dementia risk between those who exercised and those who did not.

According to the researchers, these findings indicate that a lack of exercise may be just as risky for dementia development than carrying the APOE e4 gene.

“The important message here is that being inactive may completely negate the protective effects of a healthy set of genes.”

Jennifer Heisz

Increasing exercise may protect against dementia

It is not all bad news; the study results also suggest that increasing physical activity may protect against the development of dementia in people without the APOE e4 gene.

“Although age is an important marker for dementia, there is more and more research showing the link between genetic and lifestyle factors,” says study co-author Parminder Raina, a professor in the Department of Health Evidence and Impact at McMaster.

“This research shows that exercise can mitigate the risk of dementia for people without the variant of the apolipoprotein genotype,” he adds. “However, more research is needed to determine the implications from a public health perspective.”

Lead study author Barbara Fenesi, a postdoctoral fellow at McMaster, points out that further studies are needed in order to pinpoint the type of exercise that is most beneficial for brain health.

“A physically active lifestyle helps the brain operate more effectively. However, if a physician were to ask us today what type of exercise to prescribe for a patient to reduce the risk of dementia, the honest answer is ‘we really don’t know,'” she says.

Learn about how frequent sauna use may reduce men’s risk of dementia.

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Medical News Today: Sedentary behavior raises dementia risk as much as genetic factors
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