According to a new paper from Canadian researchers, bilingual individuals have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. And though researchers can’t say exactly why, one theory is that being able to speak two languages requires a person to always have both languages available in their mind. The constant conflict inside the brain exercises regions critical for general attention and boosts cognitive reserves. In addition to a lowered risk of developing dementia, studies have shown that bilinguals are also able to function and cope with diseases like Alzheimer’s longer than people who don’t speak a second language. More than half of the world’s population is bilingual, though only 20 percent of Americans speak a language other than English. More here.
Inactivity and obesity can increase the chances of developing colorectal, breast, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, and uterine cancers, according to a new report issued jointly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a number of leading cancer groups. The report which reviewed more than 7,000 studies highlights the link between obesity and cancer. Marcus Plescia, director of the CDC’s cancer division, said it is well known that obesity and inactivity can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases but the link to cancer is not as well documented. Despite highlighting the dangers of inactivity, however, the report found the overall cancer death rate in the U.S. has fallen by about 1.6 percent each year between 2004 and 2008 due to improved preventive measures, screening, and early detection efforts. More here.
A newly released report from the CDC says nearly 90 percent of Americans eat more salt than is recommended. Foods such as pizza, soups, sandwiches, cheese, cured meats, bread, rolls, and cold cuts make up 44 percent of the salt people consume, 65 percent comes from processed foods, and 25 percent is from restaurants. Only 10 percent of the sodium we consume occurs naturally. Salt has been linked to high blood pressure, which leads to heart disease and stroke. Choosing low-sodium options when possible and preparing more food for yourself are two ways to lessen the amount of salt you consume on a daily basis. More here.
According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 22nd Annual Retirement Confidence Survey, just 14 percent of Americans say they are very confident that they’ll have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. The new survey finds retirement confidence at historically low levels due largely to job uncertainty, which ranked highest among the most pressing financial issues facing surveyed participants. Being able to afford healthcare expenses and long-term care costs also ranked high among retirement fears. Current workers expressed more concern about their finances than the already retired, though current retirees relied more heavily on Social Security than current workers expect to. Among current workers, 60 percent report that their total savings and investments, not including their primary home and benefit plans, is less than $25,000. More here.
Speaking at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, Joe Vinson, Ph.D., said popcorn actually has more of the antioxidants called polyphenols than fruits and vegetables, due to the fact that it is only four percent water and many fruits and vegetables are diluted because they are nearly 90 percent water. Vinson said popcorn may be the perfect snack food because it is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain and one serving contains more than 70 percent of the recommended daily intake of grains. But though research has shown popcorn to have health benefits, the way it’s prepared determines, ultimately, how healthy it is. Popcorn cooked in butter, oils, sugar, and salt is high in fat and calories and will not provide the same nutritional value. More here.
Two recently released studies suggest that taking a daily aspirin may help reduce the risk of developing cancer and also prevent the spread of already developed tumors. In a study from the University of Oxford, the risk of developing cancer was 25 percent lower in people who took aspirin daily compared to those who took no aspirin. The research found a 37 percent reduction in the risk of cancer after five years of daily aspirin. Another study found aspirin reduced the risk of metastatic cancer by 36 percent and the risk of adenocarcinomas by 46 percent. Despite the encouraging news, experts warn that there are dangers associated with taking aspirin, including increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, and individuals should consult with their doctor before beginning to take daily aspirin. More here.
The ability to predict and prevent a heart attack before it happens could save countless lives. As it is, 50 percent of men and 64 percent of women who die of a heart attack had no previous symptoms of heart disease. Now, a new blood test, gives doctors hope that one day they’ll be able to detect heart trouble before an attack. The test looks for endothelial cells in the blood. Endothelial cells normally line the insides of blood vessels but they start to slough off into the blood stream a few days or weeks before a heart attack. The blood test hopes to measure the level of cells in the blood stream as a way of predicting heart trouble before it’s too late. More here.
Staying in the hospital can be particularly stressful and even dangerous for individuals with dementia. But there are some things experts advise to help hospital visits go more smoothly. First, pack a bag with extra clothes, important medical and insurance information and anything else that could give an elderly loved one comfort while they’re staying in the hospital. If you’re able, attempt to explain the situation and try your best to get them a private room if available and affordable. Most of all caregivers shouldn’t be afraid to discuss worst-case scenarios with doctors and nurses and ask as many questions as they’d like. They should also be sure to remind hospital staff that their loved one is suffering from dementia. It isn’t always easy, even for professionals, to identify someone as cognitively impaired. More here.
Diet and nutrition play a large role in the development or prevention of diseases. Keeping a healthy diet is key to lowering your risk of developing everything from heart disease to cancer. For example, two recent studies looked at the relationship between diabetes and common foods such as apples and white rice. In a study from Harvard, researchers found a link between a higher rate of diabetes and consumption of white rice. The study looked at 352,384 participants in four countries and found those who consumed the largest amount of white rice had a 27 percent higher risk of diabetes than those who ate the least. Another study, which looked at the relationship between dietary flavonoids and diabetes found foods such as blueberries and apples could have a preventive effect. People who ate five or more apples a week had a 23 percent lower risk of diabetes than those who didn’t eat any. More here and here.
People who scored poorly on a test of their health literacy were twice as likely to die within five years as those with higher scores. The study, which tested nearly 8,000 adults over the age of 52, rated their ability to read and understand health-related information and then followed the participants over a five year period. During those years, just 6.0 percent of the group with the highest health-literacy ratings died compared to 16 percent of the group with the lowest scores and 9.0 percent of the group in the middle. Specifically, the test assessed participants ability to read and understand instructions for taking aspirin. Nearly one third of the individuals in the study could not completely comprehend the instructions. More here.