Health bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2012, 12:00am


Silent but deadly

'Silent strokes', which may not show any noticeable symptoms but result in small pockets of dead brain cells, are found in about one in four older adults. These strokes are a cause of memory loss, regardless of the size of the part of the brain responsible for memory (hippocampus), say scientists from Columbia University's Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Ageing Brain. Magnetic resonance imaging brain scans and tests were done on 658 men and women aged 65 and older, none of whom had a history of dementia. The researchers say this finding may lead to further insight into what causes symptoms of Alzheimer's and the development of new ways of prevention.

Easy as B, C, D and E

High levels of those vitamins, along with omega-3 fatty acids, have been linked to a sharper mind among older adults, according to a new study by Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Conversely, a high level of trans fats was linked with reduced mental abilities and smaller brains. Published in the journal Neurology, the study measured levels of more than 30 nutrients in the blood of 104 generally healthy people aged 87 years on average. Those with high levels of the four vitamins performed better on tests of higher-level thinking (planning, attention, and problem solving), and had better visuospatial skills, global cognitive function and bigger brains. Omega-3s were associated with better higher-level thinking and fewer changes to the brain's white matter. (Changes may indicate damage to the brain's small blood vessels.)

Where the living is queasy

A freer economy equals a fatter population, according to findings from University of Michigan's school of public health. Associate Professor Roberto De Vogli, who analysed data from 26 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, says: 'It's not by chance that countries with the highest obesity rates and fast-food restaurants are those in the forefront of market liberalisation, such as the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, versus countries like Japan and Norway, with more regulated and restrictive trade policies.' For example, the US has 7.5 fast-food restaurants per 100,000 people and an obesity rate of 31 per cent for men and 33 per cent for women; Japan has 0.13 fast-food restaurants per 100,000 people, and an obesity rate of 2.9 per cent for men and 3.3 per cent for women. The study was published last month in the journal Critical Public Health.

Hear today, gone tomorrow

One in four Israeli teenagers is in severe danger of hearing loss as early as in their 30s and 40s because of their music-listening habits, say Tel Aviv University researchers. The warning is based on their study published in the International Journal of Audiology. First, 289 youths aged 13 to 17 were asked about their listening levels and duration on their personal music devices. Measurements of these listening levels were then performed on 74 of the teens in quiet and noisy environments. It was found that 80 per cent used their devices regularly, with 21 per cent listening from one to four hours daily, and 8 per cent listening more than four hours straight. Hearing loss caused by continuous exposure to loud noise is a slow, progressive process, and the harm may not be noticeable until accumulated damage begins to take hold, says one of the study authors, Professor Chava Muchnik.