A study focused on finding ways to reduce readmission rates among congestive heart failure patients over the age of 65 found that patients who saw a cardiologist had a significantly lower risk of returning to the hospital within 30 days. The study looked at heart failure admissions between 2009 and 2011 and found, among 2,311 patients, 65 percent were treated by a hospitalist and 35 percent were treated by a cardiologist. Among the 23.2 percent of patients that re-entered the hospital within a month of being discharged, 27 percent had been attended to by a hospitalist while just 16 percent were among those treated by a cardiologist. In addition, the analysis noted that readmission rates were lower for patients seen by a cardiologist despite being among the more severe cases. More here.
New data from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College shows the pattern of wealth accumulation has remained virtually the same since 1983. That means, though expenses and life expectancies have gone up, people have approximately the same assets going into retirement that they had in 1983. In addition, the most recent recession has taken a staggering toll on the preparedness of baby boomers heading into retirement. Losses experienced in the real estate and stock markets were compounded by the need to dip into retirement savings to make up for the financial burden. These changes to the wealth-to-income ratio, which is a good predictor of how much income someone can replace once they retire, suggest that Americans have become increasingly less prepared for retirement over the past 30 years. More here and here.
A new study from the University of Copenhagen found that, in addition to an expected rise in mortality rates among people with low levels of vitamin D in their blood, individuals with elevated levels of the vitamin were also shown to have higher death rates. The research was the largest of its kind and looked at the blood of nearly 250,000 people. The surprising results suggest there are limits to the amount of vitamin D a person should be consuming, despite its many health benefits. Vitamin D is said to help prevent depression, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and is also essential in helping calcium reach our bones. More here.
A study of Australians over the age of 45 found those who sat more than 11 hours a day were 40 percent more likely to die over the next three years compared to people who sat less than four hours a day. The study, which looked at more than 200,000 men and women, adds to the growing evidence that sitting too long can be harmful to your health. In addition, the study found that, though exercising helps reduce the effects of sitting, it does not erase them. People who exercised more than five hours a week had a lowered death risk, but it rose with increased inactivity. The study’s authors stressed that public health programs should be focused on getting people more physically active and reducing the amount of time spent sitting. More here and here.
A review of 29 clinical trials covering nearly 1,400 adults between the ages of 22 and 74 found that taking vitamin C supplements may have a lowering effect on blood pressure. Participants in the study took 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily for eight weeks and, in people with high blood pressure, systolic pressure fell nearly 5 points and diastolic pressured dropped 1.7 points. Despite the results, the study’s authors stress that more research is needed before they can recommend vitamin C supplements for high blood pressure. Researchers say the reviewed studies were often small and included instances where patients were taking supplements in addition to medication for their blood pressure. In America, one in three people has high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. More here.
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.
A new report from the Institute of Medicine calls for more attention to the increasing number of Americans suffering with a chronic illness. Nearly 50 million Americans have a chronic illness and three-quarters of all health-care costs are spent on conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, chronic pain, and dementia. The report calls for more action from federal, state, and local governments in addition to more research into how to care for people with multiple chronic illnesses. More than a quarter of Americans live with more than one chronic illness, such as people suffering from both diabetes and heart disease. The report’s authors wrote that the epidemic of chronic illness is steadily moving toward crisis proportions, yet enhancing the quality of life for people living with these diseases hasn’t been given the attention it deserves. More here.
Orexin cells in the brain are responsible for making us feel energetic and telling our body when to burn calories. When the cells are less active, so are we. According to a recent study that tracked the cells’ activity in mice after they were fed various foods, glucose blocked the function of orexin cells while amino acids kept the cells active and the mice energetic. The research indicates that protein is better for boosting energy than sugar. Sources of protein include eggs, beans, milk, cheese, and yogurt, in addition to seafood, white-meat poultry, lean beef, and pork tenderloin. Protein bars, while popular, often contain sugar and fat. Be sure there are at least six grams of protein in your energy or protein bar. More here.
The emotional stress of caring for an elderly relative has been shown to increase risk of depression, disease, and even death. But a new study from Boston University found that, though caregivers had more stress, they had lower mortality rates than non-caregivers over eight years. Caregivers also performed better on physical tests measuring things such as walking pace and grip strength. The results suggest the activity caring for a relative requires can provide benefits to physical health and cognition. Dr. Lisa Fredman, a Boston University epidemiologist, said most caregiving activities require you to move around a lot, which keeps people on their feet. In addition, handling complex financial issues and monitoring medications can help slow cognitive decline. More here.
A new study from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center found that older people with low levels of vitamin B12 scored lowest on tests measuring thinking, reasoning, and memory. Older adults typically have lower levels of the vitamin, in part, because the body’s ability to absorb vitamins diminishes with age. Christine Tangney, PhD, said as we get older our stomachs produce less of the acid that breaks down the vitamin, in addition to the fact that older people take more drugs that can inhibit absorption. The study found that participants with low levels of vitamin B12 suffered the greatest degree of brain shrinkage, which is associated with higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. More here.