A community for people who want to remain as healthy as possible as we age.

Swine Flu Virus Not Mutating, Making Vaccine a Good Match

(HealthDay News) The genetic makeup of the H1N1 swine flu continues to remain stable, making the forthcoming vaccine a "good match" for the virus, U.S. health officials reported Friday.

And, though the virus continues to spread throughout all 50 states, most cases are mild to moderate, much like the regular "seasonal" flu, the officials said.

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Too Much Salt Takes a Blood-Pressure Toll

(New York Times) Despite an extraordinarily easy way to detect it, strong evidence for how to prevent it and proven remedies to treat it, more Americans today have undetected or poorly controlled hypertension than ever before.

The aging of the population is a reason but not the only one, said Dr. Aram V. Chobanian, a hypertension expert at Boston University Medical Center. As he summarized the problem in an interview…, Americans are too sedentary and fat. They eat too much, especially salt, but too few potassium-rich fruits and vegetables.

The makers of processed and fast foods created and persistently promote a craving for high-salt foods, even in school lunch programs. And Americans without health insurance often don’t know that their blood pressure is too high because they wait for a calamity to strike before seeking medical care.

Solutions to the blood pressure problem require broad-scale approaches — by the public, by government, by industry and by health care professionals. Several measures are similar to those that have been so effective in curbing cigarette smoking; others require better, affordable access to medical care for everyone at risk, including children and the unemployed. Still others need the cooperation of government, industry and the public to improve the American diet and enhance opportunities for health-promoting exercise.

No one claims that the solutions are cheap. But failure to fix this problem portends even greater costs down the line, because uncontrolled hypertension sets the stage for astronomically expensive heart and kidney disease and stroke — diseases that will become only more common as the population ages.

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Enzyme Is Key To Clogged Arteries, Scientists Find

(Science Daily) Scientists … have discovered that an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinase-8 plays a crucial role in raising blood pressure and causing abnormal build-up of cells in the arteries – both of which increase the risk of heart disease…

The scientists say that their research could lead to new drugs for treating high blood pressure and preventing heart disease.

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Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study

(HealthDay News) Regular exercise may help protect men from prostate cancer, says a new study.

U.S. researchers looked at 190 men who had a prostate biopsy and found that those who were moderately active -- anything equivalent to walking at a moderate pace for several hours a week -- were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The study also found that exercise was associated with less aggressive disease in men who did develop prostate cancer.

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Studies Find PSA Screening Unreliable

(HealthDay News) The inability of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test to distinguish between deadly and harmless prostate cancers makes it unusable as a population-wide screening tool, new research claims.

Because of its unreliability, results from the test lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment, according to two reports.

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Toad Venom In Cancer Treatment: Traditional Chinese Medicine Is Well-tolerated, Study Shows

(Science Daily) Huachansu, a Chinese medicine that comes from the dried venom secreted by the skin glands of toads, has tolerable toxicity levels, even at doses eight times those normally administered, and may slow disease progression in some cancer patients, say researchers.

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Community: “Eye of newt, and toe of frog, / Wool of bat, and tongue of dog” – Hamlet

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Angst May Protect Against Some Skin Cancer

(HealthDay News) Periods of short-term stress boost the immune system and protect against a certain type of skin cancer in mice, U.S. researchers say.

The finding was surprising, the researchers noted, because it's believed that chronic stress weakens the immune system and increases the risk of disease…

But the protective effect of the acute stress wasn't permanent, the researchers found. After week 22, about 90 percent of mice in both groups developed cancer, but the stressed mice continued to have fewer tumors until week 26.

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Coronary Imaging Techniques Helps To Identify Plaques Likely To Cause Heart Attacks

(Science Daily) Late-breaking results from the PROSPECT clinical trial shed new light on the types of vulnerable plaque that are most likely to cause sudden, unexpected adverse cardiac events, and on the ability to identify them through imaging techniques before they occur…

"As a result of the PROSPECT trial, we are closer to being able to predict—and therefore prevent – sudden, unexpected adverse cardiac events," said principal investigator Gregg W. Stone, MD.

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Use Of Statins Favors The Wealthy, Creating New Social Disparities In Cholesterol, Study Finds

(Science Daily) Since the introduction of statins to treat high cholesterol, the decline in lipid levels experienced by the wealthy has been double that experienced by the poor.

While statins are highly effective in reducing cholesterol and improving heart health, their use may have contributed to expanding social disparities in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, according to research by Virginia W. Chang, MD…

"High cholesterol was once known as a rich man's disease, because the wealthy had easier access to high fat foods (e.g., red meat). Now wealthy Americans are least likely to have high cholesterol, because they are more likely to be treated with statins, an expensive but highly effective pharmaceutical treatment to lower lipid levels."

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Coming Soon: Better Medicare Support for Mental Health

(Paula Span, The New Old Age, New York Times) One good thing: On Jan. 1, Medicare will gradually begin reimbursing for mental health treatment the same way it reimburses for care of cancer or kidney disease.

The current policy, as old as Medicare itself, treats mental illness differently from physical illness, a discrepancy that discourages elderly patients from seeking help for psychiatric problems.

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Safe Dosages Of Common Pain Reliever May Help Prevent Conditions Related To Aging

(Science Daily) Recent studies … have shown that use of the common pain reliever acetaminophen [found in Tylenol and other pain relief medications] may help prevent age-associated muscle loss and other conditions.

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Community: The “safe dosages” part of this finding is very important. Acetamenophen can cause liver damage.

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Raisins may suppress tooth decay

(UPI) A healthy alternative to sugary snacks -- raisins -- may actually prevent tooth damage, U.S. researchers say.

In addition to the polyphenols, flavonoids and iron in raisins, U.S. researchers also found germ-fighters that may suppress tooth disease.

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Personality Traits Influencing Weight Loss, Study Finds

(Science Daily) Being too optimistic could harm weight loss efforts. [New research] reveals the psychological characteristics that may contribute to weight loss…

[P]atients who started the program with high levels of self-orientation and optimistic characteristics were less likely to lose weight.

This result supports previous findings that some negative emotion has a positive effect on behavior modification because patients care more about their disease. However, the overall improvement in optimistic ego state is not necessarily detrimental, as this increased optimism should result in patients maintaining the healthy lifestyle achieved at the clinic.

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Lack of sleep may play role in Alzheimer's: study

(Reuters) A study in mice suggests lack of sleep may play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

The findings, reported in the journal Science, are some of the first to link sleep with the development of Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia.

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Getting fatter in mid-life may worsen hot flashes

(Reuters Health) Women who add more fat to their frames as they approach menopause will have a harder time with hot flashes, a new study…

Researchers believe … that fat might worsen hot flashes because it acts as an insulator and makes it harder for the body to get rid of heat.

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Folate-rich diet cuts women's colon cancer risk

(Reuters Health) Eating plenty of folate may sharply reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, at least for women, South Korean researchers report.

In a study of 596 colorectal cancer patients and 509 healthy individuals, they found that the women who ate the most folate were at about two-thirds lower risk of the disease than women who consumed the smallest amount of the B vitamin.

But folate intake didn't significantly affect men's colorectal cancer risk, [researchers] report.

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Two-Thirds Of Prostate Cancer Patients Do Not Need Treatment, Study Reveals

(Science Daily) Research … has revealed two thirds of cases did not require urgent treatment, due to the absence of a protein that indicates progressive disease.

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Vaccination And Testing For The Human Papilloma Virus Could Eradicate Cervical Cancer

(Science Daily) Cervical cancer could be eradicated within the next 50 years if countries implement national screening programmes based on detection of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes the disease, together with vaccination programmes against the virus, according to a cervical cancer screening expert.

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Pancreatic Cancer: Researchers Find Drug That Reverses Resistance To Chemotherapy

(Science Daily) For the first time researchers have shown that by inhibiting the action of an enzyme called TAK-1, it is possible to make pancreatic cancer cells sensitive to chemotherapy, opening the way for the development of a new drug to treat the disease.

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Experimental AIDS Vaccine Delivers Good News

(HealthDay News) In an apparent milestone advance, an experimental AIDS vaccine tested on more than 16,000 young adult volunteers in Thailand cut the risk of infection by a third, researchers reported Thursday.

The researchers acknowledged that the protection offered by the vaccine was relatively modest and did not represent a breakthrough. But the trial results marked a significant gain in the so-far frustrating fight against AIDS, which has killed an estimated 32 million people worldwide since it struck more than a quarter century ago.

Experts said the findings should give scientists important insights into HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and how it attacks the body's immune system, with the ultimate goal of producing a more effective vaccine.

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Viagra Relatives May Shrink Abnormally Large Hearts

(Science Daily) Compounds related to Viagra, which is already in clinical trials to prevent heart failure, may also counter the disease in a different way, according to a study… The results hold promise for the design of a new drug class and for its potential use in combination with Viagra or beta blockers.

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Improved function post heart attack sought

(UPI) U.S. and Italian researchers say their tests show two treatment innovations improve heart function after a major heart attack.

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FDA Acknowledges Mistakes in Knee-Device Approval

(HealthDay News) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration violated procedures last year when it approved a knee repair device even though its own scientists recommended against approval, agency officials said Thursday…

"There were numerous departures from processes, procedures and practices, and there were problems with the review process for the device," Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the FDA's principal deputy commissioner, said…

In addition, the FDA report noted that four New Jersey Democratic lawmakers -- Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg and Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. and Steven R. Rothman -- made inquiries to agency officials about the device's approval status…

Going forward, the FDA plans to review the process by which such medical devices are approved, Sharfstein said. "It will also include a reevaluation of the clearance of this device," he said.

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Diabetes Most Prevalent In Southern United States, Study Finds

(Science Daily) Diabetes prevalence is highest in the Southern and Appalachian states and lowest in the Midwest and the Northeast of America. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Population Health Metrics have used two public data sources to investigate the prevalence of diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes mellitus at the State level…

The researchers hope their figures will provide motivation, guidance, and benchmarks for designing, implementing, and evaluating diabetes prevention and state level control programs at the state level.

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The Value of Preventing Chronic Disease

(HealthDay News) Prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure improves the lives of older Americans and also reduces medical costs, study findings show…

In a 51-year-old, prevention of obesity would extend life by 0.85 years, preventing high blood pressure would give them an additional 2.05 years, and by avoiding diabetes they would gain 3.17 years. People aged 51 and 52 who quit smoking would gain 3.44 more years of life, the study authors noted…

Prevention of these conditions also would have lower lifetime medical costs for the individual.

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Successful Dieters Show Unique Brain Patterns

(HealthDay News) New research suggests that people who have successfully lost weight will activate certain parts of their brains when confronted with images of food.

While preliminary, the findings indicate that those who shed pounds -- and keep them off -- tap into regions of the brain related to control over urges.

"It may be that they actually recruit new brain regions to help with their weight loss," said study author Jeanne McCaffery.

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Community: Learning to develop those parts of the brain could help more people lose weight and keep it off.

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Using food to battle inflammation

(Chicago Tribune) If you want to live longer -- and avoid heart disease,Alzheimer's disease and cancer -- then pick and choose your foods with care to quiet down parts of your immune system.

That's the principle promoted by the founders and followers of anti-inflammatory diets, designed to reduce chronic inflammation in the body…

In general terms, following an anti-inflammatory diet means increasing intake of foods that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. (Antioxidants reduce the activity of tissue-damaging free radicals at sites of inflammation.) The diet includes vegetables, whole grains, nuts, oily fish, protein sources, spices such as ginger and turmeric and brightly colored fruits such as blueberries, cherries and pomegranates.

Foods that promote inflammation -- saturated fats, trans fats, corn and soybean oil, refined carbohydrates, sugars, red meat and dairy -- are reduced or eliminated.

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A Plan to Add Supermarkets to Poor Areas, With Healthy Results

(New York Times) Under a proposal the [New York] City Planning Commission unanimously approved on Wednesday, the city would offer zoning and tax incentives to spur the development of full-service grocery stores that devote a certain amount of space to fresh produce, meats, dairy and other perishables…

The move comes as governments across the nation struggle to solve what public health advocates call an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Schools have banned sugary drinks; lawmakers have helped urban farms spread like crabgrass on undeveloped lots; and cities like Los Angeles and Berkeley, Calif., have limited the concentration of fast-food restaurants in low-income areas.

But the New York proposal, adapted from a Pennsylvania program that provides grants and loans for supermarket construction, is unusual because it employs zoning to attract, rather than repel, a narrowly defined type of commercial enterprise.

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Tip of the Week: Do You Get The Urge To Eat After Dark?

(Shrink Yourself) Night eating is a very common form of emotional eating. The night evokes a lot of feelings—whether it’s loneliness or boredom or simply a fear that you won’t sleep well. This anxiety can lead to a lot of post dinner eating. One simple way to avoid eating is to floss and brush your teeth way before bedtime. Many members have reported to us, that despite being a simple thing to do, it actually makes a difference. Another upside of this, besides good oral hygiene, is that you might end up going to bed earlier when you don’t give yourself the option of overeating. The extra sleep can help you cope much better with the stress of the next day which will also contribute to fewer emotional eating episodes.

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Community: I know someone who quit smoking using the same tactic. He didn’t want to smoke after brushing his teeth, so he brushed his teeth a lot while he was quitting!

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Fat caused 124,000 cancer cases in Europe: experts

(Reuters) More than 124,000 people in Europe developed cancer last year because they are overweight, and rising body fat levels threaten to add tens of thousands more to their ranks, experts said on Thursday.

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High-sugar Diet Increases Men's Blood Pressure

(Science Daily) A high-fructose diet raises blood pressure in men, while a drug used to treat gout seems to protect against the blood pressure increase, according to research…

“This is the first evidence of a role of fructose in raising blood pressure and a role for lowering uric acid to protect against that blood pressure increase in people,” said Richard Johnson, M.D., co-author of the study…

Fructose, one of several dietary sugars, makes up about half of all the sugar molecules in table sugar and in high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener often used in packaged products because it’s relatively cheap and has a long shelf life. Glucose makes up the other half. Fructose is the only common sugar known to increase uric acid levels.

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Can stress be healthy?

(Chicago Tribune) Stress doesn't just motivate us to get things done. Short bouts of it may actually boost the immune system and protect against one type of cancer, according to researchers…

Chronic, relentless stress can tax the immune system, increasing your chance of getting sick. But occasional angst may enhance anti-tumor activity, according to the study.

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Superoxides Harm Muscle Tissue And May Lead To Age-related Muscle Decline

(Science Daily) [R]esearchers show how about 3 percent of the air we breathe gets converted into harmful superoxides, which ultimately harm our muscles.

Specifically, these superoxides lead to the creation of a toxic molecule called "reactive oxygen species" or ROS, which is shown to be particularly harmful to muscle tissue, and may lead to problems ranging from aging and frailty to Parkinson's disease and cancer.

"At a minimum, we hope this research leads to new ways of addressing inevitable declining physical performance and other age-dependent infirmities among the elderly," said Atanu Duttaroy, … one of the researchers involved in the work.

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New skin cancer therapy shrinks tumors

(CNN) A new drug for melanoma has been shown to rapidly shrink malignant tumors in an early trial…

Currently the standard treatment for metastatic malignant melanoma is chemotherapy, which has only a 15 percent success rate, []lead researcher Dr. Paul Chapman explained. In his trial using PLX4032 over 70 percent of patients had a response to the drug…

Two patients … even showed complete remission, such that all detectable melanoma "melted away."

The other two major benefits of PLX4032 are that it can be taken orally as a pill and seems to have very mild side effects.

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Switching Early Breast Cancer Patients To Exemestane Improves Long-term Survival, Study Finds

(Science Daily) New research has found that switching post-menopausal women with early breast cancer to the drug exemestane (Aromasin) after two or three years of tamoxifen rather than keeping them on tamoxifen for five years improves the chance of remaining cancer free and reduces the risk of death for at least the next six years.

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Using The Immune System To Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

(Science Daily) Immune therapies have been explored as a way to treat cancer after it develops. But a new study … suggests that genetic risk of prostate cancer can be reduced by rescuing critical immune system cells.

The study was done in mice and would need further validation and extensive testing in the lab before being available for humans. But the results are promising for people with a strong family history of cancer or known cancer genes.

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Novel 'On-off Switch' Mechanism Stops Cancer In Its Tracks

(Science Daily) A tiny bit of genetic material with no previously known function may hold the key to stopping the spread of cancer, researchers ... report.

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Could Swine Flu Panic Be Worse Than Outbreak Itself?

(HealthDay News) With infections typically causing only mild illness, experts point to exaggerated fears as the real threat.

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Sex With New Partners Raises Widowers' Disease Risk

(HealthDay News) Older widowers who recently lost their wives are more likely to have a sexually transmitted disease than their counterparts who are still married, a new study has found.

The researchers behind the study add that drugs like Viagra could boost the risk, noting the widowers might be seduced by advertisements for sexual enhancement…

[Study co-author Kirsten] Smith said, "older adults need to be aware that they are at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection if they take on a new sexual partner following a spouse's death."

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Study Suggests a Wider Use for Statins

(HealthDay News) Statins could be as beneficial for people with acceptable cholesterol readings but high levels of inflammation as they are for those with high cholesterol levels, a new analysis finds…

The researchers found that "the efficiency of treating elevated hs-CRP patients with statins is at least as good, if not better, than the efficiency of treating those with high cholesterol."

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Nexavar beats hopes in breast cancer test

(Reuters) Women with breast cancer lived significantly longer without their disease getting worse when treated with Bayer and Onyx Pharmaceuticals' cancer pill Nexavar, researchers said on Wednesday.

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Glaucoma Tied to Gene Variants in Blacks

(HealthDay News) Gene variants on chromosome 2 are associated with glaucoma in blacks, say researchers who studied 129 patients with the vision-robbing disease.

The finding may lead to new treatments or a cure, the scientists added.

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Tired, Stressed Docs Make More Mistakes, Study Finds

(HealthDay News) Fatigue isn't the only contributor to medical errors among medical residents. A new study finds that financial woes, family concerns and other elements of distress also play a major role in potentially fatal mistakes.

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FDA issues safety alert for personal-help buttons

(CNN) The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning Tuesday to users of personal emergency-response buttons worn around the neck that they present a potential choking hazard.

The agency said it is aware of at least six reports between 1998 and 2009 of serious injury or death — with three deaths in the United States and one in Canada — from choking that occurred when the cord on the button became entangled with other objects.

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Can Coenzyme Q10 Slow Progression Of Parkinson's Disease?

(Science Daily) Rush University Medical Center is participating in a large-scale, multi-center clinical trial in the U.S. and Canada to determine whether a vitamin-like substance, in high doses, can slow the progression of Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects about one million people in the United States

The substance being tested, called coenzyme Q10, is produced naturally in the body and is an important link in the chain of chemical reactions that produce energy in mitochondria, the "powerhouses" of cells. The enzyme is also a potent antioxidant – a chemical that "mops up" potentially harmful chemicals generated during normal metabolism.

Several studies have shown that Parkinson's patients have impaired mitochondrial function and low levels of coenzyme Q10. Moreover, laboratory research has demonstrated that coenzyme Q10 can protect the area of the brain damaged in Parkinson's.

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Historic Gene Therapy Trial To Treat Alzheimer's Disease

(Science Daily) Researchers … are now recruiting volunteers for a national gene therapy trial – the first study of its kind for the treatment of patients with dementia due to Alzheimer's disease.

The phase II study examines the safety and possible benefits of CERE-110. CERE-110 contains a gene and is injected during surgery into a part of the brain affected by Alzheimer's disease. The gene will instruct brain cells to produce more of a protein, called Nerve Growth Factor or NGF, which helps nerve cells survive and function properly. The transfer of this gene into the brain is a medical technique called gene therapy.

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Alzheimer's Disease Is Sharply Rising, But You Can Lower Your Odds

(U.S. News & World Report)The world's population is graying, and as a result, nations around the globe are staring down a rising tide of people who will grapple with the ravages of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias…

[S]tudies tell us that certain behaviors and lifestyle choices play an important role in influencing the trajectory of dementia, and there are all kinds of health benefits to be gained in mimicking early on the behaviors of people who have aged healthfully and with mental function intact. "A whole body of research shows that your condition at midlife determines what you see in later years," says [William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer's Association.]. Here's what you'll want to incorporate …

1. Physical activity
The Alzheimer's Association advises picking activities you like and doing them regularly for at least 30 minutes a day.

2. Weight control
The heavier a person is, the more likely he or she may be to develop Alzheimer's…

3. Mental challenges
The general guideline, says Neil Buckholtz, chief of the dementias of aging branch at the National Institute on Aging, is regularly engaging in "some kind of new learning that challenges you."…

4. Social connections
Research has found that people with larger social networks, while they had similar amounts of the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's as did more isolated people, were less affected cognitively…

5. Healthy diet
[T]he general recommendation is to get plenty of veggies and fruits with dark skins, like spinach, beets, red bell peppers, onions, eggplants, prunes, blackberries, strawberries, red grapes, oranges, and cherries, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Some evidence suggests green, leafy cruciferous vegetables, in particular, are helpful. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial. So may some nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans, that have high levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant…

6. Chronic disease control
A sizable body of evidence suggests that type 2 diabetes and heart disease affect the brain and perhaps the development or severity of Alzheimer's.

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Postmenopausal Women, Too, Reap Cardiovascular Benefits From Endurance Training

(Science Daily) In two papers based on the experiments and published in recent months, UC Berkeley researchers report that postmenopausal women can achieve the same health benefits from regular, vigorous exercise as younger women do.

"There is some good news here for older women in the population, in that they respond much like younger women do to training," said study leader and exercise physiologist George Brooks… "The results are very encouraging for exercise without weight loss as an effective means for increasing vigor and controlling risk factors for chronic diseases in older women."

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Too Much Salt Takes a Blood-Pressure Toll

(New YorkTimes) Americans are too sedentary and fat. They eat too much, especially salt, but too few potassium-rich fruits and vegetables.

The makers of processed and fast foods created and persistently promote a craving for high-salt foods, even in school lunch programs. And Americans without health insurance often don’t know that their blood pressure is too high because they wait for a calamity to strike before seeking medical care.

Solutions to the blood pressure problem require broad-scale approaches — by the public, by government, by industry and by health care professionals. Several measures are similar to those that have been so effective in curbing cigarette smoking; others require better, affordable access to medical care for everyone at risk, including children and the unemployed. Still others need the cooperation of government, industry and the public to improve the American diet and enhance opportunities for health-promoting exercise.

Read more.

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The Claim: Lack of Sleep Increases the Risk of Catching a Cold.

(New YorkTimes) Studies have demonstrated that poor sleep and susceptibility to colds go hand in hand, and scientists think it could be a reflection of the role sleep plays in maintaining the body’s defenses.

In a recent study for The Archives of Internal Medicine, scientists [found that those] who slept an average of fewer than seven hours a night … were three times as likely to get sick as those who averaged at least eight hours.

Sleep and immunity, it seems, are tightly linked. Studies have found that mammals that require the most sleep also produce greater levels of disease-fighting white blood cells — but not red blood cells, even though both are produced in bone marrow and stem from the same precursor. And researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have shown that species that sleep more have greater resistance against pathogens.

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