Personal Health: News and Notes

Posted: December 03, 2012

Workouts jolt the memory

In healthy seniors and those with emerging memory problems, even one brief bout of vigorous exercise can jog the memory of recent events, a new study showed.

Researchers at the University of California-Irvine recruited 31 healthy older adults with an average age of 69, and 23 subjects who had been diagnosed with "amnestic" mild cognitive impairment. All were shown a series of 20 emotionally positive images - beautiful landscapes, baby animals, sports scenes. And then, half of each group were put on treadmills to exercise for six minutes at 70 percent of their aerobic maximum. Subjects in the other half of each group sat quietly.

Among those with normal memory function, a single bout of exercise increased recall of photos and details by 30 percent. Among subjects with amnestic mild cognitive impairment, those in the brief-exercise group improved their recall even more: They remembered twice the number of photos and details than did those who did not exercise. They didn't recall as much as the less active adults with normal memory, but they did recall more than they would have. - L.A. Times

Soldiers' stress may start early

Childhood abuse and previous exposure to violence may raise a soldier's risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study says.

Researchers followed 746 Danish soldiers before, during, and after deployment to Afghanistan; 84 percent of them showed no PTSD symptoms or recovered quickly from mild symptoms.

The soldiers who developed PTSD were much more likely to have suffered emotional problems and traumatic events at some point in their lives before they went to war.

Childhood experiences of violence, especially physical punishment - abuse - harsh enough to cause bruises, cuts, burns, and broken bones, predicted the PTSD onset in some soldiers, concluded the study in Psychological Science.

The findings challenge the widely held belief that exposure to combat and war atrocities is the main cause of PTSD, the researchers said. - HealthDay

Depression part of Parkinson's

Depression is the most important determinant of the health status of people with Parkinson's disease, according to early findings from a large study of Parkinson's patients.

Parkinson's, a brain disease, affects muscle and causes tremors, muscle rigidity, and slowed movement. It's believed that about half of Parkinson's patients experience some form of depression at some point, and research suggests that depression and anxiety are more common in Parkinson's patients than in those with other chronic diseases.

The early findings from the Parkinson's Outcomes Project suggest that the impact of depression on the health of Parkinson's patients is almost twice that of the movement problems linked to the disease.

Depression can be hard to diagnose in Parkinson's patients because many common symptoms, such as fatigue and masked facial expressions, may hide mood changes.

Based on this study, the National Parkinson Foundation recommends that doctors screen Parkinson's patients for depression at least once a year. The study shows the importance of "multifaceted treatment of depression," said Matthew Stern of the University of Pennsylvania. - HealthDay

Red wine not a magic elixir

Despite showing early promise in some animal studies, supplements of resveratrol, an antioxidant found aplenty in red wine, did not improve insulin sensitivity or heart health in obese men, a small study found.

Researchers found no difference in insulin sensitivity - the diabetes-related measure of how well the body uses the hormone insulin - in 24 obese but otherwise healthy men on daily 1,500-milligram doses of resveratrol compared to other men who took an inactive placebo for 4 weeks.

Nor were there any changes in other signs of heart health, including blood pressure, and levels of blood fats called triglycerides.

Vivian Fonseca, president of medicine for the American Diabetes Association, said he was not surprised. People who drink red wine in moderation may have healthy lifestyles that may let them live longer and reduce their insulin sensitivity, "but putting it into a pill doesn't solve the problem for people who live unhealthy lives, like the men in the study," Fonseca said. Some initial animal studies on resveratrol "were hyped far more than they should have been, and this study should put all of that to rest." - HealthDay

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