Sunday, 20 March 2011

Is there a limit to life expectancy?

An excellent summary article on the new statistics of life expectancy on the BBC website.

The one liner is that all recent research suggests that as yet there is no discernible limit to how long we can live. Looks like we will be joining the turtles and parrots yet.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Our ageing population

An ageing population will lead to an increase in such illnesses as dementia and diabetes. In the UK today, 700,000 people are affected by dementia. This number is expected to double within a generation. Dementia currently costs the UK economy £20 billion per annum and a 2008 King’s Fund study projected a rise to £50 billion by 2038. There are 2.6 million people in the UK with Type 2 diabetes and this is expected to increase to 4 million by 2025. The costs of diabetes are high because of associated complications such as heart disease, stroke, visual impairment , kidney disease, nerve damage and amputations...

Well there are some stats to cheer you up on a wet Saturday afternoon.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Using brain games to delay dementia

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have developed an application to discover the true effectiveness of brain training exercises in 50-plus people.
The Brain Jog application, which is available to download free for iPhone, iPod or iPad, is the product of 18 months of work by researchers at Queen's School of Music and Sonic Arts to find out what the over 50's are looking for in a brain training app.
The researchers are encouraging as many people as possible to download and use the application. During the process, users will be asked to give feedback on their experience of playing the game.
Using this information to determine what makes a good puzzle experience, the research team will continuously improve and adapt the games to make them as user friendly as possible-thereby maximising the number of people who play on a regular, long-term basis.
In the next stage of the project, the researchers hope to track the experience and performance of these long-term players to help clarify the effects of regular brain training on ageing minds.
Lead researcher Donal O'Brien of the Queen's Sonic Arts Research Centre said: "Brain Jog consists of four enjoyable mini games specifically designed to test and improve four areas - spatial ability, memory, mathematical ability and verbal fluency."
"This is achieved through problem solving, puzzles and reverse arithmetic, allowing users to be challenged in an engaging manner, and improve their performance with regular practice," he said.
He added, "By downloading this app, you can help us create a fantastic game experience for those over 50 and bring us one step closer to finding out whether or not brain training can help prevent cognitive decline and dementia.
"Plans are in place for a future study on dementia prevention using the app; but before that can happen, people of all ages are encouraged to get downloading and have fun while providing vital information to our researchers and keeping their brain active."

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Alcohol can help to prevent dementia!

Good news for a change!

A German study found for people over 65 years old, drinking small amounts of alcohol appears to lower the overall rate of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Previous research has suggested long-term alcohol abuse is detrimental to memory function. Evidence had indicated alcohol-related dementia accounted for about 10% of all cases.
But the new study indicates light-to-moderate drinking as people age through their senior years may actually help keep their memories intact.
The study interviewed 3,327 patients without dementia and then examined their alcohol consumption and cognitive function at 1 1/2 years and three years.
About 50% of the participants avoided alcohol during the study while the rest drank varying amounts. At the end of the study, 217 (6.8%) of the participants had been diagnosed with dementia -- most of them were non-drinkers.
The study found that the drinkers were 29% less likely to have developed dementia and 42% less likely to have developed Alzheimer's.
The analysis found light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was particularly beneficial for those 75 years old and over.
"The idea that a drop of your favourite tipple could reduce risk of dementia will come as welcome news to many," said Anne Corbett, research manager with the Alzheimer's Society.
But Corbett cautioned against using the study as a "green light to hit the bottle."
Though the study adds to a growing argument alcohol is beneficial for the older population, there remains evidence heavy drinking is linked to an increased risk of dementia, she said.
The researchers suggest the alcohol consumption may be helping by lowering cholesterol and improving insulin sensitivity. Non-alcoholic components in most of the beverages also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the study says.
It's not clear if different alcoholic beverages -- such as beer, wine or spirits -- have different outcomes.
The study is published in the journal of Age and Ageing.