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Study finds new link for increased risk of Alzheimer’s

<p>A new study has found that people suffering from anxiety disorders could be more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. </p> <p>The study, which was published by brain researchers The Florey, analysed data from 2443 older Australians from Melbourne and Perth, who are part of a cohort for dementia research.</p> <p>Study leads Dr Yijun Pan and Dr Liang Jin found that anxiety and other neurological disorders are linked to an increased likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease.  </p> <p>"People with anxiety and neurological disorders are 1.5 and 2.5 times more likely to have Alzheimer's disease," Dr Pan said.</p> <p>"For people with anxiety, males have higher odds than females of developing Alzheimer's disease."</p> <p>They also found a few other medical conditions which were linked to a decreased risk of Alzheimer's, including arthritis, cancer, gastric complaints, and high cholesterol. </p> <p>The study leads said that the p53 protein - which causes neuron dysfunction and cell death in Alzheimer's patients - loses its function when someone has cancer, which could possibly explain the link between the two conditions. </p> <p>"We need further research to understand whether these diseases interfere with the evolution of Alzheimer's or whether there might be other reasons," Dr Pan said.</p> <p>"The medications or treatments used for these diseases may possibly contribute to this observation."</p> <p>The study however, did not find a link between  Alzheimer's and depression, falls or strokes. </p> <p>"This is the first study to assess 20 comorbidity associations with cognitive impairment using a single Australian dataset, which allowed us to fully consider how these conditions affect the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease," Dr Pan said. </p> <p>"We also studied whether age, gender, smoking, education, alcohol consumption, and the APOE gene – believed to be connected to Alzheimer's - affects these associations.</p> <p>"Our study indicates a new opportunity for biologists to study the links between these 20 conditions with Alzheimer's disease.</p> <p>"This work also provides valuable epidemiological evidence to clinicians, which may help them to evaluate one's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease."</p> <p><em>Image: Nine</em></p>

Caring

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New studies suggest millions with mild cognitive impairment go undiagnosed, often until it’s too late

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/soeren-mattke-1484707">Soeren Mattke</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-southern-california-1265">University of Southern California</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ying-liu-1221170">Ying Liu</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/usc-dornsife-college-of-letters-arts-and-sciences-2669">USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences</a></em></p> <p>Mild cognitive impairment – an early stage of dementia – is widely underdiagnosed in people 65 and older. That is the key takeaway of two recent studies from our team.</p> <p>In the first study, we used Medicare data for about 40 million beneficiaries age 65 and older from 2015 to 2019 to estimate the prevalence of mild cognitive impairment in that population and to identify what proportion of them had actually been diagnosed.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-023-01272-z">finding was sobering</a>: A mere 8% of the number of cases with mild cognitive impairment that we expected based on a statistical model had actually been diagnosed. Scaled up to the general population 65 and older, this means that approximately 7.4 million cases across the country remain undiagnosed.</p> <p>In the second study, we analyzed data for 226,756 primary care clinicians and found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.14283/jpad.2023.131">over 99% of them underdiagnosed mild cognitive impairment</a> in this population.</p> <h2>Why it matters</h2> <p>Mild cognitive impairment is an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2019.2000">about half of cases</a> and progresses to dementia <a href="https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/related_conditions/mild-cognitive-impairment">at a rate of 10% to 15% per year</a>. It includes symptoms such as losing the ability to remember recent events and appointments, make sound decisions and master complex tasks. Failure to detect it might deprive patients of an opportunity to get treated and to slow down disease progression.</p> <p>Mild cognitive impairment can sometimes be caused by easily addressable factors, such as medication side effects, thyroid dysfunction or <a href="https://theconversation.com/vitamin-b12-deficiency-is-a-common-health-problem-that-can-have-serious-consequences-but-doctors-often-overlook-it-192714">vitamin B12 deficiency</a>. Since mild cognitive impairment has <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjopharm.2008.06.004">the same risk factors as cardiovascular disease</a>, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, medication management of these risks combined with diet and exercise <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60461-5">can reduce the risk of progression</a>.</p> <p>In 2023, the Food and Drug Administration <a href="https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-converts-novel-alzheimers-disease-treatment-traditional-approval">approved the drug lecanemab</a> as the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-the-fdas-accelerated-approval-of-a-new-alzheimers-drug-could-mean-for-those-with-the-disease-5-questions-answered-about-lecanemab-197460">first disease-modifying treatment</a> <a href="https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-causes-and-risk-factors/what-happens-brain-alzheimers-disease">for Alzheimer’s disease</a>, the most common cause of mild cognitive impairment. In contrast to previous drugs, which can temporarily improve symptoms of the disease, such as memory loss and agitation, this new treatment addresses the underlying cause of the disease.</p> <p>Lecanemab, a monoclonal antibody, <a href="https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Amyloid-Plaques.aspx">reduces amyloid plaques</a> in the brain, which are toxic protein clumps that are believed to contribute to the progression of the disease. In a large clinical trial, lecanemab was able to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa2212948">reduce the progression</a> of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. A similar drug, donanemab, also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2023.13239">succeeded in a clinical trial</a> and is expected to be <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/fda-delays-approval-of-alzheimers-drug-donanemab-what-experts-think">approved sometime in 2024</a>.</p> <p>However, these drugs must be used in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, ideally when a patient has only mild cognitive impairment, as there is <a href="https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/treatments/lecanemab-leqembi">no evidence that they are effective in advanced stages</a>.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/w3IbAscNjsQ?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">An earlier diagnosis leads to early treatment and better outcomes.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>What still isn’t known</h2> <p>Many factors contribute to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/alz.13051">lack of timely detection</a>. But researchers don’t have a good understanding of the relative importance of those individual factors or how to reduce the high rate of underdiagnosis.</p> <p>While distinct, symptoms are subtle and their slow progression means that they can be overlooked or misinterpreted as normal aging. A neurologist in China told our research team that diagnosis rates spike in China after the New Year’s holiday, when children who haven’t seen their parents for a year notice changes that are harder to pick up when interacting with someone daily.</p> <p>Doctors also commonly discount memory concerns as normal aging and doubt that much can be done about it. While cognitive tests to distinguish mild cognitive impairment from pathologic decline do exist, they take about 15 minutes, which can be hard to come by during the limited time of a doctor’s visit and may require a follow-up appointment.</p> <h2>What’s next</h2> <p>People, particularly those in their 60s and beyond, as well as their families and friends need to be vigilant about cognitive decline, bring it up during doctor’s appointments and insist on a formal assessment.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/yearly-wellness-visits">Medicare yearly “wellness” visit</a> is an opportunity to explore such concerns, but only about half of beneficiaries <a href="https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2019.01795">take advantage of it</a>.</p> <p>Just as physicians ask patients about unexplained weight loss and take those concerns seriously, we believe questions that explore a patient’s cognitive state need to become the norm.</p> <p><em>The <a href="https://theconversation.com/us/topics/research-brief-83231">Research Brief</a> is a short take on interesting academic work.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/216892/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/soeren-mattke-1484707">Soeren Mattke</a>, Director of the USC Dornsife Brain Health Observatory, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-southern-california-1265">University of Southern California</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ying-liu-1221170">Ying Liu</a>, Research Scientist, Center for Economic and Social Research, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/usc-dornsife-college-of-letters-arts-and-sciences-2669">USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/new-studies-suggest-millions-with-mild-cognitive-impairment-go-undiagnosed-often-until-its-too-late-216892">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Mind

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Science finally proves "Money doesn't buy happiness"

<p>A new study has proven that the old adage "money can't buy you happiness" is true. </p> <p>Historically, economic wealth and higher income households are often seen to have an increased level of wellbeing and happiness, with the extra money making way for less stress and more general comfortability. </p> <p>However, researchers from Canada and Spain have concluded this may not be true, with such surveys often including responses from people in industrialised areas only. </p> <p>People in small-scale societies where money does not play a central role in every day life are often excluded from these studies, as the livelihood of residents in these small communities usually depend more on nature. </p> <p>Now, 2,966 people from Indigenous and local communities in 19 locations across the globe have been included in a study, with researchers now finding that societies of Indigenous people and those in small, local communities report living very satisfying lives despite not having a lot of money. </p> <p>The researchers wrote, "The striking aspect of our findings... is that reported life satisfaction in very low-income communities can meet and even exceed that reported at the highest average levels of material wealth provided by industrial ways of life."</p> <p>Researchers concluded the findings are strong evidence that economic growth is not needed to be happy, with only 64 percent of households included in the survey reported having any cash income.</p> <p>Eric Galbraith, lead author of the study, said, "Surprisingly, many populations with very low monetary incomes report very high average levels of life satisfaction, with scores similar to those in wealthy countries."</p> <p>Researchers added that high life satisfaction is shown in these communities "despite many of these societies having suffered histories of marginalisation and oppression."</p> <p>Galbraith added, "I would hope that, by learning more about what makes life satisfying in these diverse communities, it might help many others to lead more satisfying lives while addressing the sustainability crisis."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

Money & Banking

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After a lifetime studying superannuation, here are 5 things I wish I knew earlier

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-thorp-214">Susan Thorp</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Amassing the wealth needed to support retirement by regular saving is a monumental test of personal planning and discipline. Fortunately for most Australian workers, the superannuation system can help.</p> <p>Superannuation uses the carrot of tax incentives, and the sticks of compulsion and limited access, to make us save for retirement.</p> <p>There are benefits to paying timely attention to your super early in your working life to get the most from this publicly mandated form of financial self-discipline.</p> <p>I’ve been researching and thinking about superannuation for most of my career. Here’s what I wish I knew at the beginning of my working life.</p> <h2>1. Check you’re actually getting paid super</h2> <p>First, make sure you are getting your dues.</p> <p>If you are working, your employer must contribute <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/businesses-and-organisations/super-for-employers/paying-super-contributions/how-much-super-to-pay">11% of your earnings</a> into your superannuation account. By July 2025 the rate will increase to 12%.</p> <p>This mandatory payment (the “<a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/tax-rates-and-codes/key-superannuation-rates-and-thresholds/super-guarantee">superannuation guarantee</a>”) may look like yet another tax but it is an important part of your earnings (would you take an 11% pay cut?).</p> <p>It is worth checking on, and worth <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/calculators-and-tools/super-report-unpaid-super-contributions-from-my-employer">reporting</a> if it is not being paid.</p> <p>The Australian Tax Office <a href="https://oia.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/posts/2023/05/Impact%20Analysis%20-%20Unpaid%20Superannuation%20Guarantee%20package.pdf">estimates</a> there is a gap between the superannuation employers should pay and what they do pay of around 5% (or $A3.3 billion) every year.</p> <p>Failing to pay is <a href="https://oia.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/posts/2023/05/Impact%20Analysis%20-%20Unpaid%20Superannuation%20Guarantee%20package.pdf">more common</a> among the accommodation, food service and construction industries, as well as small businesses.</p> <p>Don’t take your payslip at face value; cross-check your super account balance and the annual statement from your fund.</p> <h2>2. Have just one super account</h2> <p>Don’t make personal donations to the finance sector by having more than one superannuation account.</p> <p>Two super accounts mean you are donating unnecessary administration fees, possibly redundant insurance premiums and suffering two times the confusion to manage your accounts.</p> <p>The superannuation sector does not need your charity. If you have more than one super account, please consolidate them into just one today. You can do that <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/how-super-works/consolidating-super-funds">relatively easily</a>.</p> <h2>3. Be patient, and appreciate the power of compound interest</h2> <p>If you’re young now, retirement may feel a very distant problem not worth worrying about until later. But in a few decades you’re probably going to appreciate the way superannuation works.</p> <p>As a person closing in on retirement, I admit I had no idea in my 20s how much my future, and the futures of those close to me, would depend on my superannuation savings.</p> <p>Now I get it! <a href="https://www.nber.org/papers/w27459">Research</a> <a href="https://economics.mit.edu/sites/default/files/publications/pandp.20221022.pdf">shows</a> the strict rules preventing us from withdrawing superannuation earlier are definitely costly to some people in preventing them from spending on things they really need. For many, however, it stops them spending on things that, in retrospect, they would rate as less important.</p> <p>But each dollar we contribute in our 30s is worth around three times the dollars we contribute in our 50s. This is because of the advantages of time and <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/saving/compound-interest">compound interest</a> (which is where you earn interest not just on the money initially invested, but on the interest as well; it’s where you earn “interest on your interest”).</p> <p>For some, adding extra “voluntary” savings can build up retirement savings as a buffer against the periods of unemployment, disability or carer’s leave that most of us experience at some stage.</p> <h2>4. Count your blessings</h2> <p>If you are building superannuation savings, try to remember you’re among the lucky ones.</p> <p>The benefits of super aren’t available to those who can’t work much (or at all). They face a more precarious reliance on public safety nets, like the Age Pension.</p> <p>So aim to maintain your earning capacity, and pay particular attention to staying employable if you take breaks from work.</p> <p>What’s more, superannuation savings are invested by (usually) skilled professionals at rates of return hard for individual investors to achieve outside the system.</p> <p>Many larger superannuation funds offer members types of investments – such as infrastructure projects and commodities – that retail investors can’t access.</p> <p>The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) also <a href="https://www.apra.gov.au/industries/superannuation">checks</a> on large funds’ investment strategies and performance.</p> <h2>5. Tough decisions lie ahead</h2> <p>The really hard work is ahead of you. The saving or “accumulation” phase of superannuation is mainly automatic for most workers. Even a series of non-decisions (defaults) will usually achieve a satisfactory outcome. A little intelligent activity will do even better.</p> <p>However, at retirement we face the challenge of making that accumulated wealth cover our needs and wants over an uncertain number of remaining years. We also face variable returns on investments, a likely need for aged care and, in many cases, declining cognitive capacity.</p> <p>It’s helpful to frame your early thinking about superannuation as a means to support these critical decades of consumption in later life.</p> <p>At any age, when we review our financial management and think about what we wish we had known in the past, we should be realistic. Careful and conscientious people still make mistakes, procrastinate and suffer from bad luck. So if your super isn’t where you had hoped it would be by now, don’t beat yourself up about it. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/217922/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-thorp-214">Susan Thorp</a>, Professor of Finance, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/after-a-lifetime-studying-superannuation-here-are-5-things-i-wish-i-knew-earlier-217922">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Can a daily multivitamin improve your memory?

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jacques-raubenheimer-1144463">Jacques Raubenheimer</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/research-check-25155">Research Checks</a> interrogate newly published studies and how they’re reported in the media. The analysis is undertaken by one or more academics not involved with the study, and reviewed by another, to make sure it’s accurate.</em></p> <hr /> <p>Don’t we all want to do what we can to reduce the impact of age-related decline on our memory?</p> <p>A new study suggests a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement is a simple and inexpensive way to help older adults slow the decline in some aspects of memory function.</p> <p>The <a href="https://ajcn.nutrition.org/article/S0002-9165(23)48904-6/fulltext">new study</a>, which comes from a <a href="https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02422745?term=NCT02422745&amp;draw=2&amp;rank=1">long-running clinical trial</a>, shows there may be a small benefit of taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement for one type of cognitive task (immediate word recall) among well-functioning elderly white people. At least in the short term.</p> <p>But that doesn’t mean we should all rush out and buy multivitamins. The results of the study don’t apply to the whole population, or to all types of memory function. Nor does the study show long-term benefits.</p> <h2>How was the study conducted?</h2> <p>The overarching COSMOS study is a well-designed double-blind randomised control trial. This means participants were randomly allocated to receive the intervention (a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement) or a placebo (dummy tablet), but neither the participants nor the researchers knew which one they were taking.</p> <p>This type of study is considered the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5654877/">gold standard</a> and allows researchers to compare various outcomes.</p> <p>Participants (3,562) were older than 64 for women, and 59 for men, with no history of heart attack, invasive cancer, stroke or serious illness. They couldn’t use multivitamins or minerals (or <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2216932120">cocoa extract</a> which they also tested) during the trial.</p> <p>Participants completed a <a href="https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04582617?term=NCT04582617&amp;draw=2&amp;rank=1">battery of online cognitive tests</a> at the start of the study (known as baseline), then yearly for three years, of which only three were reported in this paper:</p> <ul> <li> <p>ModRey, measuring immediate recall. Participants were shown “a list of 20 words, one at a time, for three seconds each,” and then had to type the list from memory</p> </li> <li> <p>ModBent, measuring object recognition. Participants were given 20 prompts with a shape and then had to select the correct match from a pair of similar prompts. After this, they were prompted with 40 shapes in turn, and had to indicate whether each was included in the original 20 or not</p> </li> <li> <p>Flanker, measuring “executive control”. Participants had to select a coloured block that corresponded to an arrow in a matrix of arrows, which could have the same (or different) colour to the surrounding arrows, and the same (or different) direction as the prompt block.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>What did the researchers find?</h2> <p>Of all the tests the researchers performed, only immediate recall (ModRey) at one year showed a significant effect, meaning the result is unlikely to just be a result of chance.</p> <p>At two and three years, the effect was no longer significant (meaning it could be down to chance).</p> <p>However they added an “overall estimate” by averaging the results from all three years to arrive at another significant effect.</p> <p>All the effect sizes reported are very small. The largest effect is for the participants’ immediate recall at one year, which was 0.07 – a value that is <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jpepsy/article/34/9/917/939415">generally considered very small without justification</a>.</p> <p>Also of note is that both the multivitamin and placebo groups had higher immediate word recall scores at one year (compared to baseline), although the multivitamin group’s increase was significantly larger.</p> <p><a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/epdf/10.1073/pnas.2216932120">In the researchers’ prior study</a>, the increase in word recall scores was described as a “typical learning (practice) effect”. This means they attributed the higher scores at one year to familiarisation with the test.</p> <p>For some reason, this “learning effect” was not discussed in the current paper, where the treatment group showed a significantly larger increase compared to those who were given the placebo.</p> <h2>What are the limitations of the study?</h2> <p>The team used a suitable statistical analysis. However, it did not adjust for demographic characteristics such as age, gender, race, and level of education.</p> <p>The authors detail their study’s major limitation well: it is not very generalisable, as it used “mostly white participants” who had to be very computer literate, and, one could argue, would be quite well-functioning cognitively.</p> <figure class="align-center "><figcaption></figcaption>Another unmentioned limitation is the advanced age of their sample, meaning long-term results for younger people can’t be assessed.</figure> <p>Additionally, the baseline diet score for their sample was abysmal. The researchers say participants’ diet scores “were consistent with <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1899558">averages from the US population</a>” but the cited study noted “the overall dietary quality… [was] poor.”</p> <p>And they didn’t measure changes in diet over the three years, which could impact the results.</p> <h2>How should we interpret the results?</h2> <p>The poor dietary quality of the sample raises the question: can a better diet be the simple fix, rather than multivitamin and mineral supplements?</p> <p>Even for the effect they observed, which micronutrient from the supplement was the contributing factor?</p> <p>The researchers speculate about vitamins B12 and D. But you can find research on cognitive function for any arbitrarily chosen <a href="https://www.centrum.com/content/dam/cf-consumer-healthcare/bp-wellness-centrum/en_US/pdf/lbl-00000775-web-ready-centrum-silver-adults-tablets-(versio.pdf">ingredient</a>, including <a href="https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&amp;as_sdt=0%2C5&amp;q=selenium+cognitive+function">selenium</a>, which can be <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969720378608">toxic at high levels</a>.</p> <h2>So should I take a multivitamin?</h2> <p><a href="https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/08/should-you-take-dietary-supplements">Health authorities advise</a> daily multivitamin use isn’t necessary, as you can get all the nutrients you need by eating a wide variety of healthy foods. However, supplementation may be appropriate to meet any specific nutrient gaps an individual has.</p> <p>Using a good quality multivitamin at the recommended dose shouldn’t do any harm, but at best, this study shows well-functioning elderly white people might show some additional benefit in one type of cognitive task from using a multivitamin supplement.</p> <p>The case for most of the rest of the population, and the long-term benefit for younger people, can’t be made.</p> <hr /> <h2>Blind peer review</h2> <p><strong>Clare Collins writes:</strong></p> <p>I agree with the reviewer’s assessment, which is a comprehensive critique of the study. The key result was a small effect size from taking a daily multivitamin and mineral (or “multinutrient”) supplement on memory recall at one year (but not later time points) and is equivalent to a training effect where you get better at taking a test the more times you do it.</p> <p>It’s also worth noting the study authors received support and funding from commercial companies to undertake the study.</p> <p>While the study authors state they don’t believe background diet quality impacted the results, they didn’t comprehensively assess this. They used a brief <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22513989/">diet quality assessment score</a> only at baseline. Participants may have changed their eating habits during the study, which could then impact the results.</p> <p>Given all participants reported low diet quality scores, an important question is whether giving participants the knowledge, skills and resources to eat more healthily would have a bigger impact on cognition than taking supplements. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/208114/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jacques-raubenheimer-1144463">Jacques Raubenheimer</a>, Senior Research Fellow, Biostatistics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/can-a-daily-multivitamin-improve-your-memory-208114">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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Count Nikolai shares Princess Mary's "survival list" for living abroad

<p>Count Nikolai has shared the "survival list" his Australian-born aunt, Princess Mary, gave him before his big move Down Under. </p> <p>The Count, 24, who <span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">is currently undertaking his studies at University of Technology in Sydney, shared the advice his aunt gave him in an interview with <em>The Daily Telegraph </em>on Monday. </span></p> <p>"She gave me a long list, an itinerary of what to do and what not to do, I can't remember it now but I have it at home," he said. </p> <p>Princess Mary, who was born in Hobart and spent a majority of her life in Australia, knows a few "basic survival skills" to prevent unwanted animals from lurking. </p> <p>"Basic 'survival skills', I would say clap your boots before putting them on, stuff like that, flush the toilet before you use it. I do not (want a snake or spider)," he added. </p> <p>Count Nikolai is currently studying here with his girlfriend Benedikte Thoustrup. </p> <p>The Count, is studying sales management, while Thoustrup is studying economics and business administration at the Copenhagen Business School, which is one of UTS' exchange partners for it's study abroad program. </p> <p>The young royal has been enjoying his time in Australia, having recently celebrated <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/family-pets/count-nikolai-s-aussie-birthday-bash" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his birthday</a> in Byron Bay. </p> <p><em>Images: Instagram/ Getty</em></p>

International Travel

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Australians are living and working longer – but not necessarily healthier, new study show

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kim-kiely-1457635">K<em>im Kiely</em></a><em>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mitiku-hambisa-1457669">Mitiku Hambisa</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Australians are living and working longer, but a longer working life doesn’t always come with equivalent gains in healthy life.</p> <p><a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(23)00129-9/fulltext">Our analysis</a> of change in life expectancy, health transitions and working patterns of more than 10,000 middle-aged Australians over the past two decades shows divergences in the number of years they can expect be in good health at work and in retirement.</p> <p>In particular, education matters.</p> <p>Those who left school before year 12 are losing years of healthy life, with their extra years in the workforce mainly comprising years of poor health. This is opposite to the trend among people who completed high school.</p> <p>And while men and women experienced improvements in life expectancy, on average women are not gaining extra healthy life years.</p> <p>Australians are being encouraged to extend their working life. For this to be sustainable and equitable, government and workplaces policies will need to make allowances for the health capacity of mature-age workers.</p> <h2>How we found our results</h2> <p>We’ve calculated <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(23)00129-9/fulltext">healthy working life expectancies</a> – the average number of years a person can expect to work in good health – for 50-year-olds using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. This is a longitudinal survey, meaning it seeks to interview the same households every year (about 17,000 people), enabling researchers to track life trajectories.</p> <p>We identified two age groups within HILDA’s survey sample and followed each cohort for 10 years. The first group was 4,951 people aged 50 years and older in 2001. The second group was 6,589 people aged 50 years and older in 2011.</p> <p>To estimate a healthy working life expectancy, we looked at how people transitioned in and out of good health and employment each year (based on survey data about their paid employment and long-term health conditions that limited participation in everyday activities).</p> <p>By combining this with deaths data, we have calculated the average duration spent (i) working in good health, (ii) working in poor health, (iii) retired in good health, and (iv) retired in poor health.</p> <h2>Differences by education</h2> <p>The following graphs show our results, based on expectancies at age 50.</p> <p>We show our data in this way, rather than total healthy life and working life expectancies from birth, because we followed people from age 50 and is this is the time from which workers start to plan for and transition into retirement.</p> <p>Typically we understand life expectancies to be calculated from birth, but they can be estimated for any age. If you live to 50, your life expectancy is greater than when you were born.</p> <p>Our first graph shows healthy life expectancies according to school completion. These estimates reflect the cumulative number of years a person will, on average, be healthy or unhealthy from age 50.</p> <p>Across the two cohorts, those with low education lose 0.8 years of healthy life, while those with high education gain 0.8 years of healthy life.</p> <p>As with all statistics, there is uncertainty in these estimates. (Our original analysis includes 95% confidence intervals but we do not show them here.)</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="47SIf" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/47SIf/2/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>These inequities are amplified in working-life expectancies, as the next graph shows. Among early school leavers, at age 50 healthy work years rose from 7.9 to 8.4 years, an increase of six months. But their years working in poor health rose from 2.7 to 3.6 years, a difference of 11 months.</p> <p>In contrast, for those who completed year 12, at age 50 healthy work years rose from 9.6 to 10.5 years, an increase of 11 months. Their years working in poor health rose from 3.1 to 3.5 years, a difference of five months.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="kUCuy" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/kUCuy/4/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>The next graph illustrates what this means in proportional terms.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="4rBXz" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/4rBXz/1/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>The next graph shows working life expectancies by sex. Men, on average, will spend 25% of their remaining working years in poor health, and women 24%. These percentages have not changed over time.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="vQ4rK" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/vQ4rK/2/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>These findings are consistent with <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(22)00026-3/fulltext">previous analyses</a> demonstrating social inequalities in health expectancies to have been maintained over time, and possibly widened in some circumstances. In that study, women with low educational attainment appeared to have had negligible improvements in life expectancy and lost healthy life years.</p> <h2>Implications for governments and employers</h2> <p>Australia has this month raised the age at which people qualify for the <a href="https://theconversation.com/australias-retirement-age-just-became-67-so-why-are-the-french-so-upset-about-working-until-64-208648">age pension to 67</a>.</p> <p>When the pension was introduced in 1908, the qualifying age was 65 for men and 60 for women. At the time, average life expectancy for Australians at birth was about <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-deaths/how-long-can-australians-live/data">55 for men and 59 for women</a>. Now it exceeds 81 for men and 85 for women (though is considerably lower for some groups, notably Indigenous Australians).</p> <p>There’s an obvious rationale to prolong people’s working lives – to meet the challenges posed by population ageing and sustain the social security system. Nevertheless, consideration should be made for inequalities in life expectancy and health expectancy. For many ageing workers, health limitations constrain their capacity and opportunity to work.</p> <p>To achieve longer working lives, workplaces will be need become more supportive of mature-age workers, including accommodating long-term health conditions.</p> <p>This will likely involve addressing ageism in the workplace, increasing employer demand for older workers, creating appropriate work roles to fit the capacities and preferences of older workers, and providing pathways to lifelong education and training.</p> <p>We may also need to rethink our idea of flexible work, which has largely centred around the needs of parents and younger workers. Many older workers will have expectations for an independent and active retirement period, and it should be possible for flexible work arrangements to accommodate this.</p> <p>Finally, we should not discount the unpaid contributions made by many older adults through community service and providing care to loved ones.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210542/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kim-kiely-1457635">Kim Kiely</a>, Lecturer, Statistics and Data Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mitiku-hambisa-1457669">Mitiku Hambisa</a>, Senior Research Associate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/australians-are-living-and-working-longer-but-not-necessarily-healthier-new-study-shows-210542">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Opioids don’t relieve acute low back or neck pain – and can result in worse pain, new study finds

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christine-lin-346821">Christine Lin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-mclachlan-255312">Andrew McLachlan</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/caitlin-jones-1263090">Caitlin Jones</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christopher-maher-826241">Christopher Maher</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Opioids are the one of the most prescribed pain-relief for people with low back and neck pain. In Australia, around <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00586-017-5178-4">40% of people</a> with low back and neck pain who present to their GP and <a href="https://qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/28/10/826">70% of people</a> with low back pain who visit a hospital emergency department are prescribed opioids such as oxycodone.</p> <p>But our <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(23)00404-X/fulltext">new study</a>, published today in the Lancet medical journal, found opioids do not relieve “acute” low back or neck pain (lasting up to 12 weeks) and can result in worse pain.</p> <p>Prescribing opioids for low back and neck pain can also cause <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/taking-opioid-medicines-safely">harms</a> ranging from common side effects – such as nausea, constipation and dizziness – to <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/opioid-harm-in-australia/summary">misuse, dependency, poisoning and death</a>.</p> <p>Our findings show opioids should <em>not</em> be recommended for acute low back pain or neck pain. A change in prescribing for low back pain and neck pain is urgently needed in <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/publication/publications/addressing-prescription-opioid-use-and-misuse-australia">Australia</a> and <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/opioid-crisis">globally</a> to reduce opioid-related harms.</p> <h2>Comparing opioids to a placebo</h2> <p>In our trial, we randomly allocated 347 people with acute low back pain and neck pain to take either an opioid (oxycodone plus naloxone) or <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/placebo-effect">placebo</a> (a tablet that looked the same but had no active ingredients).</p> <p>Oxycodone is an opioid pain medicine which can be given orally. <a href="https://www.nps.org.au/radar/articles/oxycodone-with-naloxone-controlled-release-tablets-targin-for-chronic-severe-pain">Naloxone</a>, an opioid-reversal drug, reduces the severity of constipation while not disrupting the pain relieving effects of oxycodone.</p> <p>Participants took the opioid or placebo for a maximum of six weeks.</p> <p>People in the both groups also received <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1836955321000941">education and advice</a> from their treating doctor. This could be, for example, advice on returning to their normal activities and avoiding bed rest.</p> <p>We assessed their outcomes over a one-year period.</p> <h2>What did we find?</h2> <p>After six weeks of treatment, taking opioids did not result in better pain relief compared to the placebo.</p> <p>Nor were there benefits to other outcomes such as physical function, quality of life, recovery time or work absenteeism.</p> <p>More people in the group treated with opioids experienced nausea, constipation and dizziness than in the placebo group.</p> <p>Results at one year highlight the potential long-term harm of opioids even with short-term use. Compared to the placebo group, people in the opioid group experienced slightly worse pain, and reported a higher risk of <a href="https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/20/1/113/4728236#129780622">opioid misuse</a> (problems with their thinking, mood or behaviour, or using opioids differently from how the medicines were prescribed).</p> <p>More people in the opioid group reported pain at one year: 66 people compared to 50 in the placebo group.</p> <h2>What will this mean for opioid prescribing?</h2> <p>In recent years, international low back pain guidelines have shifted the focus of treatment from drug to non-drug treatment due to <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(18)30489-6/fulltext">evidence</a> of limited treatment benefits and concern of medication-related harm.</p> <p>For acute low back pain, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00586-018-5673-2">guidelines</a> recommend patient education and advice, and if required, anti-inflammatory pain medicines such as ibuprofen. Opioids are <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00586-018-5673-2">recommended only</a> when other treatments haven’t worked or aren’t appropriate.</p> <p>Guidelines for <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33064878/">neck</a> pain similarly discourage the use of opioids.</p> <p>Our latest research clearly demonstrates the benefits of opioids do not outweigh possible harms in people with acute low back pain and neck pain.</p> <p>Instead of advising opioid use for these conditions in selected circumstances, opioids should be discouraged without qualification.</p> <h2>Change is possible</h2> <p>Complex problems such as opioid use need smart solutions, and another study we recently conducted provides convincing data opioid prescribing can be successfully reduced.</p> <p>The <a href="https://qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/30/10/825">study</a> involved four hospital emergency departments, 269 clinicians and 4,625 patients with low back pain. The intervention comprised of:</p> <ul> <li>clinician education about <a href="https://aci.health.nsw.gov.au/networks/musculoskeletal/resources/low-back-pain">evidence-based management</a> of low back pain</li> <li>patient education using posters and handouts to highlight the benefits and harms of opioids</li> <li>providing heat packs and anti-inflammatory pain medicines as alternative pain-management treatments</li> <li>fast-tracking referrals to outpatient clinics to avoid long waiting lists</li> <li>audits and feedback to clinicians on information about opioid prescribing rates.</li> </ul> <p>This intervention reduced opioid prescribing from <a href="https://qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/30/10/825">63% to 51% of low back pain presentations</a>. The <a href="https://emj.bmj.com/content/early/2023/04/02/emermed-2022-212874">reduction was sustained for 30 months</a>.</p> <p>Key to this successful approach is that we worked with clinicians to develop suitable pain-management treatments without opioids that were feasible in their setting.</p> <p>More work is needed to evaluate this and other interventions aimed at reducing opioid prescribing in other settings including GP clinics.</p> <p>A nuanced approach is often necessary to avoid causing <a href="https://theconversation.com/opioid-script-changes-mean-well-but-have-left-some-people-in-chronic-pain-156753">unintended consequences</a> in reducing opioid use.</p> <p>If people with low back pain or neck pain are using opioids, especially at higher doses over an extended period of time, it’s important they seek advice from their doctor or pharmacist before stopping these medicines to avoid <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/opioid-withdrawal-symptoms">unwanted effects when the medicines are abruptly stopped</a>.</p> <p>Our research provides compelling evidence opioids have a limited role in the management of acute low back and neck pain. The challenge is getting this new information to clinicians and the general public, and to implement this evidence into practice.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/203244/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christine-lin-346821">Christine Lin</a>, Professor, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-mclachlan-255312">Andrew McLachlan</a>, Head of School and Dean of Pharmacy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/caitlin-jones-1263090">Caitlin Jones</a>, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Musculoskeletal Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christopher-maher-826241">Christopher Maher</a>, Professor, Sydney School of Public Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/opioids-dont-relieve-acute-low-back-or-neck-pain-and-can-result-in-worse-pain-new-study-finds-203244">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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How to pick the right course for you

<p>The benefits of keeping your mind busy are endless but deciding to undertake study requires some commitment. Follow these steps to ensure you are picking the right course for you.</p> <p><strong>Pick something you love</strong></p> <p>A good way to narrow this down is by making a list of things you like doing, subjects you enjoy reading about and your hobbies. Next, jot down the courses you think you’re interested in and that align with your list of interests. If you find any crossover, look more into those courses.</p> <p><strong>Do some research</strong></p> <p>Always make sure you look into something before you commit yourself. The best resources are the internet and the people around you. More often than not you will find information on the institution’s website. For instance, the Open Training Institute has in-depth information about what is required from you for each course, what the courses will cover as well as video clips about each course.</p> <p><strong>Speak to people</strong></p> <p>Speak to your friends and family who have studied and find out what they have and haven’t liked about the courses and places they have studied. You will gain the best insight from someone who has studied a course himself/herself.</p> <p><strong>Trust your instincts</strong></p> <p>When you start looking into subject options, you should trust your feelings when picking a course or place to study. If there’s something you’re not comfortable with ask about it, if you’re not satisfied with the answer then perhaps it’s not the right course for you.</p> <p><strong>Review course content</strong></p> <p>Ensure you have a close look at the subjects or modules you will cover in a course you want to study. If you know the types of things required of you before you enrol and you’re comfortable with what’s ahead, it’s a great sign.</p> <p><strong>Consider course durations</strong></p> <p>Courses vary in time commitments and duration, and some courses even offer you the flexibility to choose. For instance you can do all the courses through Open Training Institute self-paced, meaning you can take as little as a month or more slowly over two years to complete. To be sure you’ll be committed to your studies, work out if your current priorities are manageable if you were to enrol in a certain course.</p> <p><a href="../education/education/2014/08/why-you-need-to-keep-your-mind-active.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Related link: Discover the many benefits of keeping your mind busy now! </strong></span></a></p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p> <p> </p>

Mind

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Social media good for older people’s health

<p>Older people should use Facebook and other social media to help prevent their health declining, a study has found.</p> <p>Researchers at the University of Exeter in England carried out the research among 65 to 95-year-olds and found that people who spent time online did not feel as lonely as others their age, which helps stop declining physical and mental health.</p> <p>The study followed seniors from 31 residential care homes across the United Kingdom. Researchers noted those trained to use technology felt more self-competent, were more sociable and demonstrated improved cognitive abilities.</p> <p>The project's leader, Dr Thomas Morton, said the findings highlighted how loneliness among older people can contribute to their poor health.</p> <p>“Human beings are social animals, and it’s no surprise that we tend to do better when we have the capacity to connect with others.</p> <p>“But what can be surprising is just how important social connections are to cognitive and physical health.</p> <p>“People who are socially isolated or who experience loneliness are more vulnerable to disease and decline.”</p> <p>Margaret Keohone, a participant of the study, said learning to navigate the internet “changed her life”.</p> <p>“Having this training changes people's lives and opens up their worlds, invigorates their minds and for lots of us gives us a completely different way of recognising our worth as we age,” said Margaret Keohone. </p> <p>“I was just slipping away into a slower way of life.”</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Technology

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Why being married cuts your risk of skin cancer

<p>A new study has found that married couples are less likely to die of skin cancer because they spot warning signs earlier than singles.</p> <p>The study, which observed 50,000 American skin cancer patients, found that 45.7 per cent of those who were married, had stage 1 tumours – which have a 98 per cent survival rate.</p> <p>The chance of catching skin cancer early dropped 32 per cent for singles, 38 per cent for divorcees and 70 per cent for widowers.</p> <p>The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania said they were stunned by the striking difference in diagnoses.</p> <p>The researchers believe these findings should help dermatologists adjust their advice to patients based on their relationship status, suggesting screening at an earlier age for single patients and encouraging home-screen training for those in relationships.</p> <p>Victims of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are expected to increase by seven per cent by 2035.</p> <p>For those diagnosed with stage 1 disease, the five-year survival is reportedly 98 per cent. The five-year survival drops to 62 per cent for those diagnosed with stage 3 disease</p> <p>The study, published in the<em> Journal of the American Heart Association</em>, aimed to investigate how lifestyle and relationships could impact patients’ early detection chances.</p> <p>“Spouses likely facilitate early detection of melanomas by assisting in identification of pigmented lesions that may have otherwise gone unnoticed,” said corresponding author Dr Cimarron Sharon, a dermatologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.</p> <p>“They may also provide support and encouragement to see a physician for evaluation.</p> <p>“Thus, married patients are likely to receive a better prognosis because of earlier surgical management.”</p> <p>The study also found that married patients were more likely than single, divorced or widowed patients to have a sentinel lymph node biopsy.</p> <p>SLNB is linked to survival as the sentinel lymph node is closest to a tumour and is the first place it would spread.</p> <p>Dr Sharon said this could be “associated with the spouse's role in supporting the patient and engaging in further discussion”. A partner also reduces the difficulty in travelling to and from a hospital and finding a carer post-surgery.</p> <p>This study is the largest of its kind to find the influence of marriage on the detection of melanoma.</p> <p>Dr Sharon said, “These findings support increased consideration of spousal training for partner skin examination and perhaps more frequent screening for unmarried patients.</p> <p>“Marital status should be considered when counselling patients for melanoma procedures and when recommending screening and follow-up to optimize patient care.”</p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p>

Body

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Huge news for Alzheimer’s sufferers

<p>An experimental new drug by Eli Lilly has demonstrated an ability to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, according to new study reports. </p> <p>The pharmaceutical company has said that its drug, donanemab, met each goal of their 18-month trial, successfully slowing cognitive decline by 35 per cent compared to a placebo. </p> <p>1,182 individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s participated in the study, with each patient receiving monthly infusions of donanemab. </p> <p>After 12 months, half of the participants showed no evidence of amyloid plaques, while 48 per cent of patients in the trial had no disease progression at 12 months, compared to 29 per cent from the placebo group.</p> <p>In the wake of the news, experts are optimistic, but still hold concerns about the risks moving forward. </p> <p>Dr Ronald Petersen, a Mayo Clinic Alzheimer research, told the ABC that “Lilly's trial is the third to show removing amyloid from the brain slows progression of the disease, which could put to rest some lingering doubts about the benefits of drugs in the class and the amyloid-lowering theory.</p> <p>"It's modest, but I think it's real and I think it's clinically meaningful."</p> <p>Washington University neurologist Dr Erik Musiek noted that mounting evidence was suggesting “that these drugs do work”. </p> <p>He also said that the findings were reminding them of the benefits of early treatment, explaining that “it really does suggest that you need to remove these plaques early, before the tau really gets going.”</p> <p>When it comes to the associated risks, Eli Lilly have said that the drug’s side effects could include brain swelling as well as bleeding, with serious swelling occurring in 1.6 per cent of patients. </p> <p>As Dr Eric Reiman, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute’s executive director, explained, “clearly one saw benefits here, but there is some risk that needs to be considered.” </p> <p>From there, Lily plan to file for US approval by the end of June, and to proceed with regulars from other countries in the time after. A spokesperson for the company is confident that a decision over approval in the US should occur by the end of 2023, or early in 2024. </p> <p>Experts in the field want to see the study’s full results, which are likely to be presented at an Amsterdam Alzheimer’s meeting later in the year. </p> <p>As for the cost, the company has not yet finalised a price point, but CEO David Ricks informed CNBC that they intend for it to be similar to other therapies in the same field. </p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Caring

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New study reveals the lifetime health benefits of social interaction

<p dir="ltr">A new meta-analysis study - undertaken by the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (otherwise known as the CHeBA) at the University of New South Wales - has revealed that social interaction could have benefits many would never have thought to predict, from a reduced risk of dementia to overall increased longevity. </p> <p dir="ltr">Researches were investigating the link between social connections in senior citizens and the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), as well as dementia and morality, compiling the results from 13 other international studies following individuals aged 65 years and up over extended periods of time - research published in <em><a href="https://u26892420.ct.sendgrid.net/ls/click?upn=B8NE7CRkW4hCmh1dHfJbPqy22DjCz8-2Bq3ZidKWozGaZDoG-2FmVx-2BVsAja535jGrbQlYGwKkrcgY4HPBHrSRE-2Bpq1fwuJ0AQZcKTgnOiva5gsjqRFzNLSYGGzJ4hgT-2Bp0b-7Jp_W1g0lLgOQvKHpoedb1QOitWbx1JxegS3ChuQBoUMMSvQphp8oKfzCnK1hk7FLUZqqTLorFP-2FYQB6URmHLHx65PjMZSysYz3YQI-2BzvIxBhVdZr2Z1gRzt72cMfkaib4uVOYXTxECJWWsRmLyHtb8tdUoPs6u4lvqr8I7xD4zbJqJTqeP2zMO2vFFc6dcczrApzJnOWkq2tOchRyvzstzbQnlU1N4WSe4ZAMtqjmGx6sSvfxYICFLpppnmosd6kUUL-2B2zjjEQ61i38e9TYUaT6LZA5aIGcpHJw26Ob-2BXzuvv-2BuHbhihyIqh2AUTJ2WAYsCw6hpo5SJ7JKlgCF4nYeiekLQeVVLm4GRjjckYyIIN48-3D">Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">As author, clinical psychologist, and researcher Dr Suraj Samtani explained, “we know from previous research that social connections are important for our health and being isolated puts us at higher risk of dementia and death.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our goal was to find which social connections protect us from dementia and death.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Researches drew intel from studies in a number of countries - spanning low, middle, and high-income nations - and compiled a study population more diverse than the meta-analyses to come before, including the likes of Australia, European nations, North and South America, Asia, and Africa, as opposed to the previous North America and European study groups.</p> <p dir="ltr">From there, they looked at information about the connections between the participants, paying close attention to the types of social links (whether they were in a relationship, single, or married, or involved with their community), the function of them (whether or not they had social support on hand, or a close confidante), and the quality (how much satisfaction they did - or did not - receive from their relationships).</p> <p dir="ltr">With this information, they sought to find out if the participants had developed either MCI or dementia - as well as whether or not they had passed away.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We looked at social variables across these studies, such as living with others, interacting with friends and family, engaging in community activities, and social support,” Dr Samtani  said. “We wanted to know which of these are associated with risk of getting dementia over time or dying.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And from their research, they discovered that positive social connections did appear to be linked to a lower risk of MCI, dementia, and death. </p> <p dir="ltr">“We found that frequent interactions - monthly or weekly - with family and friends and having someone to talk to reduced the risk of getting dementia. We also found that living with others and doing community activities reduced the risk of dying,” Dr Samtani noted.</p> <p dir="ltr">Recommendations from the researchers suggest that people should be prioritising their social connections if they hope to reduce their risk of cognitive decline - with the added benefit of living longer, too. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Try to meet with friends and family at least once a month, take part in community activities like volunteering or a rotary club, and open your heart to someone when you feel stressed,” Dr Samtani said. “Living with others, for example in an intergenerational household, is also helpful.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Connecting with others helps us to keep our bodies and minds healthy.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We hope that helping people to stay engaged in conversations and maintain healthy friendships and relationships will help them to stay healthy and happy.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Getty </em></p>

Relationships

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The truth about video games in aged care homes

<p>Video games sound like a great way to bring senior community homes together, but are they really?</p> <p>A recent study decided to test this theory, based on past studies that have found positive effects as a result of introducing video games into senior homes.</p> <p>Dr. Kathrin Gerling led the project with Dr Regan Mandryk and Dr Conor Linehan. The study implemented a weekly gaming session in two care facilities over a three-month period of time.</p> <p>The games introduced included motion-based games like those of Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360.</p> <p>According to Dr. Gerling, "We were interested in the potential of games to engage older adults in long-term care in group activities. We looked at how people approached video games, to see if they stuck with it and found it enjoyable, and also to find out if this stimulated group activities and resulted in friendships.”</p> <p>The senior users caught on quickly, as Gerling expanded: “Players at the senior residence quickly understood how the games worked and it became an actual group activity. People formed relationships, took more ownership and adapted games to fit in with how they wanted to play.”</p> <p>Still, the experiment brought forth the reality of difficulties the games presented: “We found it more difficult to bring people together at the care home, mostly because of different age-related impairments. In some cases, players needed a lot of support from staff, and depended on them being able to attend gaming sessions."</p> <p>Gerling proposed that while the games benefited some seniors, others may have found more negative results: "You always have a split of people who like playing video games and those who don't, no matter what age. But older people learning to play new games in public may feel particularly uncomfortable if they are experiencing vulnerability over their age-related changes and impairments. Some older adults require extensive support, both to gain access to gaming sessions and throughout play.”</p> <p>Gerling outlined the necessary means for all community members to receive benefit from playing video games: "We need to make sure that video games created for older adults in long-term care are adaptive – there's a fine line between challenging people and giving them something meaningful to accomplish, as opposed to doing harm. To be successful games need to engage players of all abilities and be tailored towards specific groups. It's really important to be mindful of the context in which games will be played and be understanding of the individual abilities of the player. This is particularly important when evaluating the value of games for improving the quality of life, and when creating games with a purpose beyond entertainment, such as therapy and rehabilitation."</p> <p><strong>Related links:</strong></p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em><a href="../health/wellbeing/2015/08/start-exercising-when-youre-older/">Start exercising at any age</a></em></span></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em><a href="../health/wellbeing/2015/07/dementia-phone-screening/">Would you consider being screened for dementia over the phone?</a></em></span></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em><a href="../health/wellbeing/2015/07/top-health-worries-of-60-year-olds/">Top 10 health worries when you’re 60-plus (and how to beat them)</a></em></span></strong></p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p>

Mind

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Why study is the key to keeping your brain healthy as you age

<p><em><strong>Two Over60 community members talk about studying later in life, how it keeps their mind healthy and why they keep going back for more.</strong></em></p> <p>The word study for many people conjures up memories of restless school days, strict teachers and homework you had to force yourself to complete. However, education isn’t just limited to schools – if you think about our everyday lives, we are constantly learning new things. Whether it’s trying out a new recipe, learning about historic events through a film or attempting to remember algebra so we can help our grandkids, it’s clear learning is a lifelong process. Research consistently shows that keeping your mind active has many health benefits. For over-60s, it helps to keep your mind stimulated and mental faculties in top condition as well as improving your overall wellbeing. It is why there are increasingly more seniors who are seeking to study later in life – and they’re finding they not only love it, but that it’s rewarding in so many ways.</p> <p>For Bernard Macdougall, 73, from Maryborough, Queensland, taking courses and learning new things has been crucial in keeping his mind astute. It was after searching online that Bernard stumbled across the free Open2Study courses.</p> <p>“A couple of year ago I was starting to get a bit anxious about whether I had any brain damage. I had a bit of numbness on the right side of my body and I felt I had a slight impediment in my speech,” he reveals, continuing, “but when I found I could get high marks in these courses I thought well I don’t have to worry, my brain is working, there hasn’t been any deterioration.”</p> <p>Bernard found there was a great variety in courses offered and the option of short one-month timeframes could be easily managed. He ended up taking three courses through Open2Study and another online course through Charles Darwin University.</p> <p>It was a similar case for Peter Keyes, 78, from Albion Park Rail, New South Wales, who has completed four courses through Open2Study. Peter has worked in education all his life so when retirement came around he wasn’t about to stop learning.</p> <p>“You can’t sit around in retirement and twiddle your thumbs,” he laughs, adding, “I live in a retirement village and I encourage all of [the residents] to do some study rather than sit around and watch TV all day! It keeps the brain kicking.”</p> <p>As well as keeping him busy, Peter also found the courses were helpful and informative.</p> <p>“During my career in education I ended up being an administrator looking after buildings so I was interested in one of the courses ‘Project Management’. It gave me a further insight into the processes that I used in setting up the buildings of school buildings,” he explains, continuing, “In [my] retirement village, management occasionally ask me to go into planning meetings and talk about what things [to consider] in terms of buildings and older people.”</p> <p>Studying is not only about learning new things but as Bernard found, it can be personally fulfilling too.</p> <p>“Back in the 70s, I did an arts degree with major studies in anthropology. I saw that Open2Study had a course called ‘<a href="https://www.open2study.com/courses/becoming-human-anthropology-090913%20" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Becoming Human</strong></span></a>’. I thought, ‘Right I will have a go at that’,” explains Bernard. He soon found he was not only learning about new theories but about what it means to become human. “I was very emotionally involved as it was about human evolution,” he says.</p> <p>Both Bernard and Peter found the online courses easy to manage – all that was needed was a computer and an internet connection to access the course that you could do in the convenience and comfort of your own home.</p> <p>Lectures were presented through short videos, which Peter found convenient: “You can stop it at any time, make a note and then catch up,” he explains.</p> <p>And for those who are worried that studying means taking exams or doing assessments again, Peter advises you not to worry.</p> <p>“When people hear that they’ve got exams or test or assessment to do, they get a bit frightened. But you teach them there’s nothing to it, you can always stop and go back and have another read,” says Peter.</p> <p>While there are assessments – mainly multiple choice – throughout most courses, it’s not about being competitive but having a barometer for your individual progress. It is simply there so you know how much knowledge you have learnt during the course.  </p> <p>Bernard found that although he felt apprehensive sometimes, there was a greatly fulfilling feeling of not only accomplishing the assessment but gaining some high marks.</p> <p>“I put a lot of work into study and when you have to press the final submit button, sometimes I was extremely apprehensive because I was anxious to get good marks,” Bernard explains, adding, “I think one has to devote time to it but it’s time I’m happy to spend.”</p> <p>Both Peter and Bernard are quick to reveal that they are not going to stop studying anytime soon. Peter has just signed up to Open2Study’s ‘Innovation for Powerful Outcomes’ course while Bernard is still half way through the ‘User Experience for the Web’ course.</p> <p>“The course is self-paced so I can start again and there’s no deadline for me, thank goodness,” Bernard smiles.</p> <p>After each completing a number of courses, they can’t speak highly enough about how beneficial studying has been for them.</p> <p>“It keeps the little grey cells going,” states Peter, because as he know only too well, “the pool of knowledge, skill, understanding and wisdom is enormous” in the over-60 community.</p> <p>“For me it is very, very important to keep learning as you age. Partly so that I know my brain is still good and not fading away,” Bernard chuckles, continuing, “it is also just a matter of curiosity. I’m just interested in learning new topics.”</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Mind

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Study reveals the star sign most likely to be serial killers

<p>Keep your friends close and your Taurus friends even closer as a new study has revealed they’re the most homicidal zodiac sign.</p> <p><em>The Mirror</em> conducted a murder astrological sign analysis and found the majority of serial killers are born between April 20 to May 20, making them a Taurus.</p> <p>“[Taurus] are devoted, patient and hard-working, traits which can make for a great personality in someone who is stable and good-natured, and an evil manipulator in someone who is not,” the paper reads.</p> <p>Several murderers share the Taurus sign, including America’s first modern serial killer H.H Holmes, Canadian child-killer Karla Homolka and London Mail Bomber David Copeland.</p> <p>Those who share the Cancer star sign were found to be the least likely to be serial killers.</p> <p>However, it's clear that killing is not exclusive to Taurses - here is a list of notable serial killers according to each sign.</p> <p>Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Lee Boyd Malvo, Joel Rifkin, Luis Alfredo Garavito</p> <p>Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20): John Wayne Gacy, Aileen Wuornos</p> <p>Aries (March 21-April 19): Alexander Pichushkin, John Reginald Christie</p> <p>Taurus (April 20-May 20): H.H. Holmes, Michael Ryan, Albert Fish, David Copeland, Levi Bellfield, Robert Black, Steve Wright, Orville Lynn Majors</p> <p>Gemini (May 21-June 20): Jeffrey Dahmer, David Berkowitz, Ted Kaczynski</p> <p>Cancer (June 21-July 22): Robert Maudsley</p> <p>Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Myra Hindley, Anatoly Onoprienko</p> <p>Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Ed Gein, Albert DeSalvo, Henry Lee Lucas</p> <p>Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Fred West, Beverley Allitt</p> <p>Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Moses Sithole, Robert Pickton, Fritz Haarman</p> <p>Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Ted Bundy, Dennis Nilsen, Rose West</p> <p>Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): John Allen Muhammad, Harold Shipman, Stephen Griffiths</p> <p>Treat your Taurus friends kindly, it’s not their fault they were born on such a “likely to be a serial killer” day!</p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p>

Mind

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When’s the best time of day to work out?

<p>Most people are aware of the importance of being active and exercising daily. Unfortunately, due to busy schedules, most people are forced to exercise around other numerous commitments. However, the timing of exercise can have profound effects on performance.</p> <p>All the functions and systems of the human body are moderated by a pattern called circadian rhythms (from Latin circa dies about a day). As the name suggests, these rhythms are a biological phenomena with a periodic oscillation of 24.2 hours on average.</p> <p>Examples of these rhythms include our body temperature, sleep/wake cycles, and the production of hormones. Human and animal lives are synchronised with the solar day and the cyclic alternations of light and darkness.</p> <p>When the eyes are exposed to light, a signal reaches light/darkness receptors in the brain called zeitgebers (German for "time givers"). This portion of our brain, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, also often referred to as the "master biological clock", is the head of a complex hierarchical system that controls how the rhythms of our body are synchronised.</p> <p><strong>When to exercise</strong></p> <p>These rhythms are also related to many aspects of exercise, although their influence on athletic performance is still a matter of debate. Some argue the performance of professional athletes might be influenced by the scheduled time of a competition. However, performance is a complex process involving many different factors and the influence of circadian rhythms on the outcomes of athletes is still uncertain.</p> <p>The time window of performing physical activity is broad and can change according to individual differences. In particular, people can be assigned to two broad groups: larks (people who go to bed early and rise early) and owls (people who go to bed late and rise late).</p> <p>This time preference affects all biological rhythms, including the ability to exercise and perform. In general, it seems the best athletic performance is achieved late afternoon/early evening when several exercise related rhythms reach their circadian peak. This means exercising at this time has the best results for increasing fitness, increasing lean muscle, and reducing fat tissue.</p> <p>The ability to perform endurance exercise is stable across the day but it is during the evening that reaction time, joint flexibility, muscle strength and power reach their highest level. During evening hours, the rating of perceived exertion (a measure that represents how hard a person feels their body is working) is lower. This means we feel less exerted so we can work harder and get better results.</p> <p>Several world records in a number of sports have been broken in the late evening. However, training too late during the evening can have detrimental effects on the sleep-wake cycle.</p> <p><strong>Cost of exercise on sleep</strong></p> <p>Sleep is a particular circadian rhythm. The function of sleep is still not completely understood although it is known that sleep is very important for many biological functions. In particular, sleep is one of the best ways to recover after exercise.</p> <p>The onset of sleep is generally associated with a decrease of body temperature and an increase in the production of a hormone called melatonin. Exercising late at night causes an increase in body temperature and reduces the production of melatonin, affecting our ability to sleep. Although certain strategies such as diet may somewhat counteract these effects on sleep.</p> <p>Physical activity results in energy consumption. It is important at the end of a training session to replenish our tank with the appropriate quantity and quality of fuel. The human body is propelled by food but choosing the right diet can be difficult.</p> <p>Nevertheless, there are guiding principles that have to be followed. For instance, diets should be personalised and based on individual needs and goals.</p> <p>All that is lost during exercise should be replenished with a balanced meal post-exercise. In the case of a late evening training session, the quality and the time of the post-exercise meal can be crucial for the subsequent night of sleep. To enhance our sleep quality, the last meal of the day should be eaten no later than one hour before going to bed.</p> <p>This last meal should be high in both carbohydrates and proteins. These two macronutrients can respectively reduce the time required to fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep. On the other hand, meals high in fat should be avoided since they appear to reduce the duration of sleep.</p> <p>The timing of exercise can have a meaningful influence on the quality of training and recovery, especially for athletes. However, most people should be more concerned about the act of exercising itself than its timing.</p> <p><em>Written by Michele Lo and David Kennaway. First appeared on <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.Stuff.co.nz" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stuff.co.nz</a></strong></span>.</em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Body

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Anxious dogs have different brains to normal dogs, brain scan study reveals

<p>Dog ownership is a lot of furry companionship, tail wags and chasing balls, and ample unconditional love. However, some dog owners are also managing canine pals struggling with mental illness.</p> <p>A newly published study <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0282087">in PLOS ONE</a> has examined the brain scans of anxious and non-anxious dogs, and correlated them with behaviour. The research team at Ghent University, Belgium, found that our anxious dog friends not only have measurable differences in their brains linked to their anxiety, but these differences are similar to those found in humans with anxiety disorders as well.</p> <h2>Anxious friends</h2> <p>Anxiety disorders in humans are varied and can be categorised into several main types. Overall, they represent high levels of fear, emotional sensitivity and negative expectations. These disorders can be difficult to live with and sometimes difficult to treat, in part due to how varied and complex anxiety is.</p> <p>Researching anxiety in animals can help us to understand what drives it, and to improve treatment for both humans and animals. The new study sought to investigate possible pathways in the brain that are associated with anxiety in dogs. Understanding this could both improve treatment for anxiety in veterinary medicine, and reveal similarities with what we know of human anxiety.</p> <p>Dogs with and without anxiety were recruited for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of their brains. Dogs have been involved in awake fMRI studies before, but for this one, with dogs that might get easily stressed out, the dogs were under general anaesthesia.</p> <p>Owners of the dogs also filled out surveys on their pets’ behaviour. The researchers performed data analysis and modelling of brain function, focusing on regions of the brain likely to show differences related to anxiety. Based on previous research on animal and human anxiety, the team dubbed these brain regions the “anxiety circuit”.</p> <p>They then analysed whether there were differences between the brain function of anxious and non-anxious dogs, and if those differences actually related to anxious behaviours.</p> <h2>Different brains</h2> <p>The researchers found there were indeed significant differences between anxious and non-anxious dogs. The main differences were in the communication pathways and connection strength within the “anxiety circuit”. These differences were linked with higher scores for particular behaviours in the surveys as well.</p> <p>For example, anxious dogs had amygdalas (an area of the brain associated with the processing of fear) that were particularly efficient, suggesting a lot of experience with fear. (This is similar to findings from human studies.) Indeed, in the behaviour surveys, owners of anxious dogs noted increased fear of unfamiliar people and dogs.</p> <p>The researchers also found less efficient connections in anxious dogs between two regions of the brain important for learning and information processing. This may help explain why the owners of the anxious dogs in the study reported lower trainability for their dog.</p> <h2>A difficult time</h2> <p>Brains are exquisitely complex biological computers, and our understanding of them is far from comprehensive. As such, this study should be interpreted cautiously.</p> <p>The sample size was not large or varied enough to represent the entire dog population, and the way the dogs were raised, housed, and cared for could have had an effect. Furthermore, they were not awake during the scans, and that also may have influenced some of the results.</p> <p>However, the study does show strong evidence for measurable differences in the way anxious dog brains are wired, compared to non-anxious dogs. This research can’t tell us whether changes in the brain caused the anxiety or the other way around, but anxiety in dogs is certainly real.</p> <p>It’s in the interests of our anxious best friends that we appreciate they may be affected by a brain that processes everything around them differently to “normal” dogs. This may make it difficult for them to learn to change their behaviour, and they may be excessively fearful or easily aroused.</p> <p>Thankfully, these symptoms can be treated with medication. Research like this could lead to more finessed use of medication in anxious dogs, so they can live happier and better adjusted lives.</p> <p>If you have a dog you think might be anxious, you should speak to a veterinarian with special training in behaviour.</p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/anxious-dogs-have-different-brains-to-normal-dogs-brain-scan-study-reveals-201775" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>

Family & Pets

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Why difficult childhood experiences could make you age prematurely

<p>We know that comparatively disadvantaged people, even in rich countries, have worse health and <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/01/31/low-socioeconomic-status-affects-life-expectancy-more-than-obesi_a_21704449/">shorter life expectancy</a> than others. But what is it exactly about socioeconomic disadvantage and other environmental difficulties that affects our biology? And at what age are we most vulnerable to these effects?</p> <p>While it is unclear exactly how the social environment influences a person’s biology at the molecular level, processes related to ageing are likely to be involved. One such process is DNA methylation, a mechanism used by cells to control gene expression. Specifically, it determines whether and when a gene is turned on, turned off or dialled up or down. Now a new study, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/aje/advance-article/doi/10.1093/aje/kwy155/5060528?guestAccessKey=df5d8e87-4e2d-4bff-b0fb-72ad5319f825#119252619">published in the American Journal of Epidemiology</a>, suggests that this process may be affected by circumstances in our youth – ultimately affecting how we age.</p> <p>All cells in the human body – from blood and skin cells to neurons – share the same genetic code. So how are they so different? The answer lies in gene expression: which of the many thousands of genes in each human cell are switched on, to what extent, and at which stage in the cell’s development.</p> <p>This varies not just between cell types but between people, helping to explain why identical twins can be visibly different. Physically, DNA methylation involves modification of “letters” of the genetic code by addition or removal of a <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/methyl-group">methyl group</a> – affecting how much the gene is expressed. Because the distribution of methyl groups along the genome changes in systematic ways with ageing, you can estimate a person’s age from DNA methylation patterns in cells from a blood sample by applying an algorithm.</p> <p>This <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-epigenetics-may-help-us-slow-down-the-ageing-clock-76878">measure of “biological age”</a> is relevant to longevity – individuals with an “older” DNA methylation age are at greater risk of age-related disease and mortality. Meanwhile, it seems environmental influences may alter or “accelerate” age-related changes in methylation: associations have been shown between DNA methylation age and stress, dietary factors and pollution. This suggests DNA methylation age may be one pathway by which the social environment can affect health.</p> <p><strong>New data</strong></p> <p>Data was used from 1099 adults in the UK to look at whether different dimensions of socioeconomic disadvantage were linked to elevated DNA methylation age, calculated in two ways. When blood samples were collected, the survey had already collected annual information on the same people’s socioeconomic circumstances for 12 years. This meant the study was able to consider current and longer-term measures of things like income, employment status and educational qualifications. Crucially, this data also included information about the occupational social class of an individual’s parents when they were 14.</p> <p>The research discovered that only the last measure showed a clear link with DNA methylation age. Individuals whose parents worked in semi routine or routine occupations were about one year “older” than individuals whose parents worked in managerial or professional roles. Individuals who did not have working parents, or had parents who had died, fared still worse: they were 2.4 or 1.85 years older depending on the algorithm used. The calculations did take account of other relevant factors including smoking, body mass index and the actual age of the study participants.</p> <p>These results suggest DNA methylation age is an aspect of a person’s biology which is vulnerable to influences early in life, but surprisingly robust when it comes to difficulties experienced in adulthood. The next question is which aspects of the childhood socioeconomic environment are most relevant. Is it financial strain, housing quality or diet? Equally important will be to figure out which factors could provide resilience to these effects, potentially buffering children from a lasting impact of disadvantage on DNA methylation age.</p> <p>Of course, the results will need to be replicated, and since DNA methylation age was only measured once, the survey could not definitively prove cause and effect. But the results <a href="https://jech.bmj.com/content/62/5/387">add to extensive evidence</a> that early life circumstances can cast a long shadow on adult health. Perhaps most importantly, this strengthens the case for making sure all children are fully supported.</p> <p><em>Written by Amanda Hughes and Meena Kumari. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/difficult-childhood-experiences-could-make-us-age-prematurely-new-research-102807">theconversation.com</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p>

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