New Blood Test can Help Identify Those at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

December 1st, 2021

Test tubes filled with bloodA new blood test may be more than 80 percent accurate at identifying people at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, a study found.

Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease

The test called PrecivityAD identifies those with elevated levels of the protein amyloid in the brain, researchers said. In people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, this protein accumulates in clusters in the brain called plaques, disrupting cognitive function.

These plaques, which form before the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear, typically are identified through PET scans of the brain. However, study data showed the PrecivityAD test can accurately predict levels of amyloid plaques people will have on PET scans 81 percent of the time, which researchers say may lead to earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Blood-based screening is a giant leap forward in detecting changes in the brain among people who do not yet show signs of memory loss.

Based on the results of the study, PrecivityAD will be used in a National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial which seeks to identify ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, researchers said.  For the study, PrecivityAD will be used to identify participants at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, based on elevated amyloid levels.

About 6 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, making it the most common form of dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates. 

Alzheimer’s Disease and the Brain

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die.

In Alzheimer’s disease, brain proteins fail to function normally, which disrupts the work of brain cells and triggers a series of toxic events. Neurons are damaged, lose connections to each other and eventually die.

The damage most often starts in the region of the brain that controls memory, but the process begins years before the first symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease is not a preventable condition. However, a number of lifestyle risk factors for Alzheimer’s can be modified. Evidence suggests that a change in diet, exercise and habits—steps which help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease—may also lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

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Introducing Eggs to Young Children Could Help Reduce Allergy Risk

November 17th, 2021

Carton of eggsNew research suggests feeding eggs to infants could reduce their risk of developing an egg allergy later on.  

New Egg Allergy Study

For the study, researchers analyzed U.S. government data from more than 2,200 parents who were surveyed about their children’s eating habits and food allergies from birth to six years of age.

The study’s author found that children who hadn’t had egg introduced by 12 months were more likely to have egg allergy at six years of age.

Among the more than 2,200 parented surveyed, 0.6 percent reported an egg allergy in their children at one year of age, the study found.

Of the more than 1,400 parents who reported food allergy data on their children until age six, 0.8 percent reported an egg allergy at that age.

Children with egg allergy at ages one and six ate fewer eggs at 5, 6, 7, and 10 months of age than those without egg allergy, the researchers reported.

Since 2017, allergists and pediatricians have said that parents should introduce peanut product to children around the time they begin eating solid foods, to reduce the risk of peanut allergy.  Now it looks like eggs can follow that route as well.

Egg Allergy in Children

Eggs are one of the most common allergy-causing foods for children.  An immune system overreaction causes food allergies. For an egg allergy, the immune system mistakenly identifies certain egg proteins as harmful.

Egg allergy symptoms usually occur a few minutes to a few hours after eating eggs or food containing eggs.  Egg allergy reactions vary from person to person and usually occur soon after exposure to egg. Egg allergy symptoms can include:

  • Asthma signs and symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath
  • Digestive symptoms, such as cramps and nausea
  • Nasal congestion, running nose and sneezing
  • Skin inflammation or hives, the most common egg allergy reaction

Egg allergy can occur as early as infancy. Most children, but not all, outgrow their egg allergy before adolescence. 

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“Broken Hearts” are on the Rise

November 10th, 2021

Heart wearing stethascopeThe number of Americans diagnosed with “broken heart” syndrome has steadily risen is the past 15 years—with the vast majority being women, a new study finds.

New Research on “Broken Hearts”

In the new study, researchers found that since 2006, an increasing number of Americans have been hospitalized for stress cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome. The overwhelming majority—over 88 percent have been women.

Stress cardiomyopathy is fairly rare. According to the American College of Cardiology, there are between 15 and 30 cases for every 100,000 Americans each year. But, the group notes, the true incidence is likely higher since people may not seek help for milder symptoms.

While the symptoms of stress cardiomyopathy mimic a heart attack, the conditions are very different. Heart attacks are caused by a blockage in a large artery supplying the heart muscle. But in stress cardiomyopathy, tests show no evidence that these types of obstructions are to blame.

Using a federal database that tracks hospitalizations, the team found over 135,000 documented cases of stress cardiomyopathy between 2006 and 2017. And the incidence rose steadily over time—particularly among women aged 50 to 74.

Growing awareness and diagnosis may account for the growing numbers.      

The findings were published in the “Journal of the American Heart Association.”

What is Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome is a temporary condition that is often brought on by stressful situations and extreme emotions. The condition can also be triggered by a serious physical illness or surgery. People with broken heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they’re having a heart attack.

Broken heart syndrome affects just part of the heart, temporarily disrupting your heart’s normal pumping function. The rest of the heart continues to function normally or may even have more forceful contractions. The condition usually reverses itself in days or weeks.

Broken heart syndrome is often preceded by an intense physical or emotional event. Some potential triggers of broken heart syndrome are:

  • A frightening medical diagnosis
  • Divorce
  • Domestic abuse
  • Job loss or financial difficulty
  • Physical stressors
  • Public speaking
  • Strong arguments
  • The death of a loved one

The exact cause of broken heart syndrome is unclear. It is thought that a surge of stress hormones might temporarily damage the hearts of some people. A temporary restriction of the large or small arteries of the heart has been suspected to play a role. People who have broken heart syndrome may also have a difference in the structure of the heart muscle.

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Liver Disease Becoming a Larger Threat

November 3rd, 2021

Apple sitting next to small weightsLiver disease is usually associated with alcoholism or hepatitis, but obesity and diabetes are becoming an even more dire threat for potentially fatal liver damage, a new study reveals.

Fatty Liver Disease Connected to Metabolic Syndrome

In humans, fatty liver disease is tied to a metabolic syndrome. A metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health problems that have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. They include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

The condition occurs when excess fat begins to be stored in the liver, causing inflammation and eventually scarring.

For the study, the team tracked nearly 1,800 people suffering from fatty liver disease for four years to see how the condition affected their health. The researchers found that as fat-related scarring progressed in the liver, people were more likely to suffer from liver-related complications like internal bleeding, excess fluid and mental confusion caused by an accumulation of toxins in the body and brain.

As fatty liver disease progresses, patients become more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and impaired kidney function, the study authors said.

People who suffered those sort of liver-related complications were about seven times more likely to die, the researchers found.

About one in four people suffer from fatty liver disease, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

What is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol. In the United States, it is the most common form of chronic liver disease, affecting about one quarter of the population.

NAFLD causes no signs and symptoms. When it does, they may include fatigue and/or pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen.

Liver disease is a silent killer. By the time you develop symptoms related to fatty liver damage, there are serious medical issues.

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In the Future, AI Could Help Screen for Mental Health Disorders

October 27th, 2021

Brain with words relating to depression covering itArtificial intelligence (AI) may be able to screen people for mental health disorders without the need for a specialist’s assessment, a new study found.

New Screening Tool

In the analysis, the machine learning approach developed by researchers at the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation provided an accurate diagnosis up to about 90 percent of the time, the data showed.

To develop AI models sensitive to mental health, the team used information for more than 500,000 adults from the UK Biobank, a database of medical reports and questionnaire responses gauging personal statistics and behaviors.

In addition to information on patient age, education, tobacco and alcohol use, sleep duration, and physical exercise, questionnaire responses used in this study also included sociodemographic and behavioral data, such as moods and sentiments. The data also included MRI brain scans for more than 10,000 participants, the researchers said.

The researchers combined these two data sources to build models that approximate measures for brain age and a person’s tendency toward anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and other negative feelings. These characteristics served as proxy measures, which are indirect measurements that strongly correlate with specific diseases or outcomes that cannot be measured directly, according to the researchers.   

They assessed the effectiveness of an AI algorithm in spotting mental health disorders using data for 7,000 UK Biobank participants, about half of whom had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

Using the combination of sociodemographic information and brain imaging to assess brain age provided the most accurate proxy measure for mental health, the data showed.

Based on their findings, psychologists and machine learning models could work hand-in-hand in the future to provide personalized mental health assessments, the researchers said.

However, while AI can provide much needed assessment tools, human interaction will still be essential.

Machine learning technology designed to facilitate mental-health assessments could provide much needed alternatives to help detect, prevent and treat such issues.

The prevalence of mental health and substance abuse disorders increased 13 percent globally between 2007 and 2017, the most recent year with figures available, according to the World Health Organization.

Improving Mental Health

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act as we cope with life.

There are many different things you can do to improve your mental health, including:

  • Connecting with others: Humans are social creatures, and it is important to have strong, healthy relationships with others. Having good social support may help protect you against the harms of stress.
  • Developing coping skills: They may help you face a problem, take action, be flexible, and not easily give up in solving it.
  • Practicing gratitude: This means being thankful for the good things in your life. Practicing gratitude can help you see your life differently.
  • Relaxation techniques: This slows down your breathing, lowers your blood pressure and reduces muscle tension and stress.
  • Staying positive: Staying positive does not mean that you never feel negative emotions. You need to feel them so you can work through difficult situations. But you don’t want those emotions to take over.
  • Taking care of your physical health: Physical and mental health are connected.

Mental health is important at every stage of life.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to take care of your mental health. IAA knows that having good mental health is just as important as having good physical health!

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