Wednesday, September 27, 2017

From Babies to Seniors: 7 Steps to Staying Mentally Sharp

Seven steps to keep your brain healthy from 

childhood to old age

Source:
American Heart Association
Summary:
A set of simple steps that promote heart health, called Life's Simple 7, can also foster ideal brain health, an expert panel says. Improving your health status with Life's Simple 7 may reduce the risk of dementia caused by strokes, vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
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A healthy lifestyle benefits your brain as much as the rest of your body -- and may lessen the risk of cognitive decline (a loss of the ability to think well) as you age, according to a new advisory from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
Both the heart and brain need adequate blood flow, but in many people, blood vessels slowly become narrowed or blocked over the course of their life, a disease process known as atherosclerosis, the cause of many heart attacks and strokes. Many risk factors for atherosclerosis can be modified by following a healthy diet, getting enough physical activity, avoiding tobacco products and other strategies.
"Research summarized in the advisory convincingly demonstrates that the same risk factors that cause atherosclerosis, are also major contributors to late-life cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. By following seven simple steps -- Life's Simple 7 -- not only can we prevent heart attack and stroke, we may also be able to prevent cognitive impairment," said vascular neurologist Philip Gorelick, M.D., M.P.H., the chair of the advisory's writing group and executive medical director of Mercy Health Hauenstein Neurosciences in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Life's Simple 7 outlines a set of health factors developed by the American Heart Association to define and promote cardiovascular wellness. Studies show that these seven factors may also help foster ideal brain health in adults.
The Life's Simple 7 program urges individuals to:
  1. Manage blood pressure
  2. Control cholesterol
  3. Keep blood sugar normal
  4. Get physically active
  5. Eat a healthy diet
  6. Lose extra weight
  7. Don't start smoking or quit
A healthy brain is defined as one that can pay attention, receive and recognize information from our senses; learn and remember; communicate; solve problems and make decisions; support mobility and regulate emotions. Cognitive impairment can affect any or all of those functions.
The advisory, which is published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke, stresses the importance of taking steps to keep your brain healthy as early as possible, because atherosclerosis -- the narrowing of the arteries that causes many heart attacks, heart failure and strokes -- can begin in childhood. "Studies are ongoing to learn how heart-healthy strategies can impact brain health even early in life," Gorelick said. Although more research is needed, he said, "the outlook is promising."
Elevations of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar can cause impairment of the large and smaller blood vessels, launching a cascade of complications that reduce brain blood flow. For example, high blood pressure -- which affects about 1 in 3 U.S. adults -- is known to damage blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart and the brain, Gorelick noted. The damage can lead to a buildup of fatty deposits, or atherosclerosis as well as associated clotting. This narrows the vessels, can reduce blood flow to the brain, and can cause stroke or "mini-strokes." The resulting mental decline is called vascular cognitive impairment, or vascular dementia.
Previously, experts believed problems with thinking caused by Alzheimer's disease and other, similar conditions were entirely separate from stroke, but "over time we have learned that the same risk factors for stroke that are referred to in Life's Simple 7 are also risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and possibly for some of the other neurodegenerative disorders," Gorelick said.
The advisory also recognizes that it is important to follow previously published guidance from the American Heart Association, Institute of Medicine and Alzheimer's Association, which include controlling cardiovascular risks and suggest social engagement and other related strategies for maintaining brain health.

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Materials provided by American Heart Association     

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Aaron Hernandez' CTE diagnosis 'devastating' news for NFL

From Yahoo News (Sept. 21, 2017):

"Based on his violent outbursts, mood swings and self-medicating ways, it comes as little surprise that Aaron Hernandez suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), as his lawyer alleges in a new lawsuit against the NFL and the New England Patriots.

The degenerative brain disease has been most commonly found in football players, soldiers and others who have suffered from repeated concussions.

“Aaron had Stage III CTE usually seen in players with a median age of death of 67 years,” reads a lawsuit attorney, Jose Baez, filed in the name of Hernandez’s daughter, Avielle.

Learn more about concussions, CTE, and football.


It may explain, yet hardly excuse, Hernandez of murdering Odin Lloyd in 2013 or being charged for the 2012 slaying of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. He beat the double murder because while there was no disputing he was in the car the night of the drive-by shooting, prosecutors couldn’t conclusively prove he was the triggerman. It may also provide insight into his prison suicide last spring while serving a life sentence for the Lloyd killing.

Based on his age, however, a CTE diagnosis this significant comes as not just a surprise, but a chilling moment for a sport that is trying everything to both make the game safer and convince young athletes, and their parents, that it is worth playing.

Sixty-seven years old? Advanced stages? That is the opinion of researchers at Boston University, who have been the leaders on CTE research.

Hernandez played just three seasons in the NFL, 44 games total for the Patriots, before being arrested at the age of 23 for the Lloyd murder. He was 27 when he took his life...."









Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Playing football before age 12 could have long-term health effects

Date:
September 19, 2017

:
Playing American football before the age of 12 may have long-term consequences for players' mood and behavior, according to a study involving 214 professional and amateur football players. Source: BioMed Central.
Football players who started playing before age 12 had more than twice the odds for clinical impairment in executive function (including analyzing, planning, and organizing tasks), regulating their behavior, and apathy, compared to players who started playing at age 12 or later.
Credit: © cfarmer / Fotolia
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine, USA found that football players who started playing before age 12 had more than twice the odds for clinical impairment in executive function (including analyzing, planning, and organizing tasks), regulating their behavior, and apathy, compared to players who started playing at age 12 or later. They also had more than three times the odds for depression. The effects appear to apply to players of all ages and levels of education, no matter how long they had played for (duration) and whether they were professional or amateur players (level of play).
Dr Robert Stern, the corresponding author of the study said: "Overall, our study provides further evidence that playing American football before age 12, and being hit in the head repeatedly through tackle football during a critical time of brain development, is associated with later-life problems with mood and behavior."
This is the first study to show a relationship between age of first exposure to football and clinical dysfunction in a sample that included both professionals and amateurs who played only through high school or college. Previous research had only examined small samples of professional football players.
In order to investigate age of first exposure to American football and possible associations with long-term clinical implications, the authors scored self-reported measures of executive function, depression, behavioral regulation, and apathy that had been obtained by online questionnaire from 214 former American football players, who were 51 years on average at the time of the study. Cognitive function was assessed using a standardized, objective test administered over the telephone. All players took part in the Longitudinal Examination to Gather Evidence of Neurodegenerative Disease (LEGEND) study which investigates the long- and short-term consequences of exposure to repeated head impacts in athletes.
The researchers were surprised to find no association between age of first exposure and cognitive function (such as reasoning, memory, and attention) but they note that this may have had to do with how they gathered their data.
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Dr Stern said: "Cognition was measured using a brief test that was administered over the telephone, rather than a more thorough, in-person neuropsychological examination, such as that used in previous research."
The authors also caution that the findings cannot be generalized beyond to female players or other contact sports. Because this is a cross-sectional observational study, it does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect.
Dr Stern said: "It is important to note that participation in youth sports can have many benefits, including the development of leadership skills, social skills, and work ethic, not to mention the tremendous health benefits. The goal is to make sure that children can take advantage of all of the benefits of sports participation without the risk of long-term brain injury or disease. More research on this topic is needed before any recommendations on policy or rule changes can be made."
Dr Stern added: "However, other research suggests that incurring repeated head impacts can lead to long-term consequences, and we should be doing what we can at all levels in all sports to minimize these repeated hits."



Playing American football before the age of 12 may have long-term consequences for players' mood and behavior, according to a study involving 214 professional and amateur football players, published in the open access journal Translational Psychiatry.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Youth football practice drills and the head

Exposure to head impacts in youth football practice drills

Date:
September 12, 2017
Source:
Journal of Neurosurgery Publishing Group
Summary:
Researchers have examined differences in the number, location, and magnitude of head impacts sustained by young athletes during various youth football practice drills. Such information could lead to recommendations for football practices, including modification of some high-intensity drills in order to reduce players' exposure to head impacts and, consequently, lessen the risks of injury.
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Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center examined differences in the number, location, and magnitude of head impacts sustained by young athletes during various youth football practice drills. Such information could lead to recommendations for football practices, including modification of some high-intensity drills in order to reduce players' exposure to head impacts and, consequently, lessen the risks of injury. Detailed information on the findings of this study can be found in the article, "Head impact exposure measured in a single youth football team during practice drills," by Mireille E. Kelley, MS (a graduate student in Biomedical Engineering at Wake Forest Baptist), et al., published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.
Much has been written about concussions sustained by youths engaged in football. However, other less severe head impacts are frequently experienced by young athletes throughout the football season. And, important to note, studies have shown that far more head impacts occur during football practice drills than during games.
Kelley and her colleagues collected biomechanical data and videos to evaluate the number, location, and magnitude of head impacts sustained by nine youths during football practice drills. All youths were members of the same team and were on average about 11 years of age. Inside each athlete's helmet was a Head Impact Telemetry (HIT) System™, which measures head acceleration. This apparatus was worn for all football practices over an entire season of play, including preseason, regular season, and playoff practice drills. Every time the HIT System™ recorded a head impact greater than 10g, data collection was triggered and biomechanical data were transmitted to a sideline base unit for later analysis. Videos were recorded to ensure that helmets were worn at the time of impact and to pair videos of the drills with associated biomechanical data collected by the HIT System™.
There were eleven types of practice drills: dummy/sled tackling, install, special teams, multiplayer tackle, Oklahoma, one-on-one, open-field tackling, passing, position skill work, scrimmage, and tackling drill stations. 
The authors report that a total of 2,125 head impacts occurred while the nine young athletes participated in a total of 30 contact practices. The authors provide a summary of head impact exposure (HIE) data broken down by the eleven types of practice drills in Table 2 in their paper (see attached). The frequency of impacts was assessed by compiling the number of impacts per minute per player for each drill. The magnitudes of these impacts were determined on the basis of linear (g's) and rotational (radians per square second) head acceleration measured by the HIT System™, which the authors report as means and 50th and 95th percentiles.
Kelley et al. used biomechanical data and videos not only to identify the number, magnitude, and location of head impacts, but also to interpret possible contributors to variations in these factors among different practice drills. A few interesting findings are listed below.
Head impacts occurred most frequently during contact drills involving multiple players, and higher-magnitude head impacts took place during tackling drills. Not all drills were practiced in each session. Open field tackling, for example, was only practiced in five of the 30 practice sessions. Although this drill was associated with relatively few head impacts (compared with other drills), the impacts tended to be of high magnitude. The authors point out that the high magnitude of head impacts associated with open field tackling is most likely caused by the fact that athletes build up speed as they move toward each other across distances greater than 3 yards. In one-on-one tackling, on the other hand, youth athletes cover less ground before reaching each other. The authors suggest that this may have contributed to the fact that the magnitude of head impacts for one-on-one tackling was lower than those for open field tackling.
The multiplayer tackle drill was associated with the highest rate of head impacts, but these impacts were relatively low-magnitude ones (compared with impacts in other tackling drills). The authors suggest that this may be due to the emphasis on blocking rather than tackling during this drill.
With the exception of the dummy/sled tackling drill, the most common location of impact was the front of the football helmet. However, when high-magnitude impacts (60g or greater) were evaluated, in some drills -- namely, open-field tackling, Oklahoma, one-on-one, and position skill work -- the most common impact location was the top of the helmet, which the authors suggest may represent improper tackling technique.
Thorough examination of variations among practice drills with respect to the number of head impacts, their magnitude, and the location on the head where they occur provides researchers with information on what drills are more likely to increase risks of injury. This provides valuable information to health professionals, coaches, and youth football league officials for determining whether particular drills should be modified or eliminated from practice sessions.
The authors point out that this study is small -- limited to only nine players of similar age in a single football team. The authors suggest that further studies should be conducted in larger numbers of players from different age groups to evaluate additional variations in biomechanical data across practice drills and assess risks of practice-related head injury.
In describing the study, lead investigator Jillian E. Urban, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Wake Forest Baptist, said, "This study, along with future research, will help inform relevant evidence-based recommendations for youth football leagues to reduce head impact exposure and ultimately improve the safety of sport for our young athletes."
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Friday, September 8, 2017

Post-partum depression...in fathers?


Testosterone levels are a key factor in a family's health and happiness after a newborn arrives. Researchers have found that a drop can signal postpartum depression in dad, and a spike may be a sign of aggression.
Postpartum depression is often associated with mothers, but a new study shows that fathers face a higher risk of experiencing it themselves if their testosterone levels drop nine months after their children are born.
The same study revealed that a father's low testosterone may also affect his partner -- but in an unexpectedly positive way. Women whose partners had lower levels of testosterone postpartum reported fewer symptoms of depression themselves nine and 15 months after birth.
High testosterone levels had the opposite effect. Fathers whose levels spiked faced a greater risk of experiencing stress due to parenting and a greater risk of acting hostile- such as showing emotional, verbal or physical aggression -- toward their partners.
The study was published in the journal Hormones and Behavior on Sept. 1. The findings support prior studies that show men have biological responses to fatherhood, said Darby Saxbe, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of psychology at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
"We often think of motherhood as biologically driven because many mothers have biological connections to their babies through breastfeeding and pregnancy." Saxbe said. "We don't usually think of fatherhood in the same biological terms. We are still figuring out the biology of what makes dads tick.
"We know that fathers contribute a lot to child-rearing and that on the whole, kids do better if they are raised in households with a father present," she added. "So, it is important to figure out how to support fathers and what factors explain why some fathers are very involved in raising their children while some are absent."
Saxbe worked with a team of researchers from USC, University of California at Los Angeles and Northwestern University.
A snapshot of paternal postpartum depression
For the study, the researchers examined data from 149 couples in the Community Child Health Research Network. The study by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development involves sites across the country, but the data for this study came from Lake County, Illinois, north of Chicago.
Mothers in the study were 18 to 40 years old; African-American, white or Latina; and low-income. They were recruited when they gave birth to their first, second or third child. Mothers could invite the baby's father to participate in the study as well. Of the fathers who participated and provided testosterone data, 95 percent were living with the mothers.

University of Southern California

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