New blood test can aid Alzheimer’s diagnosis
Despite its status as the most common cause of dementia and the countless individuals and families impacted by this degenerative brain disorder, Alzheimer’s disease has long been frustratingly difficult to diagnose. According to the National Institute on Aging, an autopsy was the only definitive method of diagnosis before the early 2000s. Since then, advances in lab testing and brain imaging have made it possible to see biological signs of the disease. And according to Fierce Biotech, breakthroughs in blood testing might make diagnosis easier than ever, allowing physicians to begin treatment even sooner and give patients and their families time to plan for the future.
The PrecivityAD test, developed by C2N Diagnostics and recommended for patients with early signs of dementia, measures beta-amyloid protein and apolipoprotein E in the bloodstream. Elevated levels of these proteins are common risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. While the blood test cannot be used on its own to diagnose Alzheimer’s, the company touts the test as a useful tool to predict amyloid plaques in the brain. The blood test was rolled out in late 2020 and current data suggests that it detects amyloid plaques with similar accuracy to PET scans.
Unleash your fitness potential: The power of kettlebells
In a world where fitness trends come and go, one unassuming piece of equipment has emerged as a true powerhouse in the realm of exercise: the kettlebell. With its sturdy build and a distinctive handle, this iron hunk offers a unique combination of strength and cardiovascular benefits, making it a go-to choice for fitness enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels.
The allure of the kettlebell lies in its versatility and portability. From improving aerobic capacity in young athletes to alleviating knee arthritis symptoms and enhancing grip strength in older users, the benefits of kettlebell training are vast and varied. It comes as no surprise, then, that this fitness tool, once confined to the shores of Russia, has gained widespread popularity around the world in the past two decades.
Embarking on your kettlebell journey begins with choosing the right tool. When selecting your first kettlebell, it is essential to opt for a cast-iron one made from a single piece of metal. Steer clear of lower-cost alternatives made of plastic or vinyl, as they can cause skin irritation or slip from sweaty hands. Aim for a weight that challenges you but remains manageable. Generally, women may start with kettlebells weighing around 10 to 12 kilograms (about 22 to 26 pounds), while men may begin with around 16 kilograms (about 35 pounds). Remember, you can always progress to heavier weights or incorporate additional kettlebells as you gain strength.
As with any fitness endeavor, proper technique is crucial to prevent injuries and maximize results. Take the time to familiarize yourself with foundational kettlebell movements such as the swing, goblet squat, clean, and press. Before diving into high-volume workouts, it is recommended to learn these movements from reliable sources. Online platforms like Nerd Fitness or instructional books like “Simple & Sinister” by Pavel Tsatsouline offer step-by-step instructions and a range of workout options to suit your goals and fitness level.
What sets the kettlebell apart from other fitness equipment is its ability to deliver an invigorating and satisfying workout experience. The dynamic nature of kettlebell exercises engages multiple muscle groups, challenging your body in ways that traditional weightlifting or cardio routines may not. It’s a perfect blend of strength training and cardiovascular exercise, providing a comprehensive fitness solution in a single compact package.
So, whether you’re a fitness enthusiast looking to shake up your routine or a beginner eager to embark on a fitness journey, consider the kettlebell as your new companion. Unleash your fitness potential, one swing and squat at a time, and discover the joy and benefits that this unassuming iron tool can bring to your workouts.
Cancer vaccines may save lives
Could vaccines turn life-threatening cancers into a thing of the past? Early research suggests that mRNA cancer vaccines, often customized specifically for individual patients, have the potential to significantly improve survival rates for certain cancers. So how do these potentially life-saving cancer vaccines work?
Vaccines work by teaching the body how to identify and fight microbes, according to cancer.gov. Traditionally, vaccines have targeted viruses, tiny and not-quite-living microbes that don’t respond to antibiotics. Viral vaccines don’t target the virus itself directly and instead teach the immune system how to identify and attack specific viruses.
For some time now, researchers at various universities, companies, and other organizations have been searching for a mechanism to teach the body how to more effectively find and destroy cancer cells. Because cancer is an internal process, the immune system struggles to fully differentiate between healthy cells and cancer cells, which allows the cells to spread unchecked. While some cells in the immune system can identify the mutated cells, they are usually overwhelmed.
mRNA cancer vaccines may turn the tide, according to AJMC.com. While traditional vaccines typically use a whole virus or similar microbe, mRNA vaccines use smaller proteins to teach immune cells how to spot proteins present in cancer cells or on a virus’s outer coating. When the immune system can quickly identify rogue cells and viruses, it’s much easier to destroy them.
Meanwhile, traditional cancer treatments often target fast-growing cells. Chemotherapy, for example, kills cells as they split into two. Since cancer cells multiply more rapidly than healthy cells, chemotherapy tends to kill off cancer cells more quickly than healthy cells. Still, chemo will kill many healthy cells and damage the body. Cancer vaccines, however, may ultimately prove both effective and much easier on patients.
Staying well: Meditation can improve memory, concentration and more
Everyone knows that meditation can reduce stress. But researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital say it directly affects the function and structure of the brain. It increases attention span, sharpens focus, and improves memory.
With the aid of advanced brain scanning technology, one study showed that daily meditation thickens the parts of the brain’s cerebral cortex responsible for decision-making, attention, and memory.
The test subjects were Boston-area workers practicing Western-style meditation, called mindfulness or insight meditation. For 40 minutes a day, they focused on an image, a sound, or on their own breathing.
The Insight Meditation Society recommends just sitting in a chair. Close your eyes and follow your breath. Feel the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen. If your mind wanders, that’s all right.
Watch what happens when your mind wanders. Notice it, observe it, then let it go and return to breathing. Be aware of what you’re thinking, but don’t get caught up in it.
With practice, you can develop a state called mindfulness, which is being aware of what’s going on as it arises without jumping to conclusions, judgments, hopes, fears, or plans.
Meditation also improves productivity and reduces absenteeism at work, probably because it helps prevent stress-related illness.
Meditation seems to aid with emotional regulation, which helps people get along better. It acts on emotional intelligence, which neuroscientists say is more important for life success than cognitive intelligence.
Collagen and greens: The truth about the hottest supplements
Ads for collagen supplements imply big benefits — youthful skin, stronger bones, and reduced joint pain.
Simply add a scoop to your morning smoothie or mix it with water to turn back the clock. While you’re at it, add a scoop of powdered greens. It’s easier than eating kale but gives you all the nutritional benefits. For just $99 (per month), you can combine the two supplements into a single, convenient product. It’s easy, and it works, right?
Maybe, researchers say. But then again, maybe not. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, more research is needed to determine whether collagen supplements can help humans grow new collagen, which diminishes as we age. And as the New York Times reports, while some studies have indicated that taking collagen for several months may improve skin elasticity, those studies were small and received their funding from collagen supplement manufacturers.
Greens powders — which usually contain some combination of dried and ground leafy greens and seaweed, grasses, probiotics, and herbs — fare somewhat better under scrutiny, but experts still encourage skepticism. According to WebMD, greens powders can be useful to supplement a healthy diet with additional vitamins and antioxidants. One study linked greens powders with improvements in blood pressure. But greens powder is not equivalent to whole foods — some nutritional content, like fiber, is lost in processing, and over-consumption of some vitamins can be harmful.
Another thing for consumers to consider is: The supplement market is largely unregulated, and poor-quality products with inaccurate labels are common. In an interview with The Cut, Evan Reister, a doctor of nutrition science at American University, advises consumers to look for brands that are USP or NSF-certified. These certifications require that manufacturers label their products accurately and submit to third-party lab testing for certain contaminants.
What is frontotemporal dementia?
You may have seen or heard the words “frontotemporal dementia” more often than usual lately, or maybe for the first time ever, thanks to the family of Bruce Willis, which recently announced the legendary actor’s diagnosis. According to his family’s statement, that was the goal: “…that any media attention can be focused on shining a light on this disease that needs far more awareness and research.”
Here are five key things to know about frontotemporal dementia, also called frontotemporal disorder or FTD:
1. Frontotemporal dementia is a catch-all term for a group of disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which are associated with personality, behavior, and language, according to the Mayo Clinic.
2. FTD is one of the most common types of dementia among younger patients and affects men and women equally. Symptoms usually start between the ages of 40 and 65 but can also appear in younger or older adults, according to Johns Hopkins.
3. The two most common types of FTD are the frontal variant, which affects behavior and personality, and primary progressive aphasia, which has two subtypes. The first subtype, progressive nonfluent aphasia, affects the ability to speak, while the other type, semantic dementia, affects the ability to use or understand language.
4. The first symptoms are usually unusual behavior and difficulty with speech and language, according to UCSF Health. Later, many patients develop movement disorders or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
5. The cause of FTD is unknown, but researchers believe a genetic component may exist. There are no treatments available that can slow or reverse the progression of FTD, but medications and therapies may relieve symptoms and help preserve function.
May is National Arthritis Month: How to reduce arthritis symptoms
The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is a degenerative joint disease wear the protective tissue on bones wears down over time. It causes pain and inflammation.
If you are beginning to have pain in joints, like knees, one of the best things you can do is lose weight. Weight loss reduces joint stress. With weight loss, some joint pain may disappear completely.
In other cases, weight loss may have a moderate impact on pain.
If you already have osteoarthritis pain, increasing water intake often improves the condition after about four weeks, the time needed to rehydrate the joints. Drink half your body weight in ounces each day. If you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces or ten eight-ounce glasses per day.
Eat foods that fight inflammation, such as fish and nuts. Limit animal fats, which can trigger inflammation. Take a multivitamin.
Researchers have found that walking, riding a bike, tai chi, or swimming can help with pain and preserve some flexibility.
One of the keys is to do as much as you can. No one with arthritis likes getting started, but remember that walking can help reduce pain and inflammation. See arthritis.org for stretching exercises and advice on walking programs.
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are often taken for arthritis, but there have been mixed results in clinical studies. Some studies say the supplements seem to have little effect on mild to moderate arthritis. In cases of moderate to severe arthritis, however, some users report reduced pain.
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