August 18, 2018 - August 24, 2018
Study: Lowering blood pressure helps prevent mental decline
Margaret Graham, 74, has her blood pressure checked while visiting the
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Friday,
July 13, 2018. She had participated in a multi-year study, published on
Wednesday, July 25, 2018, investigating a connection between high blood
pressure and the risk of mental decline. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)
Chicago (AP) - Lowering
blood pressure more than usually recommended not only helps prevent
heart problems, it also cuts the risk of mental decline that often leads
to Alzheimer’s disease, a major study finds.
It’s the first time a single step
has been clearly shown to help prevent a dreaded condition that has had
people trying crossword puzzles, diet supplements and a host of other
things in hope of keeping their mind sharp.
In the study, people treated to a
top blood pressure reading of 120 instead of 140 were 19 percent less
likely to develop mild cognitive impairment. They also had fewer signs
of damage on brain scans, and there was a possible trend toward fewer
cases of dementia.
“This is a big breakthrough,” said
Dr. Jeff Williamson of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North
Carolina. “It’s more important than ever to work with your physician to
ensure that you have good blood pressure control.”
He led the study and gave results
Wednesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in
Chicago. They’re considered preliminary until published, expected later
Independent experts cheered the
“We have long known that high blood
pressure is bad for your heart. Now we’re also learning it’s bad for
your brain,” said James Hendrix, director of global science initiatives
at the Alzheimer’s Association.
brain-blood pressure link
About 50 million people worldwide
have dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type. There is no cure
- current medicines such as Aricept and Namenda just ease symptoms - so
prevention is key.
Roughly half of adults in the
United States have high blood pressure under guidelines adopted last
year that define it as a top number of 130 or more, rather than 140.
Normal is under 120.
High pressure can damage blood
vessels and has long been linked to a higher risk for dementia. But it’s
not been known if lowering pressure would reduce that risk or by how
much. The federally funded study was designed to test this in the most
It involved more than 9,300 people
with high pressure. Half got two medicines, on average, to get their top
reading below 140. The rest got three drugs, on average, and aimed for
120. During the study, the top pressure averaged 121 in the
intensive-treatment group and 135 in the other group.
The study was stopped in 2015,
nearly two years early, when it became clear that lower pressure helped
prevent heart problems and deaths. But tests of thinking skills
continued for two more years, and these new results were revealed on
Researchers saw a 19 percent lower
risk of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, in the intensive-treatment
group - 285 cases versus 348 in the higher pressure group. About half of
people with MCI develop dementia over the next five years.
“It’s really more important to
prevent MCI than dementia in some ways. It’s like preventing high
cholesterol rather than a heart attack,” Williamson said.
There also were fewer dementia
cases in the intensive-treatment group but there were too few to say
lower blood pressure was the reason. Dementia takes longer to develop
than mild impairment does, so doctors think the difference may widen
MRI scans on 454 participants
showed that those in the lower pressure group had less white matter
lesions - areas of scarring or damage from injury, such as inadequate
“It matches” the other results on
thinking skills and bolsters the evidence that lowering blood pressure
helps, said Laurie Ryan, a dementia scientist at the National Institute
This study’s previous results led
to last fall’s guidelines change, setting high pressure at 130. Some
doctors have criticized that as too aggressive, but the new results,
showing benefits to the brain, “support and maybe even extend the
guidelines,” Williamson said. “The goal of below 130 is extremely
The study did not test specific
blood pressure drugs. Instead, each participant’s doctor chose which
ones to use from the more than a dozen available.
When the heart results were
announced a few years ago, doctors said that too-low pressure, fainting
episodes and some kidney problems were a little more common in the
intensively treated group but that those risks were considered worth the
benefits of a lower risk of heart trouble and death.
Getting to the lower level meant
using one more medicine, and “90 percent of these are generic and cost
less than a dollar a day,” Williamson said. “For a modest cost this has
a tremendously important health benefit for people.”
August 11, 2018 - August 17, 2018
Simpler, one-dose treatment to prevent malaria relapse OK’d
Friday, July 20, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved
GlaxoSmithKline’s Krintafel, a simpler, one-dose treatment to prevent
relapses of malaria. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)
Linda A. Johnson
U.S. regulators last month approved
a simpler, one-dose treatment to prevent relapses of malaria.
Standard treatment now takes two
weeks and studies show many patients don’t finish taking every dose.
Malaria is caused by parasites that
are spread to people through mosquito bites. Antimalarial drugs can cure
the initial infection but parasites can get into the liver, hide in a
dormant form, and cause recurrences months or years later. A second drug
is used to stop relapses.
The new drug, GlaxoSmith Kline’s
Krintafel (KRIN’-tah-fell), only targets the kind of malaria that mainly
occurs in South America and Southeast Asia. Most malaria cases and
deaths are in Africa, and they involve another species.
In testing, one dose of Krintafel
worked about the same as two weeks of the standard treatment, preventing
relapses in about three-quarters of patients over six months, the
The Food and Drug Administration
approved the drug for patients 16 and older, according to
GlaxoSmithKline. The company said it’s the first new treatment in six
decades for preventing relapses.
GlaxoSmithKline plans to apply soon
for approval in Brazil, then other countries where the malaria type is
common. It says it will sell the pills at low cost in poor countries.
Worldwide, malaria infects more
than 200 million people a year and kills about half a million, most of
them children in Africa. It causes fever, headache, chills and other
flu-like symptoms. The malaria type Krintafel targets causes about 8.5
million infections annually.
The British drugmaker, working with
the World Health Organization, is also developing what could be the
world’s first malaria vaccine, but early testing indicates it’s not very
effective. Prevention now focuses on using insecticides and bed nets.
August 4, 2018 - August 10, 2018
AP-NORC Poll: If DNA shows health risks,
most want to know
Graphic shows results of AP-NORC Center poll on attitudes toward
Lauran Neergaard & Emily Swanson
Washington (AP) - Would you want to
know if you harbor a gene linked to Alzheimer’s or another
incurable disease? A new poll finds most Americans would.
percent of Americans already have undergone at least one kind of
DNA test, and 52 percent of the remainder say they’d like to,
according to the poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for
Public Affairs Research released Thursday.
about ancestry is the main reason. But large segments of the
public also want to know if they’re at risk for various medical
conditions - even if they can’t do anything about it. In fact,
60 percent of people say they’d want to know if they carried a
gene associated with a disease that’s currently incurable, the
AP-NORC poll found.
question is how they’d handle that information. For most
diseases, whether you get sick depends on a mix of genetics,
lifestyle and other factors.
really important for people to understand that it is a risk, not
a destiny,” said Erica Ramos, president of the National Society
of Genetic Counselors.
Lots of tests to choose from
buffs can get clues about ancestry. DNA testing can help
diagnose symptoms, predict risk of later health problems, or
tell if prospective parents might pass on diseases such as
cystic fibrosis. Doctors can tell if certain medicines are more
or less likely to work based on genetics, what’s called
tests require just a credit card and mailing in a saliva sample,
while others need a doctor’s order - and there are important
What people want to know
adults especially want to know what health conditions might lie
ahead. Among those under 30, more than two-thirds are interested
in genetic testing and of those, 65 percent say one reason is to
learn if they might pass a disease to their children.
at risk for an incurable disease, 78 percent of the younger
crowd would want to know.
And if they
got that bad news, 8 in 10 people of all ages would tell
siblings and children, family members who might harbor the same
Who gets tested?
living in households making $100,000 a year or more are most
likely to have had a gene test. Direct-to-consumer tests are
paid for out-of-pocket, but insurance may cover DNA tests deemed
Trusting the results
think genetic testing is at least somewhat reliable, but less
than half call it very or extremely reliable, the poll found.
isn’t foolproof, said Ramos, the genetic counselor. There can be
false alarms, the reason medical labs and the most popular
direct-to-consumer companies must meet strict testing rules. But
there are loopholes: Say after ancestry testing, you download
the “raw” genetic data generated to analyze your heritage and
send the file to a second company to interpret whatever health
information is inside. Those companies may not be certified for
medical diagnosis - meaning it’s important for a doctor to
verify any scary result.
side: False reassurance. Direct-to-consumer tests for breast
cancer risk, for example, only look for a few mutations. If
cancer runs in the family, you may need a doctor-ordered test
that examines a variety of genes and mutations, Ramos said.
counselor can help explain the different tests and what results
Americans are very or extremely concerned about companies
sharing their genetic data without their knowledge, and roughly
a third have the same concerns about medical researchers and
doctors, the poll found.
how investigators used a free genealogy website to track down a
suspected California serial killer? Half of people think genetic
data should be used to help solve crimes only with the consent
of the person tested, a third think it’s OK without that consent
- and 13 percent don’t think law enforcement should use it at
aside, federal law offers some privacy protections for DNA
testing in medical settings - but check privacy policies on
poll of 1,109 adults was conducted June 13-18 using a sample
drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is
designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin
of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1
were first selected randomly using address-based sampling
methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.
July 28, 2018 - August 3, 2018
FDA OKs 1st drug to treat smallpox, in case of terror attack
undated photo provided by SIGA in July 2018 shows capsules of the drug
TPOXX. On Friday, July 13, 2018, U.S. regulators announced the approval
of the first treatment for smallpox - a deadly disease that was wiped
out four decades ago - in case the virus is used in a terror attack.
(SIGA via AP)
Linda A. Johnson
Friday approved the first treatment for smallpox - a deadly disease that
was wiped out four decades ago - in case the virus is used in a terror
Smallpox, which is
highly contagious, was eradicated worldwide by 1980 after a huge vaccination
But people born since
then haven’t been vaccinated, and small samples of the smallpox virus were
saved for research purposes, leaving the possibility it could be used as a
Maker SIGA Technologies
of New York has already delivered 2 million treatments that will be
stockpiled by the government, which partially paid for the development of
the drug, called TPOXX.
To test the drug’s
effectiveness, monkeys and rabbits were infected with a similar virus and
then given the drug. More than 90 percent survived, the company said. Its
safety was tested in several hundred healthy volunteers, who were not
infected with smallpox.
Smallpox killed about
300 million people worldwide in the 20th century before its eradication.
Symptoms include fever, fatigue and pus-filled sores. Until now, doctors
could only provide supportive care such as IV fluids and fever remedies and
isolate the patients. Vaccination can be used to prevent infection but it
must be done within five days of exposure to the virus, well before symptoms
“This new treatment
affords us an additional option should smallpox ever be used as a
bioweapon,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, head of the Food and Drug Administration,
said in a statement.
The drug is a capsule,
taken twice daily for 14 days.
SIGA develops vaccines
and medicines for biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear attacks.
Chief Executive Phil Gomez said the company is developing an IV version and
is exploring selling the drug to other countries and developing it to treat
other infectious diseases, including monkeypox, which African monkeys can
transmit to humans. Monkeypox can then spread among people, and has a
mortality rate of about 15 percent.
Fresh grounds for coffee: Study shows it may boost longevity
study released on Monday, July 2, 2018 shows that coffee drinkers had a
lower risk of death than abstainers, including those who downed at least
eight cups daily. The benefit was seen with instant, ground, decaf, and in
people with genetic glitches affecting how their bodies use caffeine. (AP
Chicago (AP) -
Go ahead and have that cup of coffee, maybe even several more. New research
shows it may boost chances for a longer life, even for those who down at
least eight cups daily.
In a study of nearly
half-a-million British adults, coffee drinkers had a slightly lower risk of
death over 10 years than abstainers.
The apparent longevity
boost was seen with instant, ground and decaffeinated, results that echo
U.S. research. It’s the first large study to suggest a benefit even in
people with genetic glitches affecting how their bodies use caffeine.
drinkers were about 10 to 15 percent less likely to die than abstainers
during a decade of follow-up. Differences by amount of coffee consumed and
genetic variations were minimal.
The results don’t prove
your coffee pot is a fountain of youth nor are they a reason for abstainers
to start drinking coffee, said Alice Lichtenstein, a Tufts University
nutrition expert who was not involved in the research. But she said the
results reinforce previous research and add additional reassurance for
“It’s hard to believe
that something we enjoy so much could be good for us. Or at least not be
bad,” Lichtenstein said.
The study was published
Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
It’s not clear exactly
how drinking coffee might affect longevity. Lead author Erikka Loftfield, a
researcher at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, said coffee contains more
than 1,000 chemical compounds including antioxidants, which help protect
cells from damage.
Other studies have
suggested that substances in coffee may reduce inflammation and improve how
the body uses insulin, which can reduce chances for developing diabetes.
Loftfield said efforts to explain the potential longevity benefit are
Adam Taylor, fetching
two iced coffees for friends Monday in downtown Chicago, said the study
results make sense.
“Coffee makes you
happy, it gives you something to look forward to in the morning,” said
Taylor, a sound engineer from Las Vegas.
“I try to have just one
cup daily,” Taylor said. “Otherwise I get a little hyper.”
For the study,
researchers invited 9 million British adults to take part; 498,134 women and
men aged 40 to 69 agreed. The low participation rate means those involved
may have been healthier than the general U.K. population, the researchers
Participants filled out
questionnaires about daily coffee consumption, exercise and other habits,
and received physical exams including blood tests. Most were coffee
drinkers; 154,000 or almost one-third drank two to three cups daily and
10,000 drank at least eight cups daily.
During the next decade,
14,225 participants died, mostly of cancer or heart disease.
Caffeine can cause
short-term increases in blood pressure, and some smaller studies have
suggested that it might be linked with high blood pressure, especially in
people with a genetic variation that causes them to metabolize caffeine
But coffee drinkers in
the U.K. study didn’t have higher risks than nondrinkers of dying from heart
disease and other blood pressure-related causes. And when all causes of
death were combined, even slow caffeine metabolizers had a longevity boost.
As in previous studies,
coffee drinkers were more likely than abstainers to drink alcohol and smoke,
but the researchers took those factors into account, and coffee drinking
seemed to cancel them out.
The research didn’t
include whether participants drank coffee black or with cream and sugar. But
Lichtenstein said loading coffee with extra fat and calories isn’t healthy.