Mental Health Declines Along with Dental Health, Study Finds
A comprehensive review of 20 years worth of research on the relationship between cognitive abilities and oral health suggests that the two are linked. The researchers found that the frequency of oral health problems increases significantly in cognitively impaired older people, particularly in those with dementia, according to a paper published April 1, 2016 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The cause of the relationship is not clear. But although it’s possible that individuals with dementia may suffer dental problems because they are neglectful of oral hygiene, it may be more likely that gum disease, cavities, and other dental problems are a source of system-wide inflammation that, over time, can wreak havoc on the brain.
Many A-Fib Patients Missing Out on Stroke-Preventing Meds
Among individuals with the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation (Afib) who are at the highest risk for stroke, more than half are not receiving recommended blood-thinning medications, according to a study published online March 16, 2016 in JAMA Cardiology. The worrisome findings suggest that many patients are likely to experience strokes caused by blood clots that might have been prevented.
The researchers looked at data on more than 430,000 Afib patients between 2008 and 2012, and ranked their stroke risk and prescription patterns. The analysis revealed that while many patients were receiving prescribed blood thinners—including Coumadin (warfarin), Pradaxa (dabigatran), Xarelto (rivaroxaban), and Eliquis (apixaban)—among the patients at most severe risk of stroke, more than half were not prescribed the medications. “The findings of our study are surprising given that these patients with atrial fibrillation were treated by a cardiovascular specialist, who should be aware of guideline recommendations,” the lead author of the study said. While the reason for the lapse is not clear, he theorized that it may be due to patient preference or excessive fear of increased risk for bleeding. Afib can increase the risk for blood clots and stroke by a factor of five.
Rage Disorder Linked to Common Parasite
A psychiatric condition called intermittent explosive disorder (IED), which is characterized by sudden outbursts of verbal and physical aggression, may be associated with a common parasite found in cat feces and undercooked meat, a recent study suggests. Researchers found that the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, toxoplasma gondii, is more than twice as common in individuals who experience IED as it is in those who are not subject to the periodic and recurrent fits of rage. In a study published in the March 23, 2016 Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, scientists compared people with IED with healthy individuals. They found that 22 percent of people with IED tested positive for toxoplasmosis exposure and high levels of aggression and impulsivity, compared to just nine percent of healthy participants. Although it is not generally considered to be a serious health problem, in people with compromised immune systems, newborn infants, and other vulnerable individuals, toxoplasmosis can damage the brain, eyes, and other organs. Researchers theorize that the parasite, which has also been linked to suicidal behavior in otherwise healthy individuals whose brains are affected, may trigger IED by altering brain chemistry or impairing regions of the brain responsible for emotional regulation. They estimate that IED may affect as many as 16 million Americans, more than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined. Toxoplasmosis can be treated with a combination of antibiotics and an antimalarial drug.
Study Links Stress and Heart Attack, Stroke
Stress and fear may have as powerful an effect on your risk of having a stroke or heart attack as factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes, according to a research team led by an MGH scientist. In an investigation examining the link between stress and heart attack, the scientists found that high levels of stress are strongly associated with increased activity in the amygdala—the brain’s fear center. Study participants with high stress levels were found to have a 14-fold increased risk of stroke or heart attack for every unit increase of stress-related brain activity, according to a paper presented April 4, 2016 at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago. The increase in brain activity is, in turn, linked to an immune system response in which the bone marrow releases cells that trigger inflammation of the arteries. Arterial inflammation is a well-known precursor to stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. The researchers found that only five percent of the 300 participants in their study with low amygdala activity suffered a major cardiac event, compared to 40 percent of those with high amygdala activity. The research underscores the importance of finding ways to reduce stress, such as exercising, practicing relaxation techniques, or developing supportive relationships