Eye Changes May Signal Higher Risk for Thinking and Memory Problems Later in Life
If you experience changes in the blood vessels of your eyes at age 60, you may be at a higher risk for memory or thinking problems at age 80 than people with healthy eyes. A study published recently in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that people who had moderate-to-severe retinopathy (a disease of the eye that affects vision) were more likely to experience significant drops in their scores on thinking and memory tests over time than their peers whose eyes remained healthy in their later years. Researchers noted that the blood vessels of the eye and the brain are quite similar, which is helpful because the small blood vessels in the brain are harder to see with standard brain imaging. So researchers reasoned that by studying the eye’s blood vessels, it would give them a good idea what was happening in the brain. If further study can confirm that changes in the eyes’ blood vessels accurately reflect what’s happening to the blood vessels in the brain, doctors may be able to use that information to help diagnose and treat people in the early stages of vascular dementia.
Distorted Memories May Be Comforting for People with Dementia
It’s not uncommon for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia to share news of events that either didn’t happen or happened long ago, but express those moments as things that just happened quite recently. In a study published in the journal Mind & Language, researchers suggest that correcting a dementia patient’s account may cause unnecessary stress that may cause the individual to withhold information in the future. Of course, not correcting or challenging the patient’s version of events allows a distorted picture of reality to continue. The choice of how to handle these distortions is an ongoing challenge for caregivers of people with dementia. The study’s researchers recommend that if a distorted memory appears to provide comfort and security, while also enabling the person to communicate, then it may be wise to leave those distortions alone. If replacing a distorted memory with an accurate one isn’t likely to affect the patient’s ability to preserve important beliefs about himself or herself, then consider making a correction. These issues will always be judgment calls and will be based entirely on the individual’s emotional and cognitive state. If you are a caregiver and you’re unsure how to handle such situations, consult with a therapist or someone else with experience in working with people with dementia.
Anxiety May Actually Protect You From a Heart Attack
There are few positives to having an anxiety disorder. The irrational fear that goes along with an anxiety disorder can keep you from doing some of the things you might otherwise enjoy. But that heightened sense of worry may help protect you in the event of a heart attack. A recent study published in Clinical Research in Cardiology found that people with an anxiety disorder tend to react faster to the onset of heart attack symptoms compared with individuals in the general population. A team of German researchers interviewed more than 600 heart attack survivors soon after they were released from intensive care. About 12 percent of them had an anxiety disorder. They responded more quickly to symptoms of an acute heart attack and arrived at the emergency room sooner. People with anxiety tend to be more sensitive to changes in their health, and are more willing to accept help. Anxiety increases your stress levels and raises your risk of having a heart attack, but it may also make you more likely to survive one.
People with Depression Have Stronger Emotional Responses to Negative Memories
Individuals dealing with a major depressive disorder (MDD) have more intense negative feelings when recalling a painful memory compared to people without MDD, according to a study published recently in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. Researchers found that people with MDD could control their negative feelings about as well as those unaffected by the condition, but that they used different brain circuits to do so. Researchers used brain imaging to identify the differences in brain activity. The hope is that by better understanding the parts of the brain responding to painful memories, researchers can develop healthier or more appropriate coping strategies for people with MDD. MMM