NewsBriefs: MGH Second in Hospital Ratings; Mediterranean Diet & Vascular Dementia

MGH RANKS SECOND IN NATIONAL HOSPITAL RATINGS

Once again, Massachusetts General Hospital has been honored as a top American hospital. MGH placed second in the Best Hospitals 2013-14: Honor Roll, published by U.S. News & World Report. The prestigious rankings, published in July 2013, are based on surveys of nearly 10,000 specialists and include data on approximately 5,000 hospitals nationwide. The Honor Roll includes the 18 hospitals with top scores in at least six specialties. MGH was listed as among the foremost centers nationwide for specialties such as psychiatry (No. 3), diabetes and endocrinology (No. 3), neurology and neurosurgery (No. 4), geriatrics (No. 6 ), cancer (No. 6), and cardiology and heart surgery (No. 7).

STUDY: MEDITERRANEAN, NOT LOW-FAT, DIET HELPS PREVENT VASCULAR DEMENTIA

New research suggests that older adults whose vascular problems put them at risk for vascular dementia are significantly less likely to experience cognitive decline if they consume a Mediterranean-type diet rather than a low-fat regimen. The study involved 522 adults aged 55 to 80 with risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated body mass index, smoking, type 2 diabetes, or a family history of early cardiovascular disease. Scientists divided the participants into three groups: one group consumed the Mediterranean diet (a diet high in fruits, nuts, vegetables, pulses, olive oil, wine, and fish and low in red meat and dairy products) with added extra virgin olive oil; a second group consumed the Mediterranean diet with added mixed nuts; and a third group followed a low-fat diet typically recommended to prevent stroke and heart attack. Over the course of the six-year study, 23 participants in the low-fat group developed mild cognitive impairment versus 19 in the mixed-nut group and 18 in the olive oil group. Seventeen participants in the low-fat group developed dementia, compared with 12 in the olive oil group and six in the mixed-nut group. The Mediterranean diet groups also significantly outscored the low-fat group on brain function test scores, according to a report published online May 13, 2013 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

POSITIVE THINKING LINKED TO FEWER HEART PROBLEMS

A positive attitude may lead to a healthier heart, according to a study of the link between temperament and risk for coronary artery disease (CAD) published July 1, 2013 in the American Journal of Cardiology. The researchers looked at the health histories of 7,400 adults and assessed them with a tool called the General Well-being Schedule. Over a follow-up period of five to 25 years, the scientists found that among initially healthy study participants who had the most risk factors for CAD, those who ranked at the top in measures of cheerfulness, energy, relaxation, and satisfaction with life were as much as 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack, sudden cardiac death, or other serious heart problem linked to CAD than other high-risk participants who ranked at the bot-tom in measures of positive well-being. The link was apparent even when cardiac disease risk factors such as age, gender, race and family history were factored in. Previous research has found a higher risk for cardiac events in individuals who have high levels of anxiety and depression.

NEW EVIDENCE THAT STAYING ACTIVE LOWERS STROKE RISK

A large new study provides further evidence suggesting that physical activity reduces stroke risk. Researchers looked at data on more than 30,000 participants over the age of 45 in a large Australian study of factors that influence stroke incidence. Using participants’ self-reports of physical activity in connection with leisure activities, job-related activities or commuting, scientists divided study participants into three groups according to the frequency of activity. Comparison of the groups over a period of about six years revealed that participants with the lowest activity levels had a 20 percent increased risk of stroke compared to those with the highest activity levels. In a paper published online in the July 2013 issue of the journal Stroke, the researchers found a particularly strong asso-ciation between stroke risk and frequency of physical activity among men.

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