News Briefs: Pesticide & AD; Anger, Heart Attack & Stroke; Low Iron & Stroke Risk

Past Pesticide Exposure Boosts Alzheimer’s Risk

People who have been exposed at one time to the banned pesticide DDT are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in older age than people who have not been exposed, according to a study published online on Jan. 27, 2014 in JAMA Neurology. Researchers compared blood samples from 86 AD patients with those of a similar group of healthy people and found that AD study participants had four times higher blood levels of the DDT byproduct DDE than healthy participants and that those with the highest blood levels of DDE faced a four-times-greater risk of developing AD than those without the byproduct. DDT is thought to promote the development of toxic beta-amyloid plaque that clogs the brain. The scientists found that among the AD patients with indications of high DDT exposure, those who also had an Alzheimer’s-prone variant of the apolipoprotein E gene were especially likely to show thinking problems. Although DDT was outlawed for agricultural use in the U.S in 1972, it has a long half-life and still contaminates foods grown in food-exporting countries that use the pesticide. To avoid exposure to DDT, experts suggest avoiding produce raised in countries that use DDT for mosquito control, or fish caught in contaminated waterways.

Angry Outburst Can Trigger Heart Attack and Stroke

Explosions of anger appear to spell danger for the heart and brain, according to a review of nine research studies involving more than 4,500 incidents of heart attack, 800 incidents of stroke, 300 incidents of heart rhythm problems, and 462 incidents of acute coronary syndrome. Researchers found that two hours after an angry outburst, an individual’s risk of suffering a heart attack increases fivefold, the risk of stroke increases fourfold, and risk for heart rhythm problems also rises significantly. Although a person’s absolute risk from any one outburst was not great, the effect was nonetheless measurable, according to a report published online on March 3, 2014 in the European Heart Journal and the likelihood of a cardiovascular event was significantly greater than during periods of emotional tranquility. The risk of an acute event rises with the frequency of episodes of anger, the study’s lead author said. She added that the findings were particularly important for individuals with “higher risk due to other underlying risk factors or those who have already had a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes.” Behavioral modification or medications may help reduce angry outbursts.

Low Iron Linked to High Stroke Risk

Iron deficiency can increase the risk for stroke by making an individual’s blood more prone to clotting, suggests a study published online on Feb. 19, 2014 in PLoS One. Researchers followed a group of people with a lung condition that made them more vulnerable to stroke, and found that those study participants with moderately low levels of iron had stickier platelets in their blood that promoted clotting, doubling their risk for stroke compared to similar participants with normal levels of iron. About 30 percent of the world’s population suffers from iron deficiency, which can be caused by poor diet, blood loss, or impairment of the ability to absorb iron from food. The best sources of iron are meat, fish, poultry, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, iron-fortified foods, and supplements.

Exercise Helps Prevent Depression in Parkinson’s Disease

People with Parkinson’s disease (PD) may be able to ward off depression by engaging in a long-term exercise program, suggests a study published in the January 2014 issue of Parkinsonism & Related Disorders. Depression affects more than half of people with PD, and is often more debilitating than motor symptoms linked to the disease. Researchers compared a group of people with PD who engaged in three one-hour sessions of cardiovascular and resistance training per week for 48 weeks with a second group that engaged in the same regimen for only 24 weeks. Those who exercised longer demonstrated significantly greater improvements in depression symptoms. The researchers say the reason for the exercise benefit is unclear, but may be related to a reduction in inflammation in the central nervous system that helps promotes resilience in brain cells. Any form of exercise appears to help.

—Dr. Maurizio Fava, MD

The post News Briefs: Pesticide & AD; Anger, Heart Attack & Stroke; Low Iron & Stroke Risk appeared first on University Health News.

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