Roundup: Deaths From Dementia Rising; Smoking and Higher SIDS Risk; Muscle Strength and Diabetes

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March 15, 2019


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U.S. Deaths from Dementia Could Have More Than Doubled Since 2000, CDC Reports

A new report by the National Center for Health Statistics says the rate of Americans who died from dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, has more than doubled from 30.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2000 to 66.7 in 2017.

Researchers analyzed data from death certificates from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. But they conceded that “identifying causes of death for people with dementia is challenging.” They wrote that determining the underlying cause of death can be affected by the “completeness and accuracy of cause-of-death statements recorded on death certificates and the increasing number of conditions present at death as the population ages.”

Dementia encompasses conditions that impair memory and result in a decline in cognitive function. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common of these conditions, is the 5th leading cause of death among adults aged 65 years or older. In 2014, an estimated 5 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimer’s disease. This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Center for Health Statistics, which published the new report on the dementia death rate, is part of the CDC.

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. No single test can determine if someone has dementia. Early Alzheimer’s disease is called mild cognitive impairment. The prevalence increases with age, rising from 1 percent to 2 percent among those aged 65 to 74 — to 30 percent or more of those aged 85 or older.

“If people live longer, they don’t die of other causes, so they live to the point where the risk for dementia is higher,” Ellen Kramarow, Ph.D., lead author of the new report, and a statistician for the National Center for Health Statistics, told CNN.com.

Researchers looked at four types of dementia recognized by the International Classification of Diseases: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, unspecified dementia and other degenerative diseases of the nervous system.

In their conclusion, the report’s authors state: “Alzheimer disease was the sixth leading cause of death in 2017. If all four dementia causes were counted together, dementia would have been the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2017.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, symptoms of dementia can vary greatly. At least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia: memory; communication and language; ability to focus and pay attention; reasoning and judgment; and visual perception.

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Smoking During Pregnancy Doubles Risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, Including SIDS: Study

Smoking just one cigarette during pregnancy can start to increase the risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), which includes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to a joint study by Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Microsoft data scientists.

Researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that included every baby born in the U.S. from 2007 to 2011. In that time span, more than 20 million babies were born and 19,127 died of SUID, including SIDS.

The study found that the risk of SUID doubles if a woman goes from not smoking to smoking just one cigarette daily during her pregnancy. At a pack a day (20 cigarettes), the risk is tripled compared to non-smokers, according to the study published in the journal Pediatrics.

“With this information, doctors can better counsel pregnant women about their smoking habits, knowing that the number of cigarettes smoked daily during pregnancy significantly impacts the risk for SUID,” said Tatiana Anderson, M.D., a researcher in Seattle Children’s Center for Integrative Brain Research and lead author on the study. “Similar to public health campaigns that educated parents about the importance of infant sleep position, leading to a 50% decrease in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) rates, we hope advising women about this risk will result in less babies dying from these tragic causes.”

If no women smoked during pregnancy, the researchers estimate that 800 of the approximately 3,700 deaths from SUID annually in the U.S. could be prevented, lowering current SUID rates by 22 percent.

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Moderate Strength Training Tied to Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

The role of strength training in preventing and managing chronic diseases has been increasingly recognized. Now researchers say even moderate muscular strength can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes — and you don’t have to be a bodybuilder.

Moderate amounts of muscle strength are linked to a 32 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Researchers stress the “moderate” factor in their findings. “These results indicate that very high levels of RE (resistance exercise) training may not be necessary to obtain the considerable health benefits on type 2 diabetes prevention,” the study said.

More than 30 million U.S. adults, about 1 in 10, have diabetes — the vast majority of them were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An obesity epidemic is fueling high rates of diabetes in the U.S. Globally, the prevalence of diabetes continues to rise as well. Meanwhile, it is estimated that one in four U.S. adults are “prediabetic,” condition marked by slightly elevated blood glucose levels which likely indicates a person is at risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes.

The new study looked at 4,681 people, age 20 and older ,who had did not have type 2 diabetes at the start of the research. Between 1981 and 2006, the adults underwent muscular strength tests and treadmill exercise tests as part of regular medical examinations. The strength tests measured strength in the upper and lower body using resistance weight machines, while the treadmill tests assessed cardio-respiratory fitness.

After dividing the participants into three levels of muscular strength, researchers found that those in the middle level had a 32 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to those at the lower level of strength. No such association between strength and type 2 diabetes was found at the upper level of muscular strength compared with the lower level. The researchers took into account other factors that may affect diabetes risk, including cardio-respiratory fitness. However, the study did not take into account participant’s dietary habits, which can definitely influence diabetes risk.

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