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Study Links Hearing Loss And Dementia

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

According to a new study from John Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging, adults with significant hearing loss are at a much greater risk of developing dementia. The study followed 639 dementia-free adults ages 36 to 90. The participants in the study were tested for hearing loss and dementia every two years for nearly two decades. The researchers found that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were much more likely to develop dementia by the end, even after taking into account age and other risk factors. The risk of dementia only began to rise once hearing loss began to interfere with the ability to communicate, for example, in a noisy restaurant. The study also found that hearing loss increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but the two were not as strongly linked as hearing loss and other forms of dementia. Frank Lin, M.D., assistant professor of Otology at John Hopkins University and an author of the study says the research is the first major study that connects hearing loss to the development of dementia and could lead to additional research on the subject.

Lin says it may be that whatever causes dementia also causes hearing loss, but there is no clear evidence. He thinks it is more likely that the neurological stress of dealing with hearing loss contributes to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “If you are out to dinner with friends at a busy restaurant and it’s very, very loud, by the time you get home you’re exhausted, because you spend so much time trying to think about the words people are saying, to decipher everything,” he says. Dementia, the insidious loss of memory, logic and language that interferes with daily living is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide and carries a heavy societal burden. After age 85, nearly half of all seniors will have some level of cognitive impairment or dementia. Without proper care, people with dementia may eat poorly and irregularly and ignore exercise and social activity, all activities that could likely improve their health.  Family caregivers are usually the first to recognize that dementia may be developing and should seek medical evaluation as soon as the symptoms are noticed.Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, afflicting about 5 percent of seniors between sixty-five and seventy-four. However, nearly half of those over the age of eighty-five are affected.  Vascular dementia is considered the second most common form of dementia.

This type of dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to parts of the brain. One type of vascular dementia can occur after a single stroke blocks the flow of blood to a large part of the brain.  In another type of vascular dementia, a series of very small strokes block small arteries. Singularly, these strokes are small enough not to cause major symptoms, but over time, their combined effect becomes noticeable. Symptoms of vascular dementia can be similar to Alzheimer’s disease. They include problems with memory, confusion and difficulty following instructions. In some cases, the impairment associated with vascular dementia can be more rapid and marked. Alzheimer’s advances slowly, gradually causing crippling brain damage with symptoms that can include paranoia.
Although the reason for the link between hearing loss and dementia is unknown, the researchers in the study suggest that a common pathology may underlie both or that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia. They also speculate that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders. Whatever the cause, the scientists report their findings may offer a starting point for interventions even as simple as hearing aids that could delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing.

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care San Antonio, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Facilities and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

Brain Myths & Facts 101

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Never has there been a time when facts about the anatomy and functions of the human brain were so mainstream. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, both debilitating diseases without a cure have become forefront in the consciousnesses of not just the medical profession, but the general population as well. Thanks to high profile personalities like the late president Ronald Reagan, Michael J. Fox and Maria Shriver who, along with their families have gone public to promote awareness about diseases of the brain, many lay people are likely to have some basic education about the human brain. Yet with all of the publicity, a new study surveying middle and high school students and their knowledge of the human brain and its functions, exposes a startling amount of misunderstanding.

Myth: The brain is separate from the nervous system.
Reality: Students often assume that the brain and the nervous system are separate, unrelated entities. Further studies have shown that they often believe organs such as the heart and lungs are part of the nervous system. In reality, the nervous system is composed of the brain, the spinal cord, neurons, and neural support cells.

Myth: The brain is a uniform mass of tissue.
Reality: The only exposure most students often have to brain anatomy is a photo or drawing of a gray, bulbous, wrinkled mass of tissue. Although the brain may appear uniform at a gross anatomic level, it is actually composed of billions of specialized cells. These cells, called neurons and glia, are further organized into specialized functional regions within the brain. This type of variation within the brain is what allows it to function as “command central” of the human body.

Myth: Control of voluntary activity is the sole purpose of the brain.
Reality: Many students have the misconception that the brain is used only when they are doing something, such as thinking or performing a physical action. Most do not recognize that we use our brains constantly for a variety of activities that, while crucial to our survival, require no conscious thought. For example, the human brain is responsible for involuntary activities, such as regulating heartbeat, breathing and digestion. Although the brain controls both voluntary and involuntary activities, different regions of the brain are devoted to each type of task.

Myth: The vertebral column and the spinal cord are the same thing.
Reality: The only exposure most students have to the human spine is as a component in models of skeletons. Thus, they may assume that the spine consists solely of the skeletal structure of the vertebral column, or backbone. They can feel their own backbone, and they know that it is a structural component of their body. Students may not realize that the backbone encases the spinal cord, a vital part of our nervous system.

Myth: The brain does not change.
Reality: The idea that the brain does not change after growth ceases may be the greatest misconception that most people have.  In reality, the brain changes throughout life. During embryonic development and early life, the brain changes dramatically. Neurons form many new connections, and some neurons die. However, scientists have discovered that changes in the brain are not restricted to early life.  Even in the adult brain, neurons continue to form new connections, strengthen existing connections, or eliminate connections as we continue to learn. Recent studies have shown that some neurons in the adult brain retain the ability to divide. Damaged neurons have some capability to regenerate if conditions are right.

Myth: Learning disabilities are the only manifestation of a problem with brain function.
Reality: During their school years, most students will encounter someone who has a learning disability. For many, this is their only experience with a brain disorder. Because many types of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease tend to affect older people, students may not have experience with them. They may not realize that emotional and behavioral conditions such as depression and hyperactivity are also brain disorders.
Diseases and injuries to the brain and nervous system afflict millions of Americans of all ages each year. Although some injuries and diseases are of short duration, others are permanent and disabling.

800Seniors is a distinguished nationwide Senior Healthcare referral service. They are based in Southern California, located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors offers seniors citizens a range of different health care options. Based upon their needs they can opt for Home Care, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Care Homes Chicago and Assisted Living nationwide. 800Seniors makes life easier by taking away the confusion and hassle. For more information about 800Seniors call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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