Sunday, August 8, 2010

Higher education keeps dementia at bay

Individuals who study longer can adapt to the changes associating dementia and are therefore less likely to present the symptoms of the mind robbing disease.

Previous studies have reported that the more time spent in education, the lower would be one's risk of developing dementia in the long run.

According to the study published in Brain, the dementia-related changes are similar in individuals with and without higher educations; those who are engaged in education for longer time, however, are able to compensate for these changes.

“Education in early life appears to enable some people to cope with a lot of changes in their brain before showing dementia symptoms,” said Hannah Keage, a co-author of the study, adding that educated individuals can find ways to manage or hide their disabilities. Each extra year spent on education is associated with an 11 percent reduction in the risk of manifesting the mind robbing disease, the study found.

"This study provides strong support for investment in early life factors which should have an impact on society and the whole lifespan,” said lead researcher Professor Carol Brayne, adding that policy makers should shift their focus to the importance of resource allocation between health and education.

Chili pepper lowers blood pressure

Apart from its painkilling effects, capsaicin -- the compound responsible for the burning sensation of chili peppers-- can help lower blood pressure levels.

Previous studies have reported that chili peppers can not only alleviate chronic pain and migraine but also help individuals shed off pounds through increasing their metabolism rate.

According to a study published in Cell Metabolism, capsaicin helps lower blood pressure levels in rats. "We found that long-term dietary consumption of capsaicin, one of the most abundant components in chili peppers, could reduce blood pressure in genetically hypertensive rats," said lead researcher Zhiming Zhu.

The compound activates the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel, found in the lining of blood vessels, releasing nitric oxide -- a molecule that relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure levels.

Scientists hope dietary capsaicin may represent a promising intervention of lifestyle in high-risk individuals suffering from hypertension and related vascular disorders.

Extra weekend sleep boosts brain

While getting extra sleep in weekends was long thought to be useless, a new study points out its benefits in boosting the brain power in the coming working week.

Sleep deprivation is associated with not only a poor performance but also shortened attention span, impaired alertness and reduced reaction time. One full night of sleep is believed to fully restore the burned energy in these individuals.

"Lifestyles that involve chronic sleep restriction during the workweek and during days off work may result in continuing buildup of sleep pressure and in an increased likelihood of loss of alertness and increased errors," said lead researcher David Dinges.

According to the study published in Sleep, individuals who spend more time in bed at the weekend have a better performance during the week.

The recovery, however, totally depends on the time one spends in bed. The additional hour or two of sleep in the morning after a period of chronic partial sleep loss has genuine benefits for continued recovery of behavioral alertness,” said Dinges, adding that the longer one lies in bed, the better he would restore his energy for the following week.

Extra sleep helps replenish the brain and boost energy, alertness and attention span after a week of restricted sleep; scientists therefore urged individuals to avoid staying up all night at the weekend.

"The bottom line is that adequate recovery is important for coping with the effects of chronic sleep restriction on the brain," Dinges added.