Tuesday, April 30, 2019

“From $40 a vial in 2000 to nearly $39,000 today”



(CNN)Two whistleblowers at a pharmaceutical company responsible for one of the largest drug price increases in US history said the company bribed doctors and their staffs to increase sales, according to newly unsealed documents in federal court.
The effort, the whistleblowers said in a lawsuit against the company, was part of an intentional "multi-tiered strategy" by Questcor Pharmaceuticals, now Mallinckrodt, to boost sales of H.P. Acthar Gel, cheating the government out of millions of dollars.

The price of the drug, best known for treating a rare infant seizure disorder, has increased almost 97,000%, from $40 a vial in 2000 to nearly $39,000 today.

The Justice Department has now intervened in the case after conducting its own extensive investigation -- a sign that the government believes the allegations levied by the whistleblowers are credible. In a statement to CNN, Mallinckrodt did not deny the accusations but said the fault lies primarily with Questcor.

The bombshell allegations lay bare what the whistleblowers say was a culture designed to sell the drug at all costs, from lying to the Food and Drug Administration to offering bribes to doctors.

The price increase, combined with an aggressive sales push in rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other areas, has pushed the drug's annual sales over $1 billion.

Many of those sales are driven by Medicare reimbursements. A CNN investigation last year found that Medicare spending on Acthar had risen dramatically -- more than tenfold over six years -- to some $2 billion.

In their lawsuit, the whistleblowers said the drugmaker's conduct "has cheated the federal government out of millions of dollars that should not have been paid, thereby enriching [the company] and subjecting patients to unapproved, unsafe and potentially ineffective uses of H.P. Acthar Gel."

"Questcor has attempted to conceal and cover-up its payment of kickbacks and its illegal promotion of H.P. Acthar Gel by making false statements to the FDA and directing employees to conceal evidence by failing to disclose ... the full nature and extent of its advertising, promotional and marketing materials and plan."

Mallinckrodt purchased Questcor in 2014 as part of a $5.6 billion deal. "The illegal practices that Questcor had been engaging in since 2007," the suit said, "have knowingly been continued since the merger and acquisition of Questcor by Mallinckrodt."

The whistleblowers' allegations were unsealed after the Justice Department filed notice on March 6 to intervene in the lawsuit. The Justice Department has 90 days to file its own complaint, according to the March filing.

If found liable, Mallinckrodt could be required to pay up to three times any amount the government is found to have been defrauded, as well as penalties ranging from $5,500 to $11,000 for each false claim, according to the whistleblower statute.

The Justice Department declined comment for this story…


For the complete story, “Whistleblowers: Company at heart of 97,000% drug price hike bribed doctors to boost sales,” click here.


Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan that may also benefit your brain


You may know that a Mediterranean diet — rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, whole grains and fish — offers many heart-healthy benefits. But a Mediterranean diet may also benefit your brain.
Studies show people who closely follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to have Alzheimer's disease than people who don't follow the diet.
Research suggests a Mediterranean diet may:
  • Slow cognitive decline in older adults
  • Reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) — a transitional stage between the cognitive decline of normal aging and the more-serious memory problems caused by dementia or Alzheimer's disease
  • Reduce the risk of MCI progressing into Alzheimer's disease
It's unclear which parts of the Mediterranean diet might protect brain function.
Researchers speculate that making healthy food choices may improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health, which may in turn reduce the risk of MCI or Alzheimer's disease.
Another theory suggests that following a Mediterranean diet may help prevent brain tissue loss associated with Alzheimer's.
But for now it's difficult to say what exactly explains the relationship between following a Mediterranean diet and reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Some research shows that individuals with moderate seafood consumption had fewer Alzheimer's-related changes in their brains among people carrying the apolipoprotein E (APOE e4) gene, which is thought to increase Alzheimer's risk.
But overall, evidence isn't strong enough to show that the Mediterranean diet reduces Alzheimer's disease risk. One issue is that most studies on the effects of diet on dementia are based on dietary questionnaires completed by participants who may have trouble recalling what they ate or have memory problems.
So, one study used a modified food questionnaire developed for use in older adults to address this issue. The study looked at whether following a Mediterranean diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet designed to treat high blood pressure or a hybrid diet that combined aspects of both diets known as the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
The results showed that people who strictly followed any of the three diets had a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, even modest adoption of the MIND diet approach, such as eating two vegetable servings a day, two berry servings a week and one fish meal a week, appeared to lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
More research and clinical trials are needed to know to what degree a Mediterranean diet prevents Alzheimer's or slows the progression of cognitive decline. Nonetheless, eating a healthy diet is important to stay physically and mentally fit. (Mayo Clinic, Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.) 


The heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating plan based on typical foods and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking. Here's how to adopt the Mediterranean diet.

If you're looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be right for you.
The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine — among other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
Most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet are tried-and-true, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods may make a difference in your risk of heart disease.
Benefits of the Mediterranean diet
Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the "bad" cholesterol that's more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.
In fact, a meta-analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality as well as overall mortality.
The Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
For these reasons, most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.
Key components of the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
·       Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
·       Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
·       Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
·       Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
·       Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
·       Enjoying meals with family and friends
·       Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
·       Getting plenty of exercise

Fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains
The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice. For example, residents of Greece eat very little red meat and average nine servings a day of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
Grains in the Mediterranean region are typically whole grain and usually contain very few unhealthy trans fats, and bread is an important part of the diet there. However, throughout the Mediterranean region, bread is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil — not eaten with butter or margarine, which contain saturated or trans fats.
Nuts are another part of a healthy Mediterranean diet. Nuts are high in fat (approximately 80 percent of their calories come from fat), but most of the fat is not saturated. Because nuts are high in calories, they should not be eaten in large amounts — generally no more than a handful a day. Avoid candied or honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts.
Healthy fats
The focus of the Mediterranean diet isn't on limiting total fat consumption, but rather to make wise choices about the types of fat you eat. The Mediterranean diet discourages saturated fats and hydrogenated oils (trans fats), both of which contribute to heart disease.
The Mediterranean diet features olive oil as the primary source of fat. Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat — a type of fat that can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans fats.
"Extra-virgin" and "virgin" olive oils — the least processed forms — also contain the highest levels of the protective plant compounds that provide antioxidant effects.
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, such as canola oil and some nuts, contain the beneficial linolenic acid (a type of omega-3 fatty acid). Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides, decrease blood clotting, are associated with decreased sudden heart attack, improve the health of your blood vessels, and help moderate blood pressure.
Fatty fish — such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon — are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is eaten on a regular basis in the Mediterranean diet.
Wine
The health effects of alcohol have been debated for many years, and some doctors are reluctant to encourage alcohol consumption because of the health consequences of excessive drinking.
However, alcohol — in moderation — has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease in some research studies.
The Mediterranean diet typically includes a moderate amount of wine. This means no more than 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine daily for women (or men over age 65), and no more than 10 ounces (296 milliliters) of wine daily for men under age 65.
If you're unable to limit your alcohol intake to the amounts defined above, if you have a personal or family history of alcohol abuse, or if you have heart or liver disease, refrain from drinking wine or any other alcohol.
Putting it all together
The Mediterranean diet is a delicious and healthy way to eat. Many people who switch to this style of eating say they'll never eat any other way. Here are some specific steps to get you started:
·       Eat your veggies and fruits — and switch to whole grains.An abundance and variety of plant foods should make up the majority of your meals. Strive for seven to 10 servings a day of veggies and fruits. Switch to whole-grain bread and cereal, and begin to eat more whole-grain rice and pasta products.
·       Go nuts. Keep almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts on hand for a quick snack. Choose natural peanut butter, rather than the kind with hydrogenated fat added. Try tahini (blended sesame seeds) as a dip or spread for bread.
·       Pass on the butter. Try olive or canola oil as a healthy replacement for butter or margarine. Use it in cooking. Dip bread in flavored olive oil or lightly spread it on whole-grain bread for a tasty alternative to butter. Or try tahini as a dip or spread.
·       Spice it up. Herbs and spices make food tasty and are also rich in health-promoting substances. Season your meals with herbs and spices rather than salt.
·       Go fish. Eat fish once or twice a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are healthy choices. Grilled fish tastes good and requires little cleanup. Avoid fried fish, unless it's sauteed in a small amount of canola oil.
·       Rein in the red meat. Substitute fish and poultry for red meat. When eaten, make sure it's lean and keep portions small (about the size of a deck of cards). Also avoid sausage, bacon and other high-fat meats.
·       Choose low-fat dairy. Limit higher fat dairy products such as whole or 2 percent milk, cheese and ice cream. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.
·       Raise a glass to healthy eating. If it's OK with your doctor, have a glass of wine at dinner. If you don't drink alcohol, you don't need to start. Drinking purple grape juice may be an alternative to wine.




Monday, April 29, 2019

Know the Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease




“If you or a loved one experiences these subtle but possibly serious symptoms of memory loss, confusion, sleeplessness, and trouble focusing, talk to a doctor.

“With grim prognoses and very limited treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, early detection hasn’t been particularly advantageous. But that may be changing—fast. One of the hottest areas of Alzheimer’s research involves treating people with early signs of Alzheimer’s with drugs that decrease the production of amyloid beta (proteins that bunch together to form damaging plaques in the brain). Experts believe that people begin to develop amyloid plaques in their brains at least 10 years before they develop any obvious Alzheimer’s symptoms.

“Reisa Sperling, MD, director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston is leading a new clinical trial, called the A4 study, which will evaluate patients with evidence of Alzheimer’s damage in the brain but who still have normal thinking and memory function. The trial will randomly assign groups to receive medication, and researchers will determine over three years whether the drugs affected the patients’ memory or levels of amyloid. ‘When a person already has a lot of memory trouble, they already have significant neuron loss,’ says Dr. Sperling. ‘We need to find and treat people much earlier.’ Watch out for these early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Worrying about your memory:

“Memory issues are one of the more well-known Alzheimer’s symptoms. And a number of studies presented at an Alzheimer’s Association conference last year found that people who were concerned about their own memory and thinking were in fact more likely to have signs of Alzheimer’s plaques in their brain, and develop dementia symptoms later. ‘People should trust what they observe about themselves,’ Rebecca Amariglio, PhD, a Harvard neuropsychologist, told USA Today. It’s common with a number of health conditions—including arthritis and Parkinson’s disease—for people to feel something isn’t right before others observe it, Frank Jessen, a researcher at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, told the New York Times. Here are 6 signs your family member’s forgetfulness is actually Alzheimer’s.

Spotty recollection of recent important events:

“Forgetting a key conversation with a family member or a big news story from earlier in the week (like a natural disaster such as a hurricane) is concerning—especially if people can’t remember they forgot it. ‘If you remember that you forgot something, like your keys, that means your brain is still trying to access that information,’ says Dr. Sperling. Not being able to remember the name of an actor in a movie—but recalling it later that night or the next day—is probably not a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Trouble managing finances:

“Not being able to keep track of paying bills, having difficulty transferring money among accounts, or having problems maintaining an adequate balance to cover payments can all be early red flags or Alzheimer’s symptoms, several studies show. ‘When I talk to patients in my office, I always ask who pays the bills,’ Dr. Sperling says. ‘If I hear that there’s been a change—say the wife did all the bill paying, but her husband has recently taken over, that’s a concerning find.’ If a loved one or family member who lives alone suddenly begins having trouble paying the bills, you may need to step in. Accounting troubles can set a person up for fraud.

Getting lost while driving:

“This is especially relevant if the person gets confused or disoriented in a place where they’ve driven many times—for example, if they had to take a slightly different route home from a local store and had trouble getting back to a familiar destination…

Skipping social events:

“‘We’ve seen that difficulty following conversations, particularly in a group, can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s,’ says Dr. Sperling. She’ll hear patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s report that they don’t like to go out to lunch as much with their friends as they used to because they feel they’re not picking up on the jokes or following the conversation.

Losing interest in favorite hobbies:

“Another potential early signal of Alzheimer’s is when people start to lose interest in their favorite pastimes—a golfer or a bridge player who foregoes his weekly game, for example. ‘Alzheimer’s-related brain changes can cause apathy, which makes people lose motivation,’ says Dr. Sperling. These Alzheimer’s symptoms may mimic depression. ‘If a patient has never had depression before or has no obvious reason for being depressed, such as grief over the loss of a loved one, that’s concerning,’ she adds. 

An inability to plan:

“People in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease have changes in their ability to plan or multitask—a brain skill known as executive function. For example, when someone who is usually the person who plans all the holiday parties or family vacations together begins to have trouble organizing, or even has trouble with day to day schedules, that’s cause for concern.

Trouble sleeping:

“Nighttime tossing and turning that leaves you exhausted the next morning could be a sign of more than stress. A study in the journal Neurology asked adults who were considered at risk for Alzheimer’s—but who didn’t yet have symptoms—about their sleep habits. Those who reported worse sleep problems, trouble falling asleep, and more daytime tiredness had more markers for Alzheimer’s disease in their spinal fluid than those who said they slept fine. The scientists aren’t sure if poor sleep raises risk for Alzheimer’s or if sleep problems are a symptom brought on by the condition, but check with your doctor if your sleepless nights are paired with lapses in memory. Here are 15 myths about Alzheimer’s disease you should stop believing.

Anxiety:

“Studies have indicated that depression could be one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s, but researchers weren’t sure whether depression was a risk factor or a result of the condition. One five-year study in the American Journal of Psychiatry could shed some light, though. The researchers found more amyloid beta—the protein that builds the plaques found in brains of people with Alzheimer’s—in cognitively healthy adults who had increasing anxiety. In fact, anxiety was an even stronger predictor of plaques than other depression symptoms such as apathy or a decrease in life satisfaction. The researchers conclude that heightened anxiety could be one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s because it shows up even before memory loss.

Trouble with speaking and writing words:

“People with early signs of Alzheimer’s disease struggle with finding the right words in conversation and on paper. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these people may stop mid-conversation to find the right words. They could also struggle with vocabulary or repeat themselves. Make sure you know these 16 everyday habits that can increase your dementia risk.


What to do if this sounds like you:

“‘If someone is experiencing some of these signs, but is still living their daily life reasonably well, they would be a perfect candidate to come in and get screened for participation in the study,’ says Dr. Sperling. Her team is seeking to screen as many as 10,000 people in order to find 1,000 participants to be part of the trial. (Some of those screened won’t have Alzheimer’s plaques in the brain; some might have memory problems that are already too advanced.) ‘Remember, the reason to participate in this study is not because we think you have advanced Alzheimer’s disease, it’s to prevent all memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease by stopping the disease in its earliest stage,’ she continues. Visit A4study.org to learn more and find a testing center near you. Next, check out these 50 habits that can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.






Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease



“There are 47 million people living with dementia worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. While dementia and Alzheimer’s may be used interchangeably, there are important differences between them. Here’s what you need to know.

“First thing to know: How to tell the difference between dementia vs. Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms like impaired memory and thinking that interferes with daily living; Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.

“‘Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia—about 60 to 70 percent of the time a patient with dementia has Alzheimer’s,’ says Richard Isaacson, MD, Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The reason you hear about Alzheimer’s most often is not only because it is the most common type of dementia, but also because ‘the science behind Alzheimer’s is the most advanced across all dementias,’ Dr. Isaacson says…

“A medical illness, metabolic issue (like a nutritional or thyroid problem), vascular disease (like a stroke), or, rarely, infectious diseases can affect brain cells, causing dementia. Even Mad Cow Disease, which is very rare, can contribute to dementia, explains Dr. Isaacson. A condition called depressive ‘pseudo’ dementia is another possible source. As he explains, when levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin run low, you may have trouble paying attention. And when you’re distracted, you have trouble remembering things, which can manifest as dementia.

“On the other hand, Alzheimer’s has its own origins. It’s a brain disease marked by deposits of beta-amyloid plaques and proteins called tau that damage cells in brain regions that control functions like thinking, memory, and reasoning…

“There’s also what’s called mixed dementia, meaning there are multiple conditions that are coming together to cause dementia. ‘Thirty percent of the time, patients who have Alzheimer’s also have a vascular disease that makes cognitive symptoms worse,’ says Dr. Isaacson. Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy bodies (in this disease, clumps of alpha-synuclein proteins develop in the brain) has also been found to occur together.

“Losing your keys—again—and forgetting where you parked are basic memory problems, so how do you know when it crosses the line to dementia or Alzheimer’s? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in order for a person to be diagnosed with dementia, two of the following must be ‘significantly impaired’: memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning, and judgment, and visual perception.

“When it comes to Alzheimer’s, the association notes that you may forget new information or find you have to ask family members to remember important facts you should be able to keep track of yourself. (It’s not those little brain blips where you can’t remember the name of your second cousin and then it comes to you later—that’s normal). Research also indicates that difficulty using a map may be one of the earliest warning signs of Alzheimer’s…

“[I]n a study in 2014 published in The Lancet Neurologyreducing certain risk factors can decrease risk of Alzheimer’s by 33 percent. The most important ways to prevent Alzheimer’s: control diabetes and high blood pressure, reduce weight if obese, stay active, treat depression, don’t smoke, and stay in school. A 2017 study adds that staying social (spend time with friends and family members) and managing hearing loss to the list of controllable factors in the prevention of dementia…

“There are virtually no FDA-approved therapies for dementia (only one approved drug for Parkinson’s dementia), but there are four medications that target Alzheimer’s, according to Dr. Isaacson. And while these drugs don’t stall disease progression (or cure the disease), they can help control symptoms in patients. Patients of Dr. Isaacson’s say these drugs may help for six to nine months, but many stay on them for the long haul because they help with behavioral symptoms such as agitation and aggression. ‘When you stop the medications, the psychological symptoms get worse,’ he says.

“As for other types of dementia, lifestyle changes may be the best option. Treatment for vascular dementia relies on doing things that are healthy for your arteries and heart: reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, and controlling diabetes. ‘Managing other chronic conditions is important. Those are a great way to press the fast-forward button on dementia,’ says Dr. Isaacson.

“If you get evaluated for Alzheimer’s, your doctor can make a diagnosis based on symptoms, a clinical history, and medical tests (to rule out causes like thyroid issues or nutritional deficiencies). Brain imaging tests like a cat scan or MRI can look for beta amylase plaques gunking up brain regions…

“Forgetting how to work the thermostat in your home, being afraid to leave your neighborhood out of fear you might not get home, or misplacing your belongings so often that it hurts your ability to get out the door can all be particularly worrisome—especially if a loved one expresses their concern. If you’re concerned, see your doctor, says Dr. Issacson. ‘Get educated, get informed, get evaluated,’ he says, adding ‘the earlier the diagnosis, the earlier you can be treated. And the earlier you’re treated, the better you’ll do.’…”



Saturday, April 27, 2019

Reducing the risk of cognitive decline or dementia




Eating a Poor Diet:

“You already know a nutritional, well-balanced diet is essential to your heart and weight. But food’s benefits for the brain are sometimes overlooked. ‘The brain needs healthy fats, lean proteins, vitamins and minerals to function properly,’ says Howard Fillit, MD, founding executive director and chief scientist of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) and the ADDF’s Cognitive Vitality Program. Also, research shows that people who have a diet high in saturated fats are more likely to develop dementia. The best nutrition you can give your brain is a diet full of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Replace butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil, and limit your intake of red meat, instead opting for other lean protein sources including chicken and fish…


Ignoring Chronic Illness:

“Untreated hypertension and diabetes are two of the greatest risk factors for dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, explains Dr. Fillit. ‘Diabetics have up to 73 percent increased risk of dementia and a an even higher risk of developing vascular dementia than non-diabetics,’ he says. ‘Having hypertension in middle age also increases the risk of both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.’ For both diseases, managing them with medication, diet and exercise can lower dementia risk significantly. To manage—or ideally, avoid—chronic illness, be sure to keep up with your doctor’s appointments. ‘Patients who visit doctors are less likely to get dementia, as high blood pressure, diabetes and hypertension all can be modified when they’re under a physician’s surveillance,’ says Clifford Segil, DO, neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

Drinking Alcohol in Excess:

‘Hitting the bottle too hard can increase your risk for many health issues, including high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, in addition to dementia. ‘Drinking too much can make people’s brains atrophy or get pickled, causing early onset memory loss,’ says Dr. Segil. ‘Multiple studies have shown a correlation between prolonged alcohol use and cognitive complaints.’ In addition, years of drinking alcohol can cause rare forms or memory loss that lead to confusion, known as Wenicke-Korsakoff syndrome. It is safe for your health to drink in moderation—one drink a day for women and two for men. In fact, doing so (especially red wine) may be good for your brain health, as the flavonoids in red wine are linked to a lowered risk of dementia in older people.

Smoking:

‘Cigarettes and cigarette smoke contain more than 4,700 chemical compounds, including some that are highly toxic, says Dr. Fillit. In addition, studies have shown that people who smoke are at higher risk of developing all types of dementia, and a much higher risk (up to 79 percent) for Alzheimer’s disease, specifically. The good news is that former smokers have a much lower dementia risk than current smokers, so the sooner you quit the better…

Living a Sedentary Lifestyle:

“More than a million cases of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States can been attributed to a lack of exercise, and yet nearly one-third of Americans remain physically inactive. ‘Strong research shows that exercise benefits the brain and can reduce your risk of falls, age-related diseases and even death,’ says Dr. Fillit. When exercise is pumping oxygen and blood to your heart and muscles, your brain is benefitting too. The World Health Organization recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity) aerobic exercise every week, which equates to working out 30 minutes a day around five times a week.

Lack of Mental Stimulation:

“Just as it’s important to exercise your body, it’s equally important to exercise your mind. Spending too much time glued to your couch, passively cycling through your Netflix queue instead of actively engaging your brain may increase your risk for dementia. ‘Research suggests that keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections,’ Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer’s Association, says. Tapping these benefits is easy, too: ‘Complete a jigsaw or crossword puzzle, play games which require strategic thinking like chess or bridge or take a class online or at your local community college,’ Synder suggests…

Being a Loner:

“Last year, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital published a study finding an association between feeling of loneliness and social isolation and build-up of beta-amyloid—a protein in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s. ‘This corresponds to earlier research that lonely people had double the risk of Alzheimer’s than their more social peers,’ says Dr. Fillit. Even if you’re more of an introvert and enjoy your alone time, try to put more effort into pursuing social activities, for example joining a book club, volunteering at an animal shelter or participating in community sports…

Not Getting Enough Sleep:

“Dr. Fillit points to research linking sleep problems—such as insomnia and sleep apnea—with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. ‘In addition, a recent study estimates that 15 percent of Alzheimer’s disease cases may be attributable to sleep problems.’ Other recent research published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia involving nearly 7,500 women found that averaging less than six hours a night of sleep raised risk of dementia by 36 percent. To lower your risk, Dr. Fillit suggests establishing a bedtime routine, maintaining a regular sleep schedule and treating sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. It’s also a good idea not to exercise or eat within two to three hours before bedtime, as both can impair sleep.

Getting Too Much Sleep:

“It’s natural for sleep patterns to change as you age. For example, parents caring for a newborn baby might average three to four hours, while a 60-something who recently retired might be able to manage nine a night. In the same study of 7,500 women, the researchers found that sleeping more than eight hours a night increased risk of dementia by 35 percent. Using certain types of sleep aids to get enough sleep may also be a problem: ‘I often see patients with insomnia or other sleeping problems resolving their issues with medications,’ says Dr. Segil. ‘One type of sleeping pill often used is Benadryl, which is an antihistamine. These medications decrease the same chemicals in the brain that one family of Alzheimer’s medications is designed to increase.’ Talk with your doctor and make sure if you’re going to take sleeping pills other behavioral things have been tried like improving your sleep hygiene.”





Tuesday, April 23, 2019

“More than a Million Teachers Don’t Have Social Security” by Cory Turner




“Teachers have staged protests in recent weeks in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and Arizona. Some are fighting lawmakers who want to scale back their pensions. It's no secret that many states have badly underfunded their teacher pension plans for decades and now find themselves drowning in debt. But this pensions fight is also complicated by one little-known fact:

“More than a million teachers don't have Social Security to fall back on. To understand why, we need to go back to Aug. 14, 1935. That is when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the original Social Security Act. ‘This Social Security measure gives at least some protection to at least 50 million of our citizens,’ Roosevelt intoned.

“But of those 50 million citizens, one big group was left out: state and local workers. That was because of constitutional concerns over whether the federal government could tax state and local governments, says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. ‘So, in the 1950s,’ Munnell says, ‘there were amendments added to the Social Security Act that allowed governments to enroll their workers.’
And many did, leading the Social Security Administration to trumpet in one 1952 promotional film that ‘most American families are now able to ensure for themselves an income that is guaranteed for life.’ Most American families ... except for a lot of teachers, says Chad Aldeman, editor of TeacherPensions.org. ‘Fifteen states do not offer all of their teachers Social Security coverage,’ Aldeman says, ‘and that means about 40 percent of the workforce is not covered.’
“Forty percent of all teachers. That's more than a million educators, in Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas.
“Now, these teachers aren't benefit-less. The law requires that states that opt out of Social Security give teachers a pension that is at least as generous. ‘On the whole, teachers who don't get Social Security aren't necessarily disadvantaged if they work a full career and get a full pension,’ says Andrew Biggs, who studies retirement issues at the American Enterprise Institute.
But there are still risks, Biggs says. For one, many teachers don't spend a full career in the classroom, and some states' pension plans take a decade before teachers see any real benefit. ‘You know, in theory, you could work for 10 years as a schoolteacher, come out with very little on the pension end, but also not have earned any credits toward getting any Social Security benefits,’ Biggs says.
“In other words: 10 years of work with little retirement savings to show for it. There is another big risk for teachers who don't get Social Security — even the ones who spend a lifetime in the classroom. Many states that long ago opted out of Social Security have also underfunded their pension plans, badly. ‘We're kind of worried now,’ says Munnell of Boston College. ‘In some places, they're actually going to run out of money.’  
“Pension experts say this is a real conundrum in many places right now: how to fund pension systems that have been starved for decades without giving teachers a retirement plan that is not as secure as Social Security…” (Why More than a Million Teachers Can’t Use Social Security, NPR). 

Commentary:

Another injustice is the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset.  Click here for more information: WEP/GPO. 


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Robert Mueller's 448-Page Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election



"Attorney General William Barr delivered a redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress and posted the special counsel's findings online Thursday morning, April 18. The document's publication followed a Justice Department press conference that critics and Democratic lawmakers denounced as an effort to spin Mueller's findings and protect President Donald Trump" (Common Dreams).




Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Black Hole



“Scientists have obtained the first image of a black hole, using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87. The image shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun.”



Sunday, April 7, 2019

Suspected rhino poacher is killed by an elephant and then eaten by lions in South Africa (by Livvy Doherty)




(CNN) Only a skull and a pair of trousers remained after a suspected rhino poacher was killed by an elephant and then eaten by lions in Kruger National Park, South African National Parks said.
The incident happened after the man entered the park with four others to target rhinos, according to a parks service statement released Friday.

His family were notified of his death late Tuesday by his fellow poachers, and a search party led by Kruger's regional manager, Don English, set out to recover the body. Rangers scoured on foot and police flew over the area, but due to failing light, it could not be found.

The search resumed Thursday morning and, with the help of added field rangers, what was left of his body was discovered.

"Indications found at the scene suggested that a pride of lions had devoured the remains leaving only a human skull and a pair of pants," the statement said.

Glenn Phillips, the managing executive of Kruger National Park, extended his condolences to the man's family.

"Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that," he warned. "It is very sad to see the daughters of the deceased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains."

The four individuals who joined the illegal hunt were arrested Wednesday by the South African Police Service, and officers continue to investigate what happened.

The African rhino is targeted for its horn because of the belief among some who practice Eastern medicine that the horn has benefits as an aphrodisiac, making it more valuable than cocaine in parts of the world.

Of special concern is the black rhino, which is considered critically endangered after its population tumbled from about 65,000 to 1970 to 2,400 in 1995, according to Kruger National Park. 

Conservation efforts have since boosted their numbers, and the world's remaining 5,000 or so black rhinos live predominantly in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

In 2016, there were between 349 and 465 black rhinos living at Kruger and between 6,600 and 7,800 white rhinos, who also suffer from poaching, South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs said.

Kruger is considered an intensive protection zone, and the government employs a range of resources to deter poaching, including aircraft, dogs, special rangers and an environmental crime investigation unit.

Of the 680 poaching and trafficking arrests made in 2016 by South Africa Police Services, 417 were in and around Kruger, the department said. In September, the department announced that six men -- including two syndicate leaders, two police officers and a former police officer -- had been arrested for trafficking in rhino horns.