Health Buzz: Moderate Drinking Could Lower Dementia Risk

Preventing Alzheimer's disease: 7 risks to consider; a comeback plan to recuperate from heart surgery.

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Can Moderate Drinking Forestall Dementia?

Moderate drinking could help prevent dementia, according to a new analysis of previous studies. Researchers from Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago reviewed 143 studies involving more than 365,000 people from 19 countries. They found that moderate drinkers—i.e., one drink a day for women and two for men—were 23 percent less likely than nondrinkers and heavy drinkers to develop dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and other types of cognitive impairment. Though it's unclear why moderate drinking may be protective, the researchers speculate that alcohol toughens brain cells, and moderate amounts could suppress the inflammation that contributes to Alzheimer's, reports HealthDay. "We don't recommend that nondrinkers start drinking. But moderate drinking—if it is truly moderate—can be beneficial," said study author Edward J. Neafsey, a professor in the department of molecular pharmacology and therapeutics, in a news release.

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  • Preventing Alzheimer's Disease: 7 Risks to Consider

    Ask most folks to name their biggest fear about growing old and chances are they won't say gray hair and wrinkles, but the devastating loss of their mental capacity. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementias, striking as many as 5 million Americans., U.S. News reported in 2010. While the disease has genetic underpinnings, it's also associated with certain lifestyle factors including diet, exercise, and level of education. So what steps can you take to help prevent it?

    Some studies suggest that eating more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat may be the ticket. Others point to folic acid or fish oil supplements as beneficial. Still others have found that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol confers some protection. But an expert panel convened by the National Institutes of Health says there's not enough evidence from any of these studies to warrant making lifestyle changes to lower your risk of Alzheimer's.

    "The primary limitation with most of these studies is the distinction between association and causality," wrote the NIH experts in their "state of the science" paper published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine. For instance, people with a higher level of education have a lower risk of Alzheimer's, but that doesn't mean going to grad school will protect you. It could be that those individuals read more books and play more chess in their lifetime than other folks, which continually challenges their brains and has a disease-preventing effect. [Read more: Preventing Alzheimer's Disease: 7 Risks to Consider.]

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    • Recuperating From Heart Surgery: An 8-Step Comeback Plan

      Surgeon Marc Wallack was seven minutes into his run through Central Park in 2002 when he felt chest pain that he attributed to stress and indigestion. It happened again the next day, and again on a subsequent run. Finally, unable to ignore the telltale warning sign of heart problems, Wallack went to see a cardiologist and was told that all four of his coronary arteries were more than 95 percent blocked. He needed immediate open-heart surgery—a quadruple bypass—which he sailed through successfully from a physical standpoint, but psychologically left him feeling broken, U.S. News reported in 2010. "I woke up from the surgery and wasn't the same person," recalled Wallack, vice chair of the department of surgery at New York Medical College. His fears overwhelmed him. "I worried I was never going to operate again, pay my mortgage, support my family; every time I ate I could visualize the plaque going back on my arteries."

      And he fantasized about dying, a hallmark of depression, which afflicts one in five patients after heart surgery and one in three heart attack survivors. Wallack knew other colleagues in the same boat; one had to quit his medical practice as a result. And Wallack knew that his depression, if left untreated, would dramatically increase his likelihood of more heart complications. So he and his wife, Fox News anchor Jamie Colby, devised an 8-step comeback plan and detailed it in their book Back to Life After a Heart Crisis. Anyone who has been through heart surgery, Colby says, can benefit from trying the following.