Does Pain Increase the Incidence of Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Stroke?

Medical News Today’s recent article entitled “Does chronic pain raise the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or stroke?” reports that the study looked at data from 2,464 participants of the Framingham Offspring Study Cohort, who underwent examination by health practitioners between 1990 and 1994.

A study at Chongqing Medical University in China found patients who reported widespread pain had an increased incidence of dementia and stroke. Researchers Dr. Kanran Wang and Dr. Hong Liu found this increased risk to be independent of factors, such as age, health, or sociodemographic factors.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems defines widespread chronic pain as pain in at least four of five body regions. It’s a common symptom of fibromyalgia.

Previous research found that those who report experiencing widespread pain have an increased risk of a cardiovascular cause of death, as well as an increased incidence of cancer and reduced cancer survival. However, the researchers think this is the first study to use a detailed review of medical records and autopsies to consider whether there’s an association between widespread pain, dementia and stroke.

For the study, the researchers looked data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS). This is a large cohort study that began in 1948, with 5,209 white men and women between the ages of 30 and 62 years from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. The original purpose of the study was to understand heart disease better. It’s now studying its third generation of participants. The FHS encompasses more than 15,000 participants. The Chongqing Medical University researchers examined about 2,464 participants between 1990 and 1994.

The participants also underwent laboratory tests and completed a questionnaire to see if they experienced pain. Of the participants, 347 reported experiencing widespread pain. The researchers found that these participants experienced:

  • a 43% higher risk for all-cause dementia
  • a 47% higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease; and
  • a 29% higher risk of stroke.

The researchers gave three hypotheses for why individuals experiencing widespread pain might have an increased risk of developing dementia or having a stroke: (i) it could relate to lifestyle factors associated with experiencing chronic pain; (ii) widespread pain could directly compete for resources in the brain that handle cognitive processing; and (iii) widespread pain could be a preclinical phase of all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, the observational nature of the study prevents the researchers from establishing the underlying mechanisms behind the increase in risk. They also said that with small numbers of stroke and dementia, the relationship is likely to be due to more than one factor.

Reference: Medical News Today (Aug. 23, 2021) “Does chronic pain raise the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or stroke?”


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Is Assisted Living or Memory Care a Better Choice?

Forbes’ recent article entitled “Assisted Living vs. Memory Care: Which Is Right for You?” explains that assisted living is a long-term care facility that lets seniors remain independent, while providing help with daily tasks. It often provides a small apartment, housekeeping, community meals and activities.

It’s critical to thoroughly review the support needs and challenges facing the person you’re supporting and to try to look honestly at what’s working and what’s not.

The best candidate for assisted living is a person who needs assistance with their activities of daily living but still has their reasoning skills intact. Residents can enjoy socialization and activities with people their own age. This helps with isolation after spouses and friends are no longer with them.

Assisted living residents frequently require personal care support. However, these seniors are able to communicate their needs. Residents may receive help with taking medicine, bathing, toileting and other activities of daily living, or ADLs.

Memory care facilities are secured facilities that serve the needs of those with some form of dementia. These facilities typically have smaller bedrooms but more available, open and inviting common spaces. Research shows the way memory care facilities are designed can be helpful in easing the stressful transition from home to a long-term care community. This includes softer colors, a lack of clutter and clear signage.

Confusion and memory loss can cause anxiety. That’s why having a predictable routine can help. As dementia progresses, a patient may forget how to do normal activities of daily living, such as brushing their teeth, eating, showering and dressing. Memory care facilities ensure that these needs are met.

A memory care facility typically has a smaller staff-to-patient ratio because an individual suffering from dementia has greater care needs. Staff will frequently undergo additional training in dementia care.

A memory care facility isn’t always a standalone community. Assisted living or skilled nursing homes may have a separate memory care wing where seniors get the same socialization and activities but with 24/7 protection.

If possible, having both options in one facility can be a plus because the person can start in a less restrictive type of setting in assisted living with the option to transition to memory care as needs, abilities and interests are changed by the condition.

Both types of care have some autonomy but help with hygiene and medication management. However, staff in a memory care unit is specifically trained to work with people with cognitive impairments.

Reference: Forbes (Aug. 16, 2021) “Assisted Living vs. Memory Care: Which Is Right for You?”


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What Hobbies Add Years to Your Life?

Research shows that some hobbies have such a powerful impact on your well-being that they can add years — or even decades — to your life! Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer” gives us a few hobbies that science says may increase your lifespan.

  1. Reading. Stress is a big source of health problems that shorten lives. Try picking up a book and escaping into another world. This can decrease your stress levels by 68%, according to a study out of the University of Sussex. It only takes a few minutes for reading to start working its magic. That’s because the human mind has to concentrate on reading. This distraction eases the tensions in muscles and the heart.
  2. Gardening. A number of studies show that the physical activity of gardening — combined with being in a lush, green atmosphere — can enhance and extend life. People in their 60s with green thumbs decrease their risk of developing dementia by 36%, according to research from Australia.
  3. Cooking. Restaurant and processed foods are no good for your health. They can contribute to life-shortening illnesses, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, people who make meals from scratch are much more apt to eat a healthier diet. The more often you cook at home each week, the higher you’ll tend to score on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Eating Index. University of Washington researchers say: “Home-cooked dinners were associated with greater dietary guideline compliance, without significant increase in food expenditures. By contrast, frequent eating out was associated with higher expenditures and lower compliance.”
  4. Listening to music. Research shows that regularly attending concerts can add years to your life. One study found just 20 minutes of listening can increase your sense of well-being by up to 21%. In particular, concert attendance increases:
  • Feelings of self-worth by 25%
  • Feelings of closeness to others by 25%; and
  • Mental stimulation by 75%.

The study concluded that such positive feelings could increase your lifespan by up to nine years. According to Fagan, “Our research showcases the profound impact gigs have on feelings of health, happiness and well-being — with regular attendance being the key.”

  1. Volunteering. Helping others is another great hobby to extend your life, but only if your motives are pure. A study published in the journal Health Psychology found that volunteering extends life, but with a strange caveat, according to the American Psychological Association:

“Volunteers lived longer than people who didn’t volunteer, if they reported altruistic values or a desire for social connections as the main reasons for wanting to volunteer, according to the study. People who said they volunteered for their own personal satisfaction had the same mortality rate four years later as people who did not volunteer at all, according to the study.”

Researchers think that proper motivation is key to getting the most out of volunteering because it buffers volunteers from stressors, like impingement on the volunteer’s time and lack of pay, which are part of doing good works.

  1. Walking. This hobby can have a profound impact on your health, and those who take brisk walks might live up to 20 years longer than couch potatoes, according to a Mayo Clinic study. Again, it’s brisk walking — at least three miles per hour or 100 steps a minute — is required to get the life-extending benefits.
  2. Owning a pet. A lot of research has found that pet owners enjoy many health benefits from being around their furry friends. For example, a meta-analysis of studies published between 1950 and 2019 found that dog owners had a 24% risk reduction for death from any cause. The benefit is even more pronounced for seniors with existing heart problems. The study authors believe walking a dog — and getting a little extra exercise — may play a big role in these improved health outcomes. Another study in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology found that people who own cats have a reduced risk of death from heart attack or stroke.

Reference: Money Talks News (Aug. 20, 2021) “7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer”


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