Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Health News - September 2017

  1. One in three cases of dementia could be prevented if more people looked after their brain health throughout life
  2. Cancer - The Dangers of Alternative Medicine
  3. Vital Vitamin D

One in three cases of dementia could be prevented if more people looked after their brain health throughout life, according to an international study in the Lancet.

One in three cases of dementia could be prevented if more people looked after their brain health throughout life, according to an international study in the Lancet.

It lists nine key risk factors including lack of education, hearing loss, smoking and physical inactivity. The study was presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in London.

Nine factors that contribute to the risk of dementia

  • Mid-life hearing loss - responsible for 9% of the risk
  • Failing to complete secondary education - 8%
  • Smoking - 5%
  • Failing to seek early treatment for depression - 4%
  • Physical inactivity - 3%
  • Social isolation - 2%
  • High blood pressure - 2%
  • Obesity - 1%
  • Type 2 diabetes - 1%

These risk factors - which are described as potentially modifiable - add up to 35%. The other 65% of dementia risk is thought to be potentially non-modifiable.

Source: Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care

'Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before,' said lead author Prof Gill Livingston, from University College London.

'Acting now will vastly improve life for people with dementia and their families and, in doing so, will transform the future of society.'

The report, which combines the work of 24 international experts, says lifestyle factors can play a major role in increasing or reducing an individual's dementia risk.

Failure to complete secondary education was a major risk factor, and the authors suggest that individuals who continue to learn throughout life are likely to build additional brain reserves.

Another major risk factor is hearing loss in middle age - the researchers say this can deny people a cognitively rich environment and lead to social isolation and depression, which are among other potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia.

Another key message from the report is that what is good for the heart is good for the brain.

Positive changes

Not smoking, doing exercise, keeping a healthy weight, treating high blood pressure and diabetes can all reduce the risk of dementia, as well as cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

The researchers say they did not have enough data to include dietary factors or alcohol in their calculations but believe both could be important.

Dr Doug Brown, director of research at Alzheimer's Society, said: 'Though it's not inevitable, dementia is currently set to be the 21st Century's biggest killer. We all need to be aware of the risks and start making positive lifestyle changes.'

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'Alongside prevention research, we must continue to invest in research to find a life-changing treatment for people with this devastating condition.'

As I know from personal experience, this can be a devastating illness for both the patients and their family and friends. This research shows that we all have the ability to modify our lifestyles and build our defences against the risk of Alzheimer’s. Not to follow this simple advice is stupid.

Not giving our children the tools to do the same is criminal! Setting good examples of diet, exercise, moderate drinking, not smoking and encouraging mental activity are the keys to a longer, healthier life. You owe it to yourselves, but even more importantly, you owe to your children.

Cancer The Dangers of Alternative Medicine

Refusing conventional treatment can, for example, increase the risk of dying from breast cancer, by five times!

Few doctors today would object to the use of nutritional therapy, relaxation exercises, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi and other non-interventional treatments. But this is true so long as they are used as complementary therapies and not as alternatives to proven scientific methods.

However obvious the risks, measuring them is not easy. For one thing, patients aren’t always willing to talk about their choices, let alone admit that they have ignored their doctor’s advice. But, researchers at Yale have finally quantified one type of risk for cancer patients—the risk of premature death.

The researchers, led by Skyler Johnson, (Yale University & published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2017) focused on the four most prevalent types of cancer: breast, lung, colorectal, and prostate. The patients they found who had used alternatives were described as using: "other-unproven: cancer treatments administered by non-medical personnel."

Patients with breast cancer who chose to use alternative medicine were 5.7 times more likely to die within five years than their conventional counterparts. Those with colorectal cancer were 4.6 times more likely to die if they used alternative medicine. And those with lung cancer who opted for alternative medicine were 2.2 times more likely to die.

This study has some flaws due to lack of detailed information about the type of alternative therapies used. Also, some patients may well have returned to conventional treatment in the late stages of illness.

However, the researchers hope their work will raise awareness and help carers and families be alert to the risks of only using bogus treatments that do not cure cancer!

Most of the patients who rejected conventional treatment tended to be female, young, have high education and income, and have few complicating health conditions. So these were young women with everything to live for.

Sadly they had fallen for the dangerous words of celebs and charlatans, peddling fear of chemo and radio therapy as "poisonous" together with magic medicine, healing crystals, massive vitamin doses, psychic surgery, chelation therapy, iris diagnosis and even detox cures, fasting, vegan diets and "free from" everything.

There is no doubt in my mind that the best of complementary treatments can greatly help alongside orthodox medicine in the treatment of cancer. But, it is important that you tell your doctors what you are planning to do. The best outcomes arrive when we all work together.

Vital Vitamin D

As well as its vital role in bone health – you will not absorb enough calcium for strong bones without it – vitamin D has just been found to protect women against vaginal infections. After analysing thousands of my patient’s diets over the years, there were hardly any people who were getting even half of their daily needs. I, along with many experts believe that the advised intake for this vital vitamin is far too low anyway.

Vitamin D deficiency may play a vital role in osteopenia, a forerunner of osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, some types of cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases as well as heart and circulatory diseases. The latest research shows another surprising side effect of missing out of this essential nutrient; low vitamin D levels may increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis, a common infection of the vagina which can put pregnancies at risk.

In a study with 469 women participating in a pregnancy cohort study, Lisa Bodnar from the University of Pittsburgh, USA, studied nearly 500 pregnant women. She found those with below normal vitamin D had a 34 per cent increase in bacterial vaginosis compared to women with healthy vitamin D levels. This protective effect may be due to the vitamin’s strong influence on the immune system.

Bacterial vaginosis is a very common vaginal infection, affecting around 30 per cent of women between 14 and the menopause. Usually treated with antibiotics, probiotics may prevent the condition. Eating live yoghurt and applying some to the vagina has long been the preferred treatment for natural health practioners. There is also evidence that higher intakes may reduce the incidence of several types of cancer and type-1 diabetes.

We manufacture vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunshine, but in some northern countries it’s so weak during the winter that we can’t make any. Now, with all the scares about sun and skin cancer, many people use such high factor sun protection products that they make little, even in summer. Vitamin D rich foods like oily fish are essential; but for many, supplements may be the surest way to boost intakes of vitamin D.

A Nation Deficient

Nearly a third of Brits are deficient in vitamin D, due to a combination of grey weather, lack of skin exposure to the sun, overuse of sun screens, more time spent indoors and diets low in fresh foods containing vitamin D such as liver, red meat, oily fish and mushrooms.

These Research findings are from "The interfaces between vitamin D, sleep and pain" Journal of Endocrinology, 24 May 2017.

This new study shows Vitamin D3 is key. The body’s need for the well-known ‘sunshine vitamin’ vitamin D has been extensively researched and documented. And now new research1 confirms that vitamin D3 is actually better absorbed and utilised in the body than vitamin D2.

Vitamin D3 is also produced in the skin in the presence of sunlight, hence its name the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Researchers from the University of Surrey followed 335 South Asian and white European women over two consecutive winters and found that eating foods containing vitamin D3 was twice as effective at raising blood levels of this important vitamin as foods containing vitamin D2.

One of the reasons for this is that Vitamin D3 is turned into its most active form within the liver. Vitamin D is essential for human health and helps to build healthy bones and teeth, specifically reducing the risk of rickets in children, and osteoporosis in older people. However, it does not work in isolation.

Vitamin D’s principal role is in supporting levels of the mineral calcium within the body, and these two nutrients are inseparable. Studies show that in combination adequate vitamin D increases absorption of calcium by 30-40% compared to only 10-15% absorption without sufficient vitamin D.

Read Michaels advice about getting more vitamin D here: http://www.michaelvanstraten.com/factsheets/vital_vitamind.pdf

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