Archive for July, 2014

Ötzi the Iceman, a well-preserved mummy discovered in the Alps, may have had a genetic predisposition to heart disease, new research suggests.

The new finding may explain why the man — who lived 5,300 years ago, stayed active and certainly didn’t smoke or wolf down processed food in front of the TV — nevertheless had hardened arteries when he was felled by an arrow and bled to death on an alpine glacier.

“We were very surprised that he had a very strong disposition forcardiovascular disease,” said study co-author Albert Zink, a paleopathologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano in Italy. “We didn’t expect that people who lived so long ago already had the genetic setup for getting such kinds of diseases.”

Iceman scrutiny

Otzi was discovered in 1991, when two hikers stumbled upon the well-preserved mummy in the Ötztal Alps, near the border between Austria and Italy. Since then, every detail of the iceman has been scrutinized, from his last meal and moments (Ötzi was bashed on the head before being pierced by the deadly arrow blow), to where he grew up, to his fashion sense. [Top 9 Secrets About Ötzi the Iceman]

Past research has revealed that Ötzi likely suffered from joint pain, Lyme disease and tooth decay, and computed tomography (CT) scanning revealed calcium buildups, a sign of atherosclerosis, in his arteries.

Initially, the atherosclerosis was a bit of a surprise, because much research has linked heart disease to the couch-potato lifestyle and calorie-rich foods of the modern world, Zink said. But in recent research, as scientists conducted CT scans on mummies from the Aleutian Islands to ancient Egypt, they realized that heart disease and atherosclerosis were prevalent throughout antiquity, in people who had dramatically different diets and lifestyles, he said.

“It really looks like the disease was already frequent in ancient times, so it’s not a pure civilizational disease,” Zink told Live Science.

Heart troubles

Scientists recently took a small sample of Ötzi’s hipbone and sequenced the Neolithic agriculturalist’s entire genome, to see where he fell on Europe’s family tree. As part of that research, they found that the iceman had 19 living relatives in Europe.

In the new study, Zink and his colleagues found that Ötzi had several gene variants associated with cardiovascular disease, including one on the ninth chromosome that is strongly tied to heart troubles, the researchers reported today (July 30) in the journal Global Heart.

Despite spending years hiking in hilly terrain, it seems Ötzi couldn’t walk off his genetic predisposition to heart disease.

“He didn’t smoke; he was very active; he walked a lot; he was not obese,” Zink said. “But nevertheless, he already developed some atherosclerosis.”

The findings suggest that genetics play a stronger role in heart disease than previously thought, he said.

To follow up, the team would like to compare the genetic makeup of other mummies with the state of their arteries, to tease out just how much of a role genetics play in heart disease, Zink said. It would also be interesting to see whether ancient mummies exhibit signs of inflammation, the body’s response to infection or damage, that has been tied to heart attacks, he added.



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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Among older adults with dementia, those who are also depressed tend to have more rapid cognitive decline, according to a new study.

“Many studies have found that older people with some depression are more likely to develop cognitive decline or dementia,” Robert S. Wilson said.

But there has been disagreement over whether depression actually contributes to cognitive decline or whether both are the result of other underlying problems, he told Reuters Health.

Wilson worked on the study at the Rush Alzheimer’s DiseaseCenter in Chicago.

He and his coauthors analyzed data on 1,700 people over age 50 who initially had no cognitive problems and were followed for an average of eight years. Each year doctors evaluated participants’ depression symptoms and tested their thinking and memory skills.

About half of the original group developed mild cognitive impairment, which often comes before dementia, and 18 percent were diagnosed with dementia.

Participants who had more depression symptoms on their initial exams were more likely to experience cognitive decline.

Depression symptoms were also linked to dementia and to more rapid decline after a dementia diagnosis, according to results published in Neurology.

Almost 600 of the participants died during the study and their brains were examined postmortem.

Among those participants, depression was still associated with faster mental decline when amyloid plaques – considered the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease – and other neuropathological problems found on autopsy were taken into account.

“Late life dementia is a very complex disorder and there are many factors that contribute to it, and depression is one of those factors,” Wilson said.

Depression accounted for five percent of the variability in mental decline that couldn’t be attributed to other problems with the brain, he said.

Depression symptoms did not increase once cognitive decline started, and actually decreased once dementia was diagnosed. Depression itself is an organized process of the brain, and as brain function declines it is common for people to experience periods of unhappiness but it is rare that those periods are consistent, Wilson said.

Dr. Amos D. Korczyn, professor emeritus of neurology at TelAvivUniversity in Israel, called the study an “important contribution” to scientists’ understanding of how cognitive decline, depression and changes in the brain may be linked.

“Obviously as the authors note, more work needs to be done to better understand the relationship of depression to dementia which is so important when trying to modify the disease course,” he told Reuters Health in an email.

Depression symptoms are common among people with dementia, especially early on in the disease, he said.

It’s still unclear exactly how depression might lead to cognitive decline and dementia, Wilson said.

“Depression is probably doing something to your brain if it’s affecting cognition,” Wilson said. “We think in the meantime there ought to be thought given to the importance of treating depression for these people.”

Treating depression with medication or behavioral therapy might enhance mental function among people with cognitive decline or dementia, he said.

There isn’t much scientific evidence that antidepressants are effective for people with dementia but most doctors prescribe them and the impression is that they provide some relief, Korczyn said.

“People with depression, as well as those who are demented, frequently tend to avoid exposure to others, even to friends and this may exacerbate the depression,” Korczyn added. “They should be encouraged to be socially integrated.”

Caregivers often become depressed as well, and as they are usually spouses, are neither young nor necessarily healthy themselves, he noted. They should be offered help and moral support as well.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/NwhhyY Neurology, online July 30, 2014.

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A big merger in the dollar-store space is expected to put growing pressure on retailers in Canada, including on grocery and other stores that sell food.

While many Canadians don’t associate dollar stores with groceries, experts say that could change as more general retailers try to lure consumers with snacks and other packaged food items.

Virginia-based Dollar Tree said this week it’s buying North Carolina-based Family Dollar Stores Inc.to become North America’s largest discount retailer with 13,000 locations, offering everything from stationary and cleaning supplies to soup and snacks.

There are no Family Dollar stores in Canada, but Dollar Tree operates more than 200 stores, after buying 85 Dollar Giant Stores Ltd. in 2010, and reportedly has plans to grow to about 1,000 locations.

Dollar Tree CEO Bob Sasser also said this week he thinks the Canadian customer “would respond very well to the Family Dollar brand.”

Dollar Tree sells a mix of consumables, while Family Dollar stores mainly sell lower-margin food and household products, noted Reuters.

Experts say Dollar Tree could use its increased North American scale to better compete, which includes offering more food choices.

“There is an opportunity for them to strategically think about what they are doing around food,” says David Ian Gray, a retail consultant and founder of Vancouver-based DIG360.

For example, Dollar Tree could open up more space on its shelves for food items, and add more brand names. It could also spruce up its own brand, but without straying too far from the discount image that draws consumers.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Irene Nattel said the Dollar Tree’s deal should increase its buying power, but noted that operating costs are higher in Canada. “Dollar Tree stores in Canada offer all items except confectionery at $1.25,” she wrote in a note.

Hot grocery market

Grocery retail is becoming increasingly competitive in Canada due to added offerings from giant retailers such as Walmart Canada, Target and Amazon.ca.

Those are tough competitors, but experts believe Dollar Tree could still benefit from expanding its offerings.

“Dollar Tree Canada could feature food and roll the dice and try to get ahead on that basis. Canadian consumers tend to go shopping with their wallets — they are always up for a deal,” Ed Strapagiel, a Toronto-based retail consultant, told the Financial Post.

The categories Dollar Store would find most challenging are fresh and frozen food, and won’t likely try to compete there, says Gray of DIG360.

“The challenge for the Dollar Store is they don’t want to be sitting with a lot of inventory,” says Gray. “They want to be selective in terms of what they are putting out there.”

Dollar Tree’s Canadian presence is much smaller than rival Dollarama, the country’s largest dollar-store chain with 900 locations.

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Talk about scary: Though rare, early-onset Alzheimer’s can begin as early as your ’30s and ’40s. And this can include everything from forgetting things that are important or getting lost in a familiar place to having difficulty managing money, according to Richard B. Lipton, M.D., a neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

But if you occasionally forget your wedding anniversary, don’t freak out. Only 5% of Alzheimer’s cases — about five million Americans over age 65 have the disease according to the National Institute on Aging — are early-onset and they’re usually genetic. Even better: Research has also found that adopting healthy habits now may significantly reduce your risk for developing it later. Here are a few recommended steps you can take:

1. Ditch the junk food. 
Clear out the junk and stock up on more whole foods. Dr. Lipton suggests following a Mediterranean-style diet full of fish, fruits, and vegetables loaded with antioxidants, whole grains, and olive oil. He also advises taking a daily dose of 1,000 milligrams of vitamin D3.

2. Get moving. 
You should probably dust your sneakers off. Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Longevity Center, says the vast amount of research has come to the same conclusion: Exercise can protect your brain. In his book, The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program, he cites a study that included an additional finding. A 2010 report from the ongoing Framingham Longitudinal Study found that daily brisk walks led to a 40% lower chance of getting Alzheimer’s. Don’t love walking? Find something you do like and get your heart rate up regularly.

3. Take care of your heart. 
High blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which can destroy your arteries and cause heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, have been linked to Alzheimer’s. In a postmortem study of Alzheimer’s patients, 80% of those patients examined had cardiovascular disease, according to Alzheimer’s Association.

4. Maintain a healthy weight. 
If you’re eating well and exercising regularly, this should be attainable, and it’s an important goal to set. Being overweight doubles your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, says Dr. Small. Being obese quadruples it. And here’s the double-whammy: Being overweight ups your odds for type 2 diabetes. That, in turn, doubles your chances of getting Alzheimer’s, Dr. Small says. Stack the deck in your favor and aim for an average weight.

5. Play brain games. 
These are great because they stimulate your memory centers to keep your brain sharp. “Use it or lose it,” says neuropsychologist Thomas Harding Psy.D., author of You Can Prevent Alzheimer’s! The further you get from high school and college, the less often you use that part of your brain, according to Dr. Harding. So, you have to make brain games part of your routine. “Research has yet to determine how much and how often is optimal, but like anything else you are good at, the more often you do it, the better you are at it.”

If you don’t want to play online brain games (we really like Memory Matrix, Word Bubbles, and Speed Match), Dr. Lipton suggests some low-tech options: crossword puzzles, chess, writing for pleasure, or even having a lively discussion. Whatever engages you, just have fun!



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Take a look at your yard — the grass can always be greener.

If you’re like many homeowners, you pay more attention to the interior of your house than to your garden. But consider this: More people see (and judge) your landscaping.

Fortunately, sprucing up the yard or porch is cheaper than redoing the kitchen or bathroom. We’ve compiled a list of eight cheap landscaping ideas.

1. Contain your plants. Add pizazz to your front porch with container plants. This simple trick instantly makes your home more welcoming. Containers and plants should be different in type and size and placed on varying levels. Stick with the cheap landscaping theme by repurposing metal tubs, buckets, and pails as planters.

2. Stock up. Gardening isn’t much different from shopping at Costco. The more plants you buy, the lower the per item cost. For example, at an online nursery a bag of 100 tulip bulbs goes for about $60, or 60 cents a piece, compared with $20 for 25 bulbs, or 80 cents a piece.

3. Grow spring/summer annuals and perennials from seeds. Seasonal plants liven up a landscape. The seeds of alyssum, celosia, cosmos, hyacinth bean, impatiens, marigold, morning glory, nasturtium, sunflower, and zinnia germinate and mature quickly, and grow equally well indoors or out. If you don’t want to start from scratch, flats of annuals are good for landscaping on the cheap. Many perennials, such as black-eyed Susans, blanket flower (gaillardia), columbine, and coneflower (echinacea) are (nearly) effortless to grow and relatively inexpensive.

4. Practice native gardening. What plants are native to your region? It pays to find out because a garden filled with native plants offers financial benefits. Native plants don’t need much attention, so you can save on fertilizer, pesticides, and water. Native gardening is an easily doable and effective way to landscape on the cheap.

5. Tend to trees and shrubs. Clean up branches, leaves, petals, or fruit that may have fallen onto the lawn. Pruning deciduous trees and shrubs is an essential component of garden maintenance. Failure to tidy up your yard may be seen as a sign of neglect and is the ultimate cheap landscaping idea.

6. Apply mulch. Apply a fresh layer of mulch to all garden beds for an instant transformation. The dark mulch adds a nice contrast to the surrounding plant life and helps the ground retain moisture while keeping weeds at bay. And, mulch is relatively cheap, especially when buying in bulk.

7. Beautify your lawn. Is your lawn an unflattering brown and/or filled with weeds? It might be worth installing new sod. This requires removing the old lawn, laying new sod, and keeping it well hydrated for several weeks.

8. Fill in your side yards. The strips of land on either side of a home are hard to make aesthetically appealing. One low-maintenance and cheap landscaping idea calls for filling these areas with pea gravel or sand and topping them off with a decorative arrangement of stones or bricks.

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As a 24-year-old single mom, I had a young son in need of life-saving surgery and only $6 in my wallet. But I also had three other powerful motivators: hope, a love of tea, and a dream to sharebeautiful, aromatic, organic teas with the world. Now, 13 years later, my son is healthy and Zhena’s Gypsy Tea is a thriving, purpose-driven, fair-trade, multimillion-dollar brand.


Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world next to water, but in the U.S., it’s the sixth-after water, coffee, and several brands of soda. If we drank more tea, we’d be thinner, smarter, and healthier-no kidding!

Tea has been proven to help burn fat, increase clarity and focus, and help our bodies fight free radicals-the very things that age us and cause disease. But, teas’ virtues extend far beyond the cup. Here are five unusual uses to make you reconsider throwing that tea bag away.

Tea reduces under-eye puffiness. Black tea bags to reduce bags? Yes! Simply put your breakfast tea bags in a sealed container in the fridge after you use them. I use a mason jar to store mine. Apply the cold tea bags to your eyes for 5-7 minutes. The antioxidants help reduce wrinkles while the caffeine reduces puffiness-this is my favorite trick before a TV appearance or video shoot, and it helps if you love sushi or anything salty which leads to puffier eyes.

Tea soothes sunburn. Brew green or black tea and allow to cool. Once cool, pour it into a spray bottle and use on skin after a day at the beach. The cooling effect of the tea, along with the antioxidants helps to reduce the length and severity of overexposure to sun.

Tea gives you shiny hair. Tea makes a fabulous hair rinse, adding shine and luster to freshly washed hair. For blondes, use chamomile. Brunettes, use black tea. Redheads, use Rooibos. Just steep tea in a pitcher, allow to cool, then rinse freshly conditioned hair.

Tea makes baking better. When baking, you can use tea to enhance and add depth to a recipe. Simmer any butter or oil in a recipe with tea for five minutes, and strain. Use the tea-infused butter in cakes, cookies, even ice cream-you’ll not only add delicious flavor, but added antioxidants.

Tea-infused cocktails. The night before you throw a summer party, you can steep your favorite tea overnight in vodka. The next day, make your favorite cocktails with it. I love to steep green tea in organic vodka and make skinny cosmos with it. Mint tea steeped in rum for mojitos adds a phenomenal complexity as well.

Not only is tea unexpectedly useful and uber-healthy, but it can also make a positive impact on peoples’ lives around the world. When choosing your tea, look for organic and fair trade-certified options, as these choices help end poverty for tea workers, and also ensure that no pesticides end up in your cup. Here’s to your health and happiness as you traverse your very own life by the cup!



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