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Health news: Early diabetes damage linked to Alzheimer's

early diabetes damage linked to alzheimer's

If you think you don't need to worry about diabetes until you get a diagnosis, think again. A new study finds that diabetes' destructive impact on blood vessels supplying the brain may begin long before the disease can be detected, just when the body begins having trouble regulating blood sugar. That damage may increase the risk of getting Alzheimer's disease and may speed dementia once it strikes. "Right now we can't do much about the Alzheimer's disease pathology," those sticky plaques that clog patients' brains, says Dr. Yaakov Stern, an Alzheimer's specialist at Columbia University Medical Center. But, "if you could control these vascular conditions, you might slow the course of the disease." More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, and cases are projected to skyrocket as the population ages. Yet to be revealed: how much the obesity-fueled epidemic of Type 2 diabetes may worsen that toll. Dr. Ralph Nixon, vice chairman of the Alzheimer's Association's scientific advisory council, cautioned that genetics still is the main factor for developing the disease, "and certainly many people with Alzheimer's don't have diabetes." But the latest research has scientists asking if diabetes and its related "metabolic syndrome" increase risk solely by spurring brain changes that underlie Alzheimer's — or if they add injury to an already struggling brain, what Nixon calls "a two-hit situation."

Blacks' stroke risk starts young

Scientists long have known that blacks are particularly at risk for stroke, and a new study from the University of South Florida shows the trend starts in young adulthood. The study of 16,000 Florida stroke patients ages 25-49 found black young adults are hospitalized for stroke at a rate three times higher than their white and Hispanic peers. Dr. Michael Sloan, professor of neurology and director of the USF Stroke Program at Tampa General Hospital, fears it could get worse. "If people stop taking their blood pressure pills and other medications because they can no longer afford it, they may have a stroke or heart attack,'' he said. The study appears in the online version of the international journal Neuroepidemiology in advance of the April issue.

What's your risk for heart disease?

Heart disease kills more women in the United States than any other cause. Find out your risk for free at the National Women's Heart Health Fair on Friday in Tampa. There will be free screenings for cholesterol, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, body mass index and family health history, with counseling to help you understand your results and find out what to do next. The event, sponsored by Tampa General Hospital and the Sister to Sister foundation, is from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St. For more information, go to www.sistertosister.org or call the Tampa campaign office at (813) 353-8110.

Compiled from Times staff and wire reports

Health news: Early diabetes damage linked to Alzheimer's 03/18/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 6:51pm]

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