Physical exercise sharpens the older mind as well as the body
EXERCISE may be just as good for the mind as it is for the body. A new study in the Cochrane Library has found that aerobic exercise not only improves cardiovascular fitness but can also increase thinking speed and concentration in older people. Researchers combined the results of 11 studies examining the effects of physical exercise in healthy people over 55. In each study participants were randomly divided into two groups: one completed an aerobic exercise program three times a week for between eight and 26 weeks, and the control group participated in another type of program (strength/balance training or social activities) or no program. In all the studies, participants in the aerobic group performed better on at least one test of brain function compared to the control group. The greatest improvements were seen in manual dexterity, listening skills and memory. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008; doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005381.pub2 (Angevaren M, et al) OLDER men taking drugs known as ‘‘ loop diuretics’’ for high blood pressure and heart failure may be at risk of bone loss and fractures, according to new research in the ArchivesofInternalMedicine . These drugs increase the amount of calcium excreted in urine, which could eventually damage bones. The study involved 3269 men aged 65 and older. At an initial examination, they were surveyed about their use of medications and their hip bone density was measured. An average of 4.6 years later, the men were surveyed again and repeat bone density measurements were taken. A total of 84 men used loop diuretics continuously during the study, 181 used them intermittently and 3004 did not use them at all. Compared to the rate of hip bone loss in non-users, the rate of loss in intermittent users was two-fold higher and in continuous users was 2.5-fold higher. Doctors should take loop diuretic use into account, say the authors, when determining an older man’s risk of bone loss and fractures. ArchInternMed 2008;168:735-740 (Lim LS, et al) CONSTANT coughing can keep kids and parents awake all night, but new Australian research in the Cochrane Library shows that anti-histamines are not the answer for coughing children. If an adult has a chronic cough, an anti-histamine such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) will often do the trick. Led by Anne Chang from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, researchers combined the results of five studies involving 955 children aged six months to 17 years. In contrast to adults, they found that the possible side effects of antihistamines in children far outweighed any benefits. One study showed an improvement in cough symptoms with anti-histamine treatment, but only when the cough was caused by pollen allergy. Given that the side effects of anti-histamines in children can include stomach upset, breathing difficulties and heart problems, say the authors, children’s coughs may be better treated by a doctor with a ‘‘ cautious, wait-see-and-review’’ approach. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008; doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005604.pub3 (Chang AB, et al) HIGH blood levels of a compound called urate may be associated with a slower progression of Parkinson’s disease, concludes a study in the ArchivesofNeurology this week. Urate is a powerful antioxidant, which could protect against the loss of brain cells that occurs in Parkinson’s disease. Researchers studied 804 patients with early symptoms of the disease, measuring their blood urate levels and assessing their disease symptoms every few months for two years. Overall, 493 patients (61 per cent) had severe symptoms requiring treatment by the end of the study. Patients with the highest levels of urate (6.7 milligrams per deciliter or higher) were half as likely to require treatment as those with the lowest levels (less than 4.3 milligrams per deciliter). Targeting urate levels may be a promising approach for future Parkinson’s treatments, say the authors. ArchNeurol 2008;doi:10.1001/ archneur.2008.65.6.nct70003 (Schwarzschild MA, et al) SYMPTOMS of Alzheimer’s disease, including reduced brain function and behavioural problems, could be treated using an extract from Chinese club moss called Huperzine A. The club moss has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to treat inflammation and fever. In the latest issue of the Cochrane Library, researchers examined six small trials of the moss extract involving a total of 454 Alzheimer’s patients. Each of the trials compared the effects of Huperzine A with those of an inactive placebo. Both six weeks and 12 weeks of treatment with Huperzine A were found to significantly improve overall brain function and behaviour in Alzheimer’s patients. Only mild side effects were reported, and there was no difference in side effects between the extract and placebo. Much larger trials are now needed, say the authors, to prove the effectiveness of Huperzine A in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008; doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005592.pub2 (Li J, et al) Want to know more? Items are referenced where possible. A reference such as ‘‘ 2007;35:18-25’’ means the source article was published on pages 18-25 in volume number 35 of the publication, in 2007. A doi number or website address is used for research published on a journal’s website.