What the sci­en­tists are say­ing…

The Week - - News -

Blood pres­sure and de­men­tia Peo­ple aged 50 with only mod­er­ately raised blood pres­sure still have a sig­nif­i­cantly higher chance of de­vel­op­ing de­men­tia, a new study has found. The link be­tween hy­per­ten­sion – de­fined in the UK as a read­ing of 140/90 mmhg or more – and de­men­tia is well es­tab­lished, but this is the first ev­i­dence to sug­gest that more mod­est spikes in­crease the risk. Draw­ing on a co­hort study of 10,000 Bri­tish civil ser­vants who were sub­jected to a range of health tests in the mid-1980s and fol­lowed up over sub­se­quent decades, re­searchers found that a sys­tolic blood pres­sure read­ing of just 130 mmhg at the age of 50 was associated with a 45% greater risk of de­vel­op­ing de­men­tia. The find­ings, which were re­ported in the Euro­pean Heart Jour­nal, add weight to the ar­gu­ment that the level at which hy­per­ten­sion is di­ag­nosed should be re­duced from 140 mmhg to 130 mmhg – a change that Amer­ica made last year. How­ever, many ex­perts op­pose the move (which would lead to about 14% more adults in the UK be­ing di­ag­nosed with hy­per­ten­sion) cit­ing – among other things – ev­i­dence that just be­ing di­ag­nosed with high blood pres­sure raises peo­ple’s risk of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

A metal “seed” to kill tu­mours Hard-to-ac­cess tu­mours – such as those in the brain – could be erad­i­cated by us­ing a tiny metal “seed” to heat them up, re­ports The Daily Tele­graph. For the ther­apy, de­vel­oped at Univer­sity Col­lege London, pa­tients have the mag­netic seed in­jected into their blood­stream. In an MRI scan­ner, doc­tors lo­cate the tu­mour, guide – with max­i­mum pre­ci­sion – the seed to the sight of the can­cer, then use the scan­ner’s ra­dio waves to heat it up to the point where it de­stroys the sur­round­ing can­cer cells. So far, the tech­nique has ef­fec­tively treated brain tu­mours in pigs and the team hope to trial it on hu­mans within two years. As well as killing fewer healthy cells than other treat­ments, the ther­apy is ex­tremely quick. “We can get through a tu­mour in ten min­utes,” said Pro­fes­sor Mark Lyth­goe, launch­ing the tech­nol­ogy at the Chel­tenham Sci­ence Fes­ti­val.

Our IQ lev­els are grad­u­ally fall­ing Younger peo­ple to­day are not as clever as pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, if IQ tests are an ac­cu­rate gauge of in­tel­li­gence. Sci­en­tists in Nor­way an­a­lysed scores achieved by 730,000 young men, born be­tween 1962 and 1991, who did IQ tests as part of their na­tional ser­vice. They found that for many years, the IQ lev­els of en­trants rose, by about 0.3 points a year on av­er­age. This is con­sis­tent with the Flynn ef­fect, the steady rise of IQ scores, by about three points a decade, ob­served across the de­vel­oped world in the 20th cen­tury, a phe­nom­e­non put down to mas­sive im­prove­ments in ed­u­ca­tion, diet and health­care over that pe­riod. How­ever, IQ lev­els peaked among the co­hort born in 1975, and then be­gan to fall, at a rate equiv­a­lent to seven points per gen­er­a­tion. The re­searchers spec­u­late that changes to teach­ing meth­ods and the shift to screen-based en­ter­tain­ment could be re­spon­si­ble for the change.

A closer look at my­opia There’s a down­side to be­ing highly ed­u­cated: it can make you short-sighted. Sci­en­tists have long known that my­opia is more com­mon among those who spend longer in ed­u­ca­tion, but they weren’t sure whether book­ish­ness was a causal risk fac­tor for short-sight­ed­ness – or vice versa. Now re­searchers at Bris­tol and Cardiff uni­ver­si­ties have used a form of anal­y­sis known as Men­delian ran­domi­sa­tion to find the an­swer. Draw­ing on ear­lier re­search, the team iden­ti­fied ge­netic vari­ants associated with be­ing short­sighted and with spend­ing longer in ed­u­ca­tion. They then cross-checked them against data held on 68,000 adults in the UK Biobank. Their anal­y­sis re­vealed that while those with a ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion to spend longer in ed­u­ca­tion were more likely to be my­opic, the re­verse was not true: there was lit­tle ev­i­dence that peo­ple pre­dis­posed to be short-sighted spend longer in ed­u­ca­tion. The re­searchers thus con­clude that ed­u­ca­tion leads to my­opia, prob­a­bly be­cause peo­ple who spend a long time in the class­room tend to spend less time out­doors, in nat­u­ral light. Lev­els of my­opia are ris­ing glob­ally, and have reached epi­demic lev­els in coun­tries like South Korea and China, where up to 90% of school leavers are now short-sighted.

Can ed­u­ca­tion lead to my­opia?

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