The surprising connection between “senior moments” and SALT! – Issue 67

Dear Health-Conscious Friend,

Forgetting things can be so frustrating! It can make you spend precious time searching for a lost wallet or keys… or cause embarrassment when you can’t remember someone’s name… or have you driving in circles to find a destination!

The good news is—scientists may have identified a surprising cause for memory lapses. It may provide a simple solution to help recharge your tired brain cells.

Find out what the investigators uncovered in today’s Monday Edition of Health News Weekly™!

Memory Problems May Indicate
Low Sodium Levels

Layne Lowery

Scientific research shows that every day nearly 76 percent of Americans suffer from “senior moments”—including memory lapses and decreased alertness!

If you’ve experienced such forgetfulness and foggy thinking, you could be suffering from low sodium levels in your blood—a condition common in older adults.

Both water and sodium are critical to how well your body functions. When you’re healthy, your body naturally controls its sodium and water levels.

But your sodium level naturally drops as you age—which can result in conditions ranging from headaches to seizures.

When the level of sodium in your blood drops too low, you can develop a condition called hyponatremia, or low blood sodium.

According to Mayo Clinic geriatrician Paul Takahashi, M.D., this imbalance can be linked to age-related problems with metabolizing water. Hyponatremia can also be caused by taking certain diuretic or pain medications, kidney or heart failure, severe vomiting or diarrhea and cirrhosis.

The condition has been linked to chronic heart failure, lung disease, liver disease and cancer. But little is known about how low sodium affects brain function or how to treat it.

“Studies suggest that people with low sodium experience difficulty thinking and concentrating compared with those who have normal sodium levels,” said Dr. Joseph Verbalis, chief of endocrinology and metabolism at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and a key researcher of the effects of hyponatremia.

He noted that mild hyponatremia often goes untreated or undiagnosed because many people think the symptoms are a normal part of aging.

Dr. Verbalis and Dr. Miguel Franco of Memorial Clinical Associates are the lead investigators on the INSIGHT study. The researchers are testing the drug tolvaptan to determine if it may help improve brain function in older adults.

Men and women over the age of 50 who have been diagnosed with mild hyponatremia are eligible to participate in the INSIGHT study. Participants should have constant low blood sodium levels between 123 and 134 mEq/L. Your doctor can perform a simple blood test to see if you qualify.

Fast Fact

Are you traveling abroad this summer? Many countries have contaminated water sources, so be prepared. Remember to avoid tap water in all forms, including drinks with cubed ice. Opt for purified bottled water or carbonated bottled water. You should also avoid raw fruits and vegetables—including salads, in locations where water quality is questionable.

Scientists Identify Protein That
Causes Inflammation

Roz Roscoe

Researchers from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., found that eliminating the protein “ROCK1? profoundly reduced inflammation caused by atherosclerosis—the condition caused by cholesterol buildup in blood vessel walls.

According to a statement issued by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), scientists found that immune cells called macrophages need ROCK1 to “clean” blood vessel walls that come into contact with fatty deposits.

Inflammation is a normal result of the clean-up process. But when it goes unchecked—it can lead to clogging and hardening of the arteries.

Study results published online in The FASEB Journal showed when the ROCK1 protein is eliminated, macrophages no longer contributed to these fatty deposits. Mice in the animal studies showed significantly less inflammation and signs of atherosclerosis.

Ultimately, these reductions could contribute to a decrease in the number of heart attacks and strokes.

According to James Liao, M.D., director of vascular medicine research at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and one of the report’s co-authors, “the ultimate goal of the research is to prevent or slow atherosclerosis, and these findings provide a new target to do this.”

Researchers reported findings of a second study, which focused on your body’s ability to reduce inflammation after the clean-up mechanism kicks in.

Your body’s normal response to injury draws immune cells to fight infection. These cells often flatten into the skin, leaving behind a mark or a scar.

A similar response occurs in your blood vessels. But when your blood vessels don’t recover properly from inflammation—atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries can result.

Separate researchers from Harvard, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, examined how to prevent inflammation from going unchecked.

The scientists identified lipids your body uses to resolve inflammation. By targeting these specific lipids—and the mechanisms used to make them—scientists hope to develop drugs that significantly reduce the blood vessel inflammation.

“Now that we appreciate that atherosclerosis is inflammation gone awry, we can attack its root causes. Studies like these take us closer to delaying the inevitable, and help us understand the factors that provoke heart attacks and strokes,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal.

Health E-Hints

A Spicy, Hot Treatment for Your Sinuses!

If you’re congested because of cold or sinus problems—here’s a spicy secret to provide relief.

Sprinkle powdered cayenne pepper on your food, or use a few drops of liquid extract. This piping hot seasoning helps get your body fluids flowing. This can help drain stuffy sinuses and even help open the airways leading in and out of your lungs.

This can help you breathe freely—and enjoy the taste and smell of your favorite foods again!