New Ball Donuts from Krispy Kreme Japan

The price is 242 yen (tax included) each.

Diabetes and Dementia Risk: Another Good Reason to Keep Blood Sugar in Check

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

There are many reasons to avoid getting diabetes, or to keep it controlled if you already have it: Higher risks for heart disease, stroke and for having a foot or leg amputation. But here’s another one: It’s a major risk factor for dementia.

While researchers are still investigating what causes that increased risk, one thing they do know is it’s linked to highs – and lows – in the body’s blood sugar levels.

“Whether it’s Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, glycemic control is very important” for maintaining good brain health, said Rachel Whitmer, chief of the division of epidemiology at University of California, Davis and associate director of the school’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. “This is another motivation to have good control.”

Good management of blood glucose levels is one of seven lifestyle changes people can make to support better heart and brain health, called Life’s Simple 7 by the American Heart Association. It’s a step that could potentially help more than 34.2 million people in the U.S. living with diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vast majority of people with diabetes have Type 2, which becomes more prevalent as people get older, as does dementia. It happens when the body can’t properly use the insulin it makes to control blood sugar levels. It develops over many years and is often associated with being overweight or obese. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body stops making insulin.

Most of the research on the diabetes-dementia link involves Type 2 diabetes, which studies show roughly doubles the dementia risk and may cause it to develop a few years earlier. For people with Type 1 diabetes, treatment advances have led to longer lifespans, allowing researchers to begin delving into how the disease affects their cognitive abilities as they age.

“They are now living to ages to be at risk for diseases that happen later in life,”

said Whitmer, who is also an adjunct investigator at the Division of Research for Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

Whitmer led a study for Kaiser that showed older adults with Type 1 diabetes who were hospitalized for just one blood sugar extreme were at higher risk for dementia – and those who were hospitalized for both highs and lows were six times more likely to later develop dementia.

Shannon Macauley, an assistant professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, studies the relationship between Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease in her lab in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“Glucose is unbelievably important for the brain,” Macauley said. Though it makes up just 2% of the body’s weight, the brain uses 20%-30% of circulating blood glucose. “People don’t appreciate how much the brain sucks glucose out of the blood; it’s a big user of your glucose supply.”

Unlike other organs, the brain can’t store excess glucose, she said. That makes it vulnerable to highs and lows. “It needs it on demand in a rapid fashion but that puts the brain at excess risk when glucose levels hit one extreme or another.”

Macauley’s research in mice suggests too much glucose may be causing rapid production of beta-amyloid, proteins that clump together to form amyloid plaques in the brain. Beta-amyloid has been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

When the brain suddenly produces excess beta-amyloid, it’s “like throwing a Jersey barrier out onto I-95,” Macauley said. “All the cars have to figure out how to get around it. The cells can’t get to where they need to go, they can’t communicate properly with other cells and lose their efficiency.”

Conversely, too little glucose in the brain robs it of the energy it needs to perform tasks, she said. “You need energy on hand for every task – to talk, think, button your shirt. Energy also goes to keeping the cells and brain alive. If you go low, you are starving the brain, and it can’t do what it needs to do.”

Preventing dementia isn’t the only way good blood glucose control helps the brain, Whitmer said.

“It also helps to prevent stroke,” she said. “There are lots of blood vessels in the brain. Good glycemic control equates with good blood vessel health. What’s good for your heart is good for your brain.”

Whether a person has Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, there are many steps they can take to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel.

First, it’s important to know your numbers. Even blood sugar levels slightly higher than normal – a condition known as prediabetes – can start to do damage, Macauley said. To be in the healthy range, levels should be lower than 100 mg/dl, with measurements from 100-125 mg/dl considered prediabetes.

“If you are in that realm, there are clues you are becoming unhealthy,” Macauley said. A person may be overweight, eating an unhealthy diet, smoking or not getting enough sleep or physical exercise. “Exercise causes you to use that extra glucose.”

If diet and exercise don’t help enough, medication may be needed, she said.

People with Type 1 diabetes need to check blood sugar levels throughout the day because what they eat and how much physical activity they get can cause levels to rise or fall. Health experts recommend they keep supplies such as hard candy, fruit juice or glucose tablets with them to boost levels should they get too low.

As people with Type 1 live longer, Whitmer said, researchers need to focus on other ways to ensure their years are healthy ones. “We really need to step back and think about how we can increase this patient population’s chances of successful aging.”

Source: American Heart Association

What’s for Lunch?

Grilled Fish Set Meal at Koryuri Kayou in Ginza, Japan

The price is 1,000 yen (plus tax).

Understanding the Mysteries of POTS and Other Autonomic Disorders

For eight months after the birth of her daughter in 2016, Fidji Simo felt weak, tired, lightheaded, and dizzy. “My heart rate would shoot through the roof as soon as I sat or stood up. I also passed out a lot and had what felt like electricity running through my muscles,” says Simo, who sometimes fainted up to five times a day.

She saw many doctors, but no one could pinpoint the cause of her increased heart rate or frequent fainting spells. One doctor, Simo recalls, said she was “just a new mom who needs more sleep.”

“I have operated on four to five hours of sleep a night my whole life and never had a problem,” says Simo, 35, who lives in northern California and is the head of the Facebook app. “I knew that not sleeping enough was not the cause.”

Her symptoms went away eventually, but they returned three years later when she had surgery to treat endometriosis. For the next seven months Simo, her primary care doctor, and a neurologist worked to put the pieces of her diagnostic puzzle together. She had blood drawn to check her norepinephrine levels and underwent tests to determine whether her body was sweating at the right rate and to measure her blood pressure and heart rate responses to changes in gravity. Based on the results, Simo was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a disorder in which too little blood returns to the heart when the body goes from lying down to sitting or standing. The condition is more common in women than in men and can be triggered by pregnancy, surgery, trauma, or a viral illness.

POTS is a form of dysautonomia, an umbrella term for conditions that affect the autonomic nervous system (ANS). “The ANS controls things like blood flow to different organs, heart rate, breathing, body temperature, and digestion—automatic functions of the body that occur involuntarily, in the background,” says William P. Cheshire, MD, FAAN, professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic in Florida. “Autonomic nerves reach every organ and help regulate its function in harmony with other organs or in response to stress. With dysautonomias, there’s some disturbance in that system. The effects can be systemic or confined to one area.” People with dysautonomia may experience erratic heart rate, problems with blood pressure regulation, orthostatic hypotension (feeling dizzy or faint when standing up due to decreased blood flow from the heart to the brain), heat sensitivity or intolerance, and bladder dysfunction.

More than 70 million people worldwide live with various forms of dysautonomia, including POTS (which commonly affects females between the ages of 15 and 50), neurocardiogenic syncope (fainting caused by low blood flow to the brain), pure autonomic failure (dysfunction in processes controlled by the autonomic nervous system, such as blood pressure), familial dysautonomia (an inherited condition primarily affecting Ashkenazi Jews), and multiple system atrophy (a rare disease that leads to a life expectancy of seven to 10 years following onset of symptoms).

Symptoms vary depending on the type of dysautonomia, but they can include fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, tingling and numbness, headaches, dizziness, irregular sweating, and dramatic changes in blood pressure.

Simo’s flare-ups come in waves, last a couple of weeks, and are usually triggered by an infection or a virus. If her daughter has a runny nose or mild cold, Simo has to be extra careful not to catch the cold as that also can be a trigger. Simo’s symptoms often include vertigo or severe gastroparesis—muscle damage that slows the stomach’s ability to move food through the digestive tract.

POTS can be as disabling as congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and up to 25 percent of people who have it are unable to work. Simo has managed her symptoms well enough to continue in her job, and working from home during the pandemic has made it easier. She also has the support of her husband, a stay-at-home parent who takes care of their 5-year-old daughter. “I’m lucky that I can keep my job and have support from my family and my employer,” she says. “Not everyone is that lucky, and that’s why our medical system and employers need to do better.”

Risk Factors

Experts aren’t sure why people develop dysautonomias, but a viral infection can sometimes “switch on” these disorders when the immune system gets activated. In fact, about 50 percent of patients with POTS recall having a virus or bacterial infection right before experiencing symptoms.

Unlike familial dysautonomia, which is a rare genetic disorder, the more common forms of dysautonomia do not follow typical inheritance patterns. “There are likely certain sets of genes that may predispose patients toward POTS and the other more common autonomic disorders,” says Svetlana Blitshteyn, MD, director of the Dysautonomia Clinic in Buffalo, NY, and clinical assistant professor of neurology at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “We don’t know what these genes are yet, but two recent studies suggested that human leukocyte antigen types associated with autoimmune disorders may be more common in people with POTS.”

POTS also may be an autoimmune disorder, says Brent P. Goodman, MD, chief of the neuromuscular division in the department of neurology at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. “There are specific clinical clues we look for, such as a personal history of [other] autoimmune diseases, a recent infection, family history of autoimmune disease, and significant and unintentional weight loss around the time of symptoms. We need more reliable biomarkers to establish who has an underlying autoimmune mechanism and whether that mechanism is active.”

These mysteries and a general lack of understanding about dysautonomia make diagnosis difficult. “Disorders of the autonomic nervous system can be nuanced and have to be interpreted with some knowledge about how the system works,” says Dr. Cheshire. “These disorders are complicated and typically are not taught in any depth in medical school.”

The few experts who specialize in the field look for prominent characteristics and symptoms, including extreme dizziness and frequent fainting. A common diagnostic tool is a tilt table, which measures the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure while the patient is lying down and again when upright.

Arriving at a specific diagnosis based on symptoms alone can be challenging, as some symptoms of autonomic disorders can overlap with those of other diseases. For example, patients with multiple system atrophy may have slow movements, poor balance, a shuffling gait, and lack of facial expression—all characteristics of Parkinson’s disease, says David S. Goldstein, MD, PhD, who directs the autonomic medicine section in the intramural research program at the National Institutes of Health.

Patients with pure autonomic failure (PAF) often go untreated for years. “PAF can evolve into Parkinson’s disease or Lewy body dementia, so early diagnosis and treatment are critical,” says Dr. Goldstein. “In degenerative diseases like these, you have to recognize that most of the damage has already been done by the time the patient notices something wrong, so the hope for the future is in identifying the disease process before people have symptoms.”

For people with familial dysautonomia, genetic testing can determine whether they carry the mutant gene for the disorder. “A mutation in the IKBKAP gene causes this type of dysautonomia, almost exclusively among Ashkenazi Jews,” says Dr. Cheshire.

Raising Awareness

Patients with dysautonomia, especially POTS, often look healthy, so they may not get the treatment they need. Their symptoms could also be dismissed or overlooked if the doctor is unfamiliar with POTS, says Lauren Stiles, research assistant professor of neurology at New York’s Stony Brook University School of Medicine. She is also president of the nonprofit Dysautonomia International, which aims to increase awareness through lectures and physician education and to raise funds for research.

“It’s really about training as many clinicians as possible, so they can help reduce the delay in diagnosis,” says Stiles, whose own diagnosis of small fiber neuropathy and POTS took two years to attain. “With the help of new research and educational outreach, the rate of diagnosis is actually improving quite a bit,” she says. Her organization has funded more than $2 million in POTS research in the past few years and regularly hosts physician and patient education programs.

“Diagnosis used to be delayed by an average of six to seven years and longer—now it’s usually less than four years,” says Dr. Blitshteyn. But patients still have to be proactive. “It’s imperative that patients—especially women, who know their own bodies best—advocate for themselves,” says Simo. “Don’t let the authority that doctors tend to wield interfere with a diagnosis and proper care.”

Treatment of dysautonomia symptoms often starts with a nonpharmacologic approach. “After we diagnose POTS, we ask patients to drink a lot of fluids, increase sodium intake, and wear compression stockings and abdominal binders,” says Dr. Blitshteyn. “We may prescribe medications, such as beta-blockers and others, to help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.” POTS and other types of dysautonomia are incurable, but treatment can improve symptoms and quality of life, Dr. Blitshteyn says. She and her team are working on a study to show whether a gluten-free diet may help ease gastrointestinal and other symptoms in patients with POTS.

Researchers continue to explore other therapies. “I think immunotherapy is going to be very important moving forward,” says Dr. Blitshteyn, citing several case studies that showed the benefits of immunotherapy in severe POTS. “And we certainly need more therapies and physicians who can diagnose and treat POTS. The more health care professionals are knowledgeable about these common autonomic disorders, the more patients will benefit.”

Funding for dysautonomia disorders is meager compared with less common but better-known diseases such as multiple sclerosis. “We need more funding, more research, and more studies to help us figure out how best to treat this,” says Stiles. “As a patient, it can feel like you’re in limbo, with limited options.”

“Once we understand the condition better, that should open up more treatment options,” Dr. Goodman adds. “It’s understandably very daunting and frustrating for patients. My advice for any patient is to advocate for yourself and remain hopeful.”

Since her diagnosis, Simo has been drinking plenty of water, sleeping at least seven hours every night, and going for a daily half-hour swim. If she doesn’t stick to this routine, her symptoms get worse. She still deals with fatigue, dizziness, and an upset stomach, but she’s learned how to handle her condition. “Sometimes I just have to tell my [co-workers], ‘Hey, I’m not feeling particularly well. I need to go lie down. Let’s do this meeting audio only.’”

Sharing her story is important too. “If I don’t talk about this, these types of diseases go unseen, and those who are completely disabled don’t have a voice,” Simo says. “I feel a huge sense of responsibility in telling my story, even though it’s still taboo for many top business leaders—especially women—to talk about their health. I want people to know that you can have one of the top jobs in an industry while managing an invisible illness. And if we want the research to move forward, we need more people talking about these diseases.”

Managing POTS Symptoms

The best way to treat postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is to adopt these habits, says Svetlana Blitshteyn, MD, director of the Dysautonomia Clinic in Buffalo, NY, and clinical assistant professor of neurology at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking at least 32 ounces of water per day can improve blood pressure response when you’re standing up.
  • Add salt. Consuming at least 3 to 5 grams of sodium chloride a day helps increase blood volume, which can boost blood pressure. Before adding more sodium to your diet, discuss your plan with your doctor.
  • Don’t stand for long. Standing for long periods of time can aggravate low blood pressure in some people with POTS. If you can’t avoid it, shift your weight from one foot to the other, point or flex the feet, and squeeze your glutes. Moving the lower half of your body pumps blood back to the heart.
  • Lay off alcohol. Boozy beverages are dehydrating and can worsen symptoms.
  • Wear compression garments. Compression stockings and abdominal belts may improve blood flow, which lessens the risk of blood pooling and low blood pressure.
  • Exercise carefully. Since fainting is a common symptom of POTS, people need to be safe when they exercise. Do activities during which you don’t stand, such as rowing, swimming, recumbent bicycling, Pilates, gentle stretching, yoga, and chair-based exercises.
  • Sleep soundly. Aim for at least seven hours of shut-eye each night. If you have gastrointestinal symptoms, try elevating your head while sleeping.

Source: Brain and Life

Snapper with Citrus and Fennel Salad

Ingredients

4 small radishes, sliced paper-thin
1/2 small fennel bulb—halved, cored and shaved paper-thin
1/2 small red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon snipped chives
1 tablespoon finely shredded mint
1 grapefruit
1 navel orange
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive
oil, plus more for brushing
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless red snapper fillets

Method

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the radishes, fennel, bell pepper, jalapeno, cilantro, chives and mint.
  3. Using a sharp knife, peel the grapefruit and orange, removing all of the bitter white pith.
  4. Working over the bowl, cut between the membranes and release the sections into the bowl. Squeeze the membranes over the bowl.
  5. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the lemon juice to the bowl and season the salad with salt and pepper.
  6. Set the fish on a well-oiled, sturdy baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Broil 6 inches from the heat for 4 minutes, on one side only, just until white throughout.
  8. Using a spatula, transfer the fish to plates and serve with the salad.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Chef Daniel Boulud


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