National News

Health and Fitness News and Notes

Posted June 18, 2018 5:46 p.m. EDT

— High Blood Pressure at Age 50 Tied to Dementia Risk

Elevated blood pressure at age 50 is linked to an increased risk for dementia in later years, a new study reports.

The research, published in the European Heart Journal, found that systolic blood pressure (the top number) as low as 130 increased the risk, even though 140 is the usual level at which treatment with blood pressure medication is recommended.

The scientists measured blood pressure in 8,639 men and women in 1985, when they were age 35-55, and then again in 1991, 1997 and 2003 over the course of a long-term health study.

Through March 2017, there were 385 cases of dementia. After controlling for many risk factors, including stroke, heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases, they found that a systolic blood pressure at age 50 of 130 or greater was independently associated with a 38 percent increased risk of dementia.

“The 140 threshold has been considered beneficial for the heart for a long time, but it might not work for the brain,” said the senior author, Archana Singh-Manoux, a research professor at Inserm, the French health research institute. “The problem with hypertension is that people don’t take their meds because they have no symptoms. I would encourage people to use their hypertensive medications.”

— A Third of Children Use Alternative Medicines

A third of children younger than 19 are regular users of dietary supplements or alternative medicines.

Using data from a large national health survey, researchers found that multivitamins were the most common supplements, followed by vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and melatonin.

Three percent of male teenagers took bodybuilding supplements, and so did 1.3 percent of teenage girls. Omega-3 fatty acids were used by 2.3 percent of children younger than 19. Melatonin and other sleep aids were used by 1.6 percent of adolescents and by 1.2 percent of children younger than 5.

About 30 percent of children younger than 5 take multivitamins, and the percentage declines with age. About 16 percent of adolescents use them.

The study, in JAMA Pediatrics, found that the rate of use of vitamin and mineral supplements stayed the same from 2004 to 2014, while the consumption of herbal cures and other nonvitamin products nearly doubled. By 2014, alternative medicines, including digestive aids, probiotics and energy stimulants, were used by 3.1 of all the children, and by almost 5 percent of teenagers.

The lead author, Dima M. Qato, an assistant professor and pharmacist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, cautioned that in healthy children, there’s no evidence that supplements have any benefits and some evidence of serious risks, so “there’s no reason for your child to be on these products.”

— C-Sections Not Tied to Overweight Children

Several studies have suggested that babies born by cesarean section are at higher risk for obesity in childhood than those born vaginally, perhaps because of differences in the babies’ microbiomes. But a new analysis suggests that mode of birth has no effect on body mass index in children.

The new study, in JAMA Pediatrics, used a large clinical database to study 16,140 siblings born between 1987 and 2003 and their 8,070 mothers. Of these, there were 2,052 siblings of whom one was delivered vaginally and one by cesarean section. Looking at these sibling pairs eliminates most other variables that could affect childhood BMI, such as socioeconomic factors, the health and weight of the mother, race and ethnicity, so that the effect of mode of delivery alone can be determined.

Although the study did find some difference between families, there was no significant difference within families in obesity at age 5 between babies born vaginally and those born by C-section.

The results “suggest that unmeasured variables — lifestyle or sociocultural factors — might account for the observed associations that were seen in other studies,” said the lead author, Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, a research analyst at Harvard Medical School. “Reducing C-section delivery rates will not have a big effect on the ongoing obesity epidemic.”