Older Adults' Forgetfulness Tied to Faulty Brain Rhythms in Sleep

Dec 18, 2017

Older brains may forget more because they lose their rhythm at night. During deep sleep, older people have less coordination between two brain waves that are important to saving new memories, a team reports in the journal Neuron. "It's like a drummer that's perhaps just one beat off the rhythm," says Matt Walker, one of the paper's authors and a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. "The aging brain just doesn't seem to be able to synchronize its brain waves effectively." The finding appears to answer a long-standing question about how aging can affect memory even in people who do not have Alzheimer's or some other brain disease. The study was the result of an effort to understand how the sleeping brain turns short-term memories into memories that can last a lifetime.


Preventing Dementia: the Promising, the Disappointing and the Inconclusive

Dec 18, 2017

There is no proven intervention – not brain training, not physical activity, not medication, and not vitamins or supplements – for preventing late-life dementia, a new study concludes. But ask the question a bit differently, and the answer is not quite as discouraging: What should you be doing anyway right now that might delay or prevent the development of dementia late in life? Some combination of all of the above. Scientific research, in its highest and most rigorous form, has done little to illuminate a single path to prevent or forestall dementia and cognitive decline. That grim conclusion emerged in four reports published by the Annals of Internal Medicine. Culling the highest-quality research it could find on preventing Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, the Minnesota Evidence-based Practice Center concluded that cognitive training has not been shown definitively to work. Neither have prescription medications or over-the-counter dietary supplements. They couldn't even find a single exercise regimen that fit the bill. These findings underpinned a recent report by the National Academy of Medicine on preventing dementia. But while the Minnesota group found an absence of decisive effects, it documented some highly suggestive evidence that some things were helpful — in particular, for the effects of exercise, and for strategies, including medications, that manage diabetes and control high blood pressure and worrisome cholesterol at midlife.

SOURCE: Los Angeles Times

New Report Says Alzheimer's Cases to Double by 2060

Dec 07, 2017

As the baby boomer population ages, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's disease will double by 2060, researchers report. The study findings, which show cases of Alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment going from 6 million this year to 15 million in four decades, highlight the need to better identify people with a brain-related disease, and to slow its progression. "There are about 47 million people in the U.S. today who have some evidence of preclinical Alzheimer's," said study author Ron Brookmeyer. He is a professor of biostatistics at the Fielding School of Public Health at University of California, Los Angeles. "Many of them will not progress to Alzheimer's dementia in their lifetimes. We need to have improved methods to identify which persons will progress to clinical symptoms, and develop interventions for them that could slow the progression of the disease, if not stop it altogether," Brookmeyer said in a UCLA news release. The researchers used information from large Alzheimer's studies to create a computer model to estimate the number of future Alzheimer's cases. The investigators determined that by 2060, about 5.7 million Americans will have mild cognitive impairment and another 9.3 million will have full-blown Alzheimer's. Of those with Alzheimer's, about 4 million will require intensive care, such as that provided in nursing homes.

SOURCE: Health Day

Tax Bill Impacts on Health Law Coverage and Medicare

Dec 05, 2017

The tax overhaul Republicans are pushing toward final votes in Congress could undermine the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance markets and add to the financial squeeze on Medicare over time. Lawmakers will meet this week to resolve differences between the House- and Senate-passed bills in hopes of getting a finished product to President Donald Trump’s desk around Christmas. Also in play are the tax deduction for people with high medical expenses, and a tax credit for drug companies that develop treatments for serious diseases affecting relatively few patients. The business tax cuts that are the centerpiece of the legislation would benefit many health care companies, but there’s also concern among hospitals, doctors, and insurers about the impact on coverage. The tax bill would increase federal deficits by about $1 trillion over 10 years, even after accounting for stronger economic growth expected from tax cuts. More red ink means higher borrowing costs for the government, and that would reduce the options for policymakers when Medicare’s long-postponed financial reckoning comes due. Repealing the ACA mandate is part of a broader context. The Trump administration slashed the advertising budget for ACA sign-ups this year, at the same time that it cut the enrollment window in half. The administration is working on rules that would allow broader sale of skimpy insurance plans with lower premiums, which would also draw healthy people away from the health law markets.

“The program would still exist, but it would be quite hobbled at this point,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. A separate bipartisan bill to stabilize health insurance markets is still pending in the Senate, and it remains unclear where the markets will settle out.

SOURCE: Associated Press

Nearly 60 Percent of Top Health Insurers' Revenue Comes from Medicare and Medicaid

Dec 04, 2017

Almost 60 percent of the combined revenue of the top five insurers in the United States comes from the government-sponsored health programs Medicare and Medicaid — and has more than doubled since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, a new report says. The analysis, published in the journal Health Affairs, suggests that policymakers could improve the viability of ACA marketplaces, which sell individual health plans, by requiring insurers that benefit from other government coverage programs to sell ACA coverage. Most of the big insurers have pulled back their presence on ACA exchanges, citing the difficulty of making money on them. The report said that in 2010 — the year the Affordable Care Act, known as ACA, was signed into law — the big five insurers had revenue of $92.5 billion from operating Medicare and Medicaid plans. By 2016, that revenue had grown to $213.1 billion at the big five insurers: UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, and Humana. That amounts to 59 percent of their total revenue.