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Medical News Notes – March 5, 2012

City air linked to brain impairment. Good diets can save your brain … and overeating can make you lose your mind. These and other stories of interest from the world of health and medicine in this week’s Medical News Notes.

Urban Air Pollution Linked to Lowered Brain Function, Stroke

Traffic JamLive in or near a big city? Most Americans do. And breathing all that polluted air can lead to a decrease in brain function and possibly even stroke, according to two studies just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The increased risk was greatest within 12 to 24 hours of exposure to fine airborne particles and “was most strongly associated with markers of traffic-related pollution,” according to one of the studies. In other words, to keep your brain sharp, try not to breathe around freeways.

Mediterranean Diet Fights Small Vessel Damage in Brain

Mediterranean DietIf you absolutely must breathe around freeways, you may be able to save your brain by eating the so-called “Mediterranean Diet,” according to a new study published in the Archives of Neurology. According to researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, eating a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables as well as fish, chicken, olive oil and red wine, can reduce the kind of small blood vessel damage in the brain many people experience as they age. The Mediterranean Diet has previously been shown to support long-term heart health.

Overeating and Memory Loss

Lots of FoodBut don’t eat too much — even the good stuff — especially if you’re getting on in years. A new study by the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., reveals that people over 70 who eat more than 2,100 calories a day nearly double their risk of memory loss, the first step to full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease. “Cutting calories and eating food that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age,” concluded Dr. Yonas E. Geda, who authored the study.

Age and Autism

Autistic ChildAnd speaking of age, new research suggests that the risk of autism increases as parents age. “Our results revealed that the age of the father and the mother are jointly associated with autism in their children,” said Dr. Mohammad Hossein Rahbar of the University of Texas School of Public Health. These results run counter to previous studies which had focused merely on either the father or mother’s age, but not both.

What’s the World’s Drunkest Country?

Drunk russiansWhat’s the world’s drunkest country? Russia? Germany? The United States? It’s the little Eastern European country of Moldova, according to a recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO), which measured average alcohol consumption against alcohol-related deaths. In this study, the United States didn’t even make the Top 25, the average American consuming a scant 2.49 gallons of pure alcohol per year. By contrast, Moldovans consume an average 4.81 gallons/year, according to the WHO. In the study, Eastern Europe dominated the field, taking the top 12 positions. (Russia was Number 3, behind the Czech Republic.) The streak was broken only by the placement of South Korea at Number 13 with a consumption score of 3.81. While excessive alcohol consumption is universally discouraged, many medical experts now see clear benefits in having one or two drinks daily, particularly for promoting cardiovascular health.

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