ANOTHER REASON TO QUIT Smoking ‘increases the risk of early death from motor neurone disease’

Also known as ALS, the disease is a progressive degenerative illness affecting nerve cells that allow you to speak, swallow and breathe.  Smokers diagnosed with motor neurone disease are more likely to die than those patients who don’t smoke, new evidence has suggested.  Smokers are also likely to see the symptoms of the disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, appear at a younger age.

ALS, the focus of the worldwide Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, which raised a staggering £88 million or $115 million, is a progressive degenerative disease affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord (motor neurons).  These nerve cells control a range of muscle functions from speaking and swallowing to breathing. There is currently no cure for the disease, but scientists have linked various factors to its development – including genes, age, gender, underlying conditions and lifestyle.

In a bid to find out if tobacco might play a role, a team of researchers gathered information on the smoking habits and evidence of respiratory disease (COPD) among 650 people diagnosed with ALS between 2007 and 2011 in one region of northern Italy.  But smoking seemed to be linked to faster disease progression and how long a patient lived after diagnosis, whether or not they had underlying COPD.

Current smokers had a significantly shorter lifespan than did either ex-smokers or lifelong non-smokers.  They survived an average of one year and nine months while former smokers survived an average of two years and three months, and non-smokers lived for an average of two years and seven months after diagnosis.  This difference held true irrespective of the age at which symptoms started, where they started, gender, or severity of COPD.   (*Source: The Sun 21st September 2016)

This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and while the researchers describe their findings as “intriguing,” they point out that as yet it is unclear how smoking might affect the development and progression of ALS.

Several possible explanations have been mooted, including disruption of enzymes that curb free radical damage, and the potential for smoking to damage DNA, with the effects persisting even after a smoker has quit. The findings are published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.


Dying couple in heartbreaking final goodbye after failed reunion

A DYING woman said goodbye to her husband over FaceTime on Saturday, after attempts to reunite them one final time failed.  Katie and Dalton Prager have been likened to the fictional couple battling cancer in The Fault in Our Stars. Instead of cancer, each had cystic fibrosis, and after striking up an online relationship seven years ago, they met in person against the advice of doctors — CF patients can easily pass bacteria to each other — and fell in love.

Katie and Dalton’s romance began online when they were both 18.  Days after they started talking online, Katie says she knew she would marry him.  The started to fall in love as they communicated on Facebook, but they knew meeting in person would be dangerous for Katie.  Dalton had Burkholderia cepacia, a highly contagious infection for people with cystic fibrosis.  Katie didn’t.

Katie, 26, is currently in a hospice in Kentucky, where her family threw her an early Christmas on Saturday, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.  She became a widow a few hours before the party started.  The couple FaceTimed as Dalton, 25 was dying.  “She told him that she loved him,” said Debra Donovan, Katie’s mother.  “We don’t know if he heard her.”  “Dalton fought a long hard battle with cystic fibrosis,” Katie posted on Facebook.  “He was a courageous fighter and ‘give up’ wasn’t in his vocabulary.”

Dalton had been in the intensive care unit on a ventilator for about two weeks before he died.  But in the end, Dalton was never healthy enough to fly to Kentucky.  They were never able to reunite for a final goodbye in person.  The last time Katie and Dalton saw each other was July 16, their fifth wedding anniversary.    (*Source: SEPTEMBER 21, 2016)

The day before Dalton died, Katie told CNN she had no regrets about their decision to meet in person.  For all the time spent sick or in the hospital, it’s the time they spent together that stands out to her.  “It gave me some of the best years of my life,” she said.  “I’d rather have five years of being in love and just really completely happy than 20 years of not having anybody.”


CAFFEINE FIX – Drinking three coffees a day could prevent dementia and slash risk by more than a quarter

THREE coffees a day could slash the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by more than a quarter, according to research.  The drink is rich in chemicals that protect brain cells, scientists say.  One caffeic acid reduces the accumulation of rogue proteins which clump together, destroying memory.  It also reduces the deaths of memory nerve cells, and preserves levels of a signalling chemical.

Caffeic acid is in coffee and other foods, and is one of a number of polyphenol compounds found in the Mediterranean diet — hailed for health benefits.  An updated review of previous studies said moderate, regular consumption of between three and five coffees a day could cut the chance of dementia by up to 27 per cent.  It said: “Studies have shown that rats administered caffeic acid showed improved cognitive function.”

Dr. Iva Holmerova, vice chairperson of Alzheimer Europe, said: “The role of nutrition is an emerging area in Alzheimer’s research and the potential benefits of drinking coffee, on both a nutritional and a social level, are increasingly being developed.  The study was published by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee, funded by major European coffee companies.    (*Source: The Sun 21st September 2016)

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease as death of brain cells during the development of dementia cannot be halted or reversed.