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Mature Focus: News and notes

Older adults who wear dentures to bed at night are at heightened risk of developing pneumonia, according to a recent study.

Older adults who wear dentures to bed at night are at heightened risk of developing pneumonia, according to a recent study.

Sleeping in dentures

Elderly people who wear their dentures to bed at night are putting themselves at increased risk for coming down with pneumonia, a recent study found.

Because poor oral hygiene is a known risk factor for pneumonia in the elderly, researchers in Japan investigated various oral health behaviors and incidences of pneumonia among more than 500 adults aged 85 and older. In a three-year period, 48 cases of pneumonia were identified among the study participants, and those who wore their dentures overnight had a little more than double the risk of contracting pneumonia than those who removed their dentures for sleep.

Those who wore dentures while sleeping were more likely also to have tongue and denture plaque, gum inflammation and other oral health problems, researchers said.

The International and American Associations for Dental Research published the study.

Anxiety linked to Alzheimer’s risk

Studies have shown that people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition characterized by a slight yet noticeable decline in cognitive abilities – including memory and thinking skills – are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. According to new research, the risk is even greater if the person with MCI suffers also from anxiety.

A study published online in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry showed that for people with MCI and mild, moderate or severe anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease risk increased by 33 percent, 78 percent and 135 percent, respectively.

“Our findings suggest that clinicians should routinely screen for anxiety in people who have memory problems, because anxiety signals that these people are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Linda Mah, principal study investigator and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

There is no published evidence showing whether anti-anxiety drugs are helpful in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s for those with MCI and anxiety, but “at the very least, behavioral stress management programs could be recommended” for those people, Mah said.

Maybe soy, maybe hot

Consuming soy to relieve hot flashes has received mixed reviews over the years, and new research might explain why.

A study published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), found that soy helps with hot flashes, but only for women whose bodies can produce the soy metabolite equol.

Researchers in the Seattle area asked 357 women aged 45-55 who were not using hormone therapy and who ate soy foods at least three times per week to record the number and severity of hot flashes and night sweats they experienced.

Additionally, the women underwent urine tests to determine if they produced equol, and 34 percent were found to be equol producers.

The equol producers who consumed the most soy were 76 percent less likely to experience more than the average number of hot flashes and night sweats than the equol producers who had the least amount of soy in their diets. For the women who did not produce equol, soy had no effect on hot flashes or night sweats. Soy did not affect the severity of hot flashes or night sweats for the women in either group.

Equol is measured with a urine test done in research centers, but women who want to find out if they are producers can do a simple self-test.

“Women who are interested in trying dietary soy for their hot flashes can do their own experiment by incorporating it as a healthy food in their diet,” NAMS Executive Director Dr. Margery Gass said. “If it doesn’t help in four to six weeks, they can assume it probably won’t and can try other lifestyle or medical therapies for their hot flashes.”

According to the NAMS, the effect of soy on hot flashes among women who produce equol needs to be confirmed in further studies. An approach that could help all women reduce hot flashes is the use of an equol supplement, which currently is being studied by a U.S. pharmaceutical company.

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