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Garden City Telegram

Bounty of hope: Updates on aging, heart health and Alzheimer's

Just in time for a holiday bonus, we are delighted to bring you a bouquet of breakthroughs. They're our New Year present of hope, shining a light on how medical science will continue to deliver life-changing improvements to your quality of life in the year ahead.

Biological aging reversed! A three-month study has found that if folks 64 and older inhale pure oxygen through a mask while in a hyperbaric chamber for 90 minutes, five days a week, they lengthen their telomeres by an astounding 20 percent. That makes the telomeres - the ends of chromosomes that protect them from deterioration or fusion with neighboring genes - as long as they were when the study participants were 25 years younger. 

Although some shortening of telomeres is a natural part of aging, it can signal disease and diminished lifespan. They are prematurely shortened by obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity, vitamin deficiency and inflammation.

The oxygen therapy also reduces the number of senescent cells by up to 37 percent. They're cells that have stopped dividing and become inflammatory, making surrounding cells older. These dormant or dead cells clog up the works throughout the body, increasing your risks for cancer and chronic disease. But when they're shuffled off to Buffalo, making way for new, healthy cells to regrow, your skin, internal organs and brain become younger. Animal studies have shown that removing senescent cells extends remaining life by more than one third. 

Take heart! A recent study on a polypill that combines several heart-helpful meds offers folks at high risk for heart disease - but who do not yet have a diagnosable condition - a lot of hope that they can dodge that bullet. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed more than 5,700 participants for more than four years. Those taking the polypill received 40 mg of the statin simvastatin, as well as blood pressure medicine, including a beta blocker, an ACE inhibitor and a diuretic, and some also got aspirin. The result was that those getting the polypill plus aspirin saw a substantial decrease in their lousy LDL cholesterol (19 mg/dL lower) and systolic blood pressure (5.8 mmHg lower) - and they had a 30 percent reduction in cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke. 

Now, this won't mean you can skip upgrading your lifestyle to protect your heart, but it does offer hope to those who struggle with lifestyle changes or aren't seeing results from statins or antihypertensives alone. 

Alzheimer's and albumin - an A+. Up to now, no medication approved to treat Alzheimer's disease has been able to significantly slow, prevent or cure the condition, but that may be changing. Recently researchers reported promising insights in a follow-up to a 2007 study. That original study revealed that treating AD patients with albumin, the main protein in your blood that's made in the liver, delivered improvements in memory, language abilities and blood flow in the brain. 

Albumin keeps fluid from leaking out of blood vessels, nourishes tissues and transports hormones, vitamins and substances like calcium throughout the body. But in this follow-up study, the researchers were interested in how the albumin appears to attach to and carry away the amyloid tangles in the brain that characterize AD, slowing the disease's spread and damaging effects.

The researchers, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, also evaluated the amount of benefit provided by using plasma exchange with albumin replacement. They found that folks with moderate AD had 61 percent and 66 percent less decline in cognitive function over 14 months when evaluated by two AD tests. And one measurement (the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study-Clinical Global Impression of Change) showed 100 percent less decline! More study will be done, but this was a phase 2b/3 trial, so we may see adoption of this intervention sooner than later. 

So let's look to the New Year for great news, not just about the COVID-19 vaccine, but about many life-saving innovations in medical science. 

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com. 

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.