Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring is here, research on active minds vs. Alzheimer's

Yes, I think it's safe to say that spring has finally arrived. Although we got almost 3 feet of snow dumped on us last week, it's melting quickly and the days are growing longer. You know what that means - the garage will be opening soon! Thank goodness, although we're not out of the woods yet. Anything can happen over the next two months. Let's hope that we can actually get a head start on this year's bike building season. I've been collecting interesting news articles from around the world to share with everyone. These are just a couple of items that I found recently.

Active Minds, Low Stress Important Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease Research

People who are socially engaged and can easily brush off stress may be at a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s, a new study reports. The study adds to a growing body of research linking lifestyle and personality traits to a lower chance of developing dementia in old age.

The research, from doctors at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, found that older men and women who were easygoing and had active social lives were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who were shy and anxious. Earlier studies have linked long-term stress to poor memory, possibly because stress hormones can negatively affect the brain.

"In the past, studies have shown that chronic stress can affect parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, possibly leading to dementia," said study author Hui-Xin Wang, Ph.D.

"But our findings suggest that having a calm and outgoing personality in combination with a socially active lifestyle may decrease the risk of developing dementia even further."

The findings appeared in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study involved 506 seniors whose average age was 83. None had Alzheimer's when first examined. After six years, 144 of the study participants had developed Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.

Those who were socially active but who tended to remain calm and relaxed under pressure were 50 percent less likely to develop dementia than individuals who were isolated and easily stressed. Protection against Alzheimer's was particularly strong among those who were socially outgoing and able to handle stress well. Extroverts who were calm and self-satisfied tended to have an optimistic outlook on life, the study found, and also had a 50 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than outgoing people who were nervous and prone to worry.

"The good news is, lifestyle factors can be modified, as opposed to genetic factors, which cannot be controlled," Dr. Wang said. "But these are early results, so how exactly mental attitude influences risk for dementia is not clear."

Earlier studies have shown that people who remain active and socially engaged into old age have a lower Alzheimer's risk. Regular physical activity and keeping mentally alert through word games and other mental challenges can likewise help keep the mind sharp, research suggests. Source:

Hang 'Em High - Anti-Theft Device

Dominic Hargreaves, 23, a design student at the Royal College of Art has had three bikes stolen since he moved to the capital.

And Dominic’s not alone: on average 52 bikes are stolen in London every day. Looking at this modern urban problem as a design challenge, the young student realised that the only way to overcome the problem was to lock the bike somewhere out of the reach of thieves.

His solution? A bike lock located 8 feet above the ground.

How does it work? The bike cradle can be fitted to any wall and is attached to an electronic hoist which lowers to the ground when triggered by the owner’s remote control. The mechanism can also be programmed to read an oyster card if located at a tube station, or indeed any public location. Once the bike is placed into the cradle and locked in position, the user then activates the hoist to pull the bike up onto the wall. The bike is then safely out of the reach of thieves and their bolt cutters.

Dominic believes the idea would work on domestic dwellings such as houses or blocks of flats as well as public spaces like railway or tube stations.

The design is one of three winners in the £15,000 iQ Design Challenge set by Toyota to Royal College of Art students and alumni to create products that respond to modern urban life. Source:

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Cheers, friends.