Science Breakthrough: Key Found to Halting Alzheimer’s Disease

shutterstock_247872679Alzheimer’s Disease is a condition that affects around 5.1 million Americans. Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Southampton in England stumbled upon the possibility that a chemical designed to reduce neuroinflammation may be able to protect against the memory and behavioral changes that are typically associated with Alzheimer’s patients.

Previous researchers linked chronic inflammation, which is caused by an overactive immune system, to Alzheimer’s. The new findings show that inflammation is not actually a result of Alzheimer’s, but is actually a key driver of the disease. Researchers conducted an experiment in which they compared the tissues of healthy brains with those of Alzheimer’s patients. They found that the brains of Alzheimer’s patients contained higher levels of microglia, which suggests brain inflammation. The molecules that regulate these levels of microglia within the brain became more active as the severity of the patient’s Alzheimer’s increased.

In a second experiment, the chemical GW2580 was given to mice that had a condition similar to Alzheimer’s. Researchers found that the chemical helped to reduce memory loss as well as reduce behavioral problems in these mice. Researchers then provided these mice with inhibitors that prevented the microglia from multiplying. Once the microglia levels stabilized, the progression of the disease stalled. The inhibitor helped to prevent the breakdown in communication between the brain’s nerve cells, which is what Alzheimer’s patients usually experience.

The tests that were conducted on mice have shown a particular pathway that is active in the development of Alzheimer’s. Researchers are now planning on using the results of these experiments in order to develop a safe and suitable drug that can be tested on humans. The findings have also shown that both diet and lifestyle may play an active part in preventing Alzheimer’s since they could possibly help to fight inflammation.

Alzheimer’s disease continues to be a serious problem for millions of Americans. Fortunately, new research could result in the development of drugs that may prevent the disease. To keep up to date with medical news, or for information about healthcare, be sure to visit us at The Benefits Store.

Tougher Rules for Affordable Care Act Special Enrollment Periods

shutterstock_237872491Insurers have raised concerns about the lack of regulations regarding the Affordable Care Act official enrollment periods, stating that health care spending and overall premiums have risen because of individuals who are not buying health insurance within the official enrollment period and who are waiting instead to purchase insurance only when they get sick. This has led to plans by the Obama administration to tighten the rules for anyone enrolling in insurance via HealthCare.gov outside of the official enrollment period.

As the rules stand now, people can purchase health insurance coverage after the enrollment deadline if special circumstances apply, such as a change in employment, the birth of a new child, marriage and divorce. Exceptions were also made for uninsured people looking to get coverage at the same time as they did their taxes or for those who had technical problems with the insurance website.

Insurers believe that the rules concerning signing up for healthcare insurance outside of the official enrollment period are way too broad as they stand, allowing people to take advantage of the fact. According to a top federal official, the administration plans to eliminate some of the criteria for late sign-ups in addition to making the criteria language clearer to help cut down on costs.

A New Task Force

Andy Slavitt, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, believes that tightening the existing rules will help ensure that the special enrollment period will serve its original purpose. A new task force will be implemented to make sure that people are honest in regards to health insurance purchases. The task force will even terminate health insurance coverage for any consumers that enrolled outside of the official deadline without having a legitimate reason for doing so.

Rules for special enrollment periods are set to become much stricter. For more information concerning the Affordable Care Act or for advice on how to enroll, visit us at The Benefits Store today.

The Zika Virus: What You Need to Know

shutterstock_278964704Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, a new mosquito-borne virus that is connected to a neurological birth disorder and that is rapidly spreading around the world.

WHO estimates that between three million and four million people throughout the Americas will be infected with the Zika virus over the course of this year. The virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and has broken out in 29 countries so far. Because it is connected to a neurological birth disorder, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending that pregnant women not travel to these countries. In fact, health officials in these countries have even begun recommending that female citizens avoid getting pregnant for upwards of two years. The U.S. Defense Department is currently offering pregnant employees and their beneficiaries that are stationed in affected countries voluntary relocation. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, called the viral outbreak a pandemic in progress. The following are important facts that everyone should know about the Zika virus:

  • What is it?—The Zika virus is similar to the yellow fever, dengue and West Nile viruses. However, there are no vaccines or medicines to treat the Zika virus as of yet.
  • What does it cause?—The virus is linked to microcephaly, which is a neurological disorder that causes abnormally small heads in newborns, which can lead to severe developmental problems or even death. There were only 146 cases of microcephaly in 2014. Since the outbreak, there have been 404 cases since November 2015 in Brazil alone. Learn more about the condition by reading this article about microcephaly.
  • How is it spread?—The most common way that it’s spread is through Aedes mosquito bites. However, the CDC reported that the latest outbreak was transmitted via sex.

Be sure to avoid traveling to areas currently dealing with a serious Zika outbreak. Here at the Benefits Store, we aim to keep you updated on all the newest health-related news.

Could Dementia Villages Come to the US?

shutterstock_338638163Dementia can be a crippling condition for those that suffer from it. For many, it severely limits the things that they can do and reduces their quality of life. However, it’s been proven that when individuals suffering from dementia are given the freedom to do things that they enjoy doing in environments that are familiar to them and among people that watch out for them, they can live incredibly fulfilling lives. This was showcased in the Netherlands, where their “dementia villages” have become an international model for providing dementia patients with freedom within a safe and structured environment.

Such structured environments did not exist before for those suffering from dementia. Many people simply did not know how to handle those that suffered from dementia other than by levying restrictions on their day-to-day lives as a way to protect them. However, the success of the dementia villages in the Netherlands has led many people in the U.S., as well as in England, to explore ways in which they can create a dementia-friendly environment in which those suffering from dementia can still remain involved in both social and cultural activities, thereby maintaining their quality of life.

A Familiar Environment

The dementia village in the Netherlands is a residential facility outside of Amsterdam that looks like a normal community—it boasts parks, a post office, a restaurant, a grocery store and other amenities that elderly residents with dementia can use at their pleasure. There are 152 residents with moderate dementia that live in groups of six or eight along with one or two caretakers. There’s only one door out of the town, thereby limiting the risk of residents wandering away. The familiar environment created by the dementia village may be more restrictive than typical communities, but it provides dementia patients with more freedom than they typically have, thereby allowing them to maintain some semblance of independence.

Whether or not dementia villages are set up in the U.S., the country can certainly learn many lessons from their success. For more information regarding advancements in dementia and other health issues, be sure to visit The Benefits Store today.

Fight Continues To Raise Smoking Age

shutterstock_239806006It’s been proven time and again that cigarettes have a hugely negative impact on the health of smokers. They’ve been directly linked to everything from cancer to diminished immune systems and much, much more. There’s a reason that tobacco manufacturers are now required by law to print health warnings on their cigarette packages, after all. Yet people still choose to smoke them. As a way to increase their efforts against the adverse health effects of tobacco, the state of Hawaii raised the smoking age from 18 to 21, making it the only state to do so. California legislation has considered following suit.

Younger individuals aren’t as worried about their health as older adults, which makes them more susceptible to trying and becoming addicted to tobacco use. Tobacco companies recognize this and have targeted younger Californians with their advertising. The younger an age that they turn a person into a smoker, the more business they’ll have from that individual over their lifetime.

Among the reasons for the initiative to increase the age restriction on tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 are that it will help reduce the number of Californians that become addicted to tobacco use at an early age, and that it will save California money on healthcare costs, since sustained tobacco use is directly linked to a variety of chronic illnesses. However, there are a number of people opposing the proposition. These people believe that since the age of 18 is considered an adult age, people that are 18 years old should retain the right to make their own decision regarding whether to smoke cigarettes or not. Additionally, opponents to the proposed law point out that the state could end up losing money. This is because the state taxes cigarette sales, and if sales go down, so will the money coming from taxes.

There are both pros and cons to raising the age restriction on tobacco purchase, but one thing is certain—tobacco is harmful to the health of those that use it. For more information about proposed health laws and health insurance in general, visit the Benefits Store today.