dementia risk

  1. Wii Fit won’t make you fit

    Videogames are often blamed for everything wrong with kids today -- but in most cases, they get a bum rap.

    Believe it or not, videogames can be an enriching, engaging, and even productive way to pass the time -- and as I’ll tell you later in the week, some games might even slash the dementia risk in seniors.

    But there’s one thing videogames can’t do. They can’t help you lose weight, and that includes games that require movement, like Nintendo’s Wii Fit.

    In a new study, 84 overweight kids were randomly assigned to either a Nintendo Wii with Wii Fit games that require active play -- like sports and dancing -- or a Nintendo Wii with a more traditional game that can be played in the usual couch potato position.

    The kids also wore accelerometers to measure total daily activity, which 13 weeks later revealed virtually no difference at all between the two groups, according to the study in Pediatrics.

    The kids who played Wii Fit got between 25 and 28 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, while the kids who played less active games got between 26 and 29 minutes a day -- both a far cry from the hour or so kids should spend engaged in active play each day.

    The researchers say they’re not sure if the movements of Wii Fit were so minimal that the accelerometers didn’t pick them up, or if the kids balanced out their Wii Fit sessions by spending less time engaged in other forms of physical activity.

    Either way, the results speak for themselves: No one’s getting fit off Wii Fit.

    Surprised? Don’t be -- one of the company’s own studies found that many Wii Fit games don’t even reach the levels of exercise achieved by ordinary walking.

    Another study found that 10 minutes of Wii Fit burned just 25 calories -- less than cleaning or vacuuming, and a fraction of what you can burn in 10 minutes of running on a treadmill.

    That’s not to say you need to slave away in a gym -- or even on a treadmill -- to lose weight and stay fit.

    You don’t.

    But you do need to get out and get moving, whether it’s a brisk walk through the local park, a daily "workout" in your garden or a regular tennis habit.

    And by that, I mean "real" tennis... not the one in Wii Sports.

  2. Eyes linked to heart risk

    When it comes to heart disease, it looks like the eyes have it.

    Researchers say they can spot who's more likely to suffer the life-threatening condition by simply checking for yellow spots on the eyelids. People who have them face a 50-percent increase in the risk of a heart attack.

    The study of nearly 13,000 people in Denmark also found that the yellow spots -- actually little pockets of cholesterol called xanthelasmata -- can up the odds of heart disease by 39 percent and an early death by 14 percent.

    That may not sound like a lot, but over the years it can add up -- and over the course of a decade, the researchers say a person with xanthelasmata has a one in five chance of developing heart disease.

    You can see where this is going, right? Since the spots are made of cholesterol, the researchers wrote in BMJ that patients who have them should be given cholesterol treatment -- a not-so-subtle code for meds like the statins that have become so overused.

    But it's just not that simple, because there's no clear link between those yellow cholesterol pockets and blood levels of the fats. In fact, half the people who develop xanthelasmata have perfectly normal blood cholesterol levels -- and even the new study found that the link to heart disease was there regardless of those blood cholesterol levels.

    So instead of blindly flinging statins around, docs should use the yellow patches as a sign they need to dig deeper and get a more complete picture of your heart disease risk factors. As far as those risk factors go, both yellow eyelids and even those cholesterol levels are actually pretty low on the list.

    The one that beats them both is homocysteine, the inflammation marker that can signal everything from heart problems to dementia risk -- and you don't need a drug to help lower it.

    Something you probably have in your supplement cabinet at this very moment will do that for you: fish oil.

    As I've told you before, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can slash homocysteine levels -- and, as a bonus, they can even lower your levels of deadly triglycerides and boost HDL cholesterol, aka "the good cholesterol."

    It's like killing two birds with one fish.

  3. Weight loss can boost memory

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    Have you found that you don't remember quite as well as you used to? You're not alone... but if you've packed on the pounds over the years, the cause of your memory loss might not be in your brain. It could actually be in your belly.
  4. Gum disease linked to dementia

    Dental floss might really be mental floss--because a new study finds that gum disease can actually increase your risk for Alzheimer's disease.
  5. Depression linked to dementia

    The latest studies show that any battle with the blues can turn into aging's ultimate nightmare: dementia.

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