Moderate alcohol consumption might help people over the age of 60 preserve cognition, according to recently published findings in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.

Older adults who said they drink lightly performed better on tests measuring episodic memory, which is the ability to recall particular events and when they occurred, investigators found. They also observed a link between self-reported moderate drinking and larger hippocampal volume. The hippocampus is the brain region associated with episodic memory.

Drinking in mid-life was not associated with better cognitive functioning and higher brain volume in later years.

“This may be due to the fact that adults who are able to continue consuming alcohol into old age are healthier, and therefore have higher cognition and larger regional brain volumes, than people who had to decrease their alcohol consumption due to unfavorable health outcomes,” stated lead author Brian Downer, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Medical Branch Sealy Center on Aging.

Quick sepsis test

Senior living residents might benefit from a new way of diagnosing and treating sepsis made possible by a recent discovery out of the University of British Columbia.

The test, which would look for a gene signature identified by the UBC researchers, could cut the current 24- to 48-hour diagnosis time down to about an hour. This would be cheered by long-term care providers, as prior research has shown that the bloodstream infection is a major cause of resident hospitalizations. 

While the diagnostic test itself has not yet been developed, the technology for it exists, study co-author Bob Hancock, Ph.D., told McKnight’s

Pump up the volume

Senior living residents might get more enjoyment and therapeutic value out of music if they change hearing aid settings, recently published findings suggest.

Hearing aid technology has evolved to make it easier to follow everyday conversations but might distort music, according to investigators from the University of Colorado Boulder.

“Wide dynamic range compression” is the phrase that describes what many hearing aids now do — which is making softer sounds louder while providing less amplification to loud sounds. This makes it possible for a person to hear conversations in quickly varying environments, such as when moving from a room with a loud air conditioner or with other people talking in a quiet room, explained Naomi Croghan, Ph.D. She led the study as a doctoral student and now works at cochlear implant company Cochlear Americas.

Shift work fallout

Staff on shift schedules might experience diminished memory and thinking skills, recently published findings suggest.

People who performed shift work for a decade or longer had lower scores on memory, thinking and processing tests than those who worked standard schedules, investigators found. In fact, it was as if the shift workers’ brains had aged an additional 6.5 years.

Even workers who had been doing shift work for less than a decade had lower scores. And it takes about five years for the brain to bounce back to age-appropriate performance after shift work ends, the study authors determined.

“Shift work chronically impairs cognition, with potentially important safety consequences not only for the individuals concerned, but also for society,” the authors wrote in the study abstract. 

Target antibiotics 

The Obama administration has called for national action on antibiotics. 

The White House unveiled a national plan to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It includes an executive order to “reduce the emergence and spread” of these bacteria and ensure availability of treatments. 

Wrong prescription

Reactions to medication were the leading cause of allergy-related sudden deaths in the past decade, according to a new analysis.

Investigators looked at fatal drug-induced allergic reactions, which are particularly high among older people. Out of the nearly 2,500 deaths from an allergy from 1999 to 2010, nearly 59% resulted from a medication that led to anaphylaxis. About half were antibiotics, followed by drugs used in cancer treatment. Less than 7% of deaths were from food allergies.

Results appeared in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Shot in the arm

Seniors should receive the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. 

Pneumococcal bacteria cause a severe type of pneumonia, as well as meningitis and other infections. Those over age 65 should first receive one dose of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and then one dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, ideally six to 12 months later, the CDC said.