Today’s Headlines: Alzheimer’s, Blood Pressure and AIDS

Alzheimer’s toll may rank with cancer, heart disease: A new study suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may cause as many deaths as heart disease or cancer. Alzheimer’s currently falls sixth on the list of leading causes of death. However, the study suggests that Alzheimer’s deaths exceed prior estimates, which are based on death certificates. The study tracked dementia and deaths in more than 2,500 people over 65. “Of those, nearly a quarter developed Alzheimer’s, and the disease was the cause of death in about 400 people.” Extrapolated to the larger population, this means that Alzheimer’s could be responsible for more than half a million American deaths a year. “By comparison, heart disease was blamed for nearly 600,000 deaths in 2010 and cancer about 575,000 – but those numbers are going down, while deaths from Alzheimer’s are going up.” (CNN)

Take blood pressure in both arms: The next time you’re at the doctor’s office, you may want to have your blood pressure taken in both arms instead of just one. A new study suggests that a difference in readings between arms may be an independent risk factor for heart disease. Researchers followed 3,390 people over 40 who did not have cardiovascular disease for an average of over 13 years. Of those who had a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problem during this period, over a quarter of people had a significantly elevated difference in systolic blood pressure readings. “The study, in the March issue of The American Journal of Medicine, found that a difference of 10 or more between the two readings increased the risk for a cardiac event by about 38 percent.” (The New York Times)

Two reports point to possible future AIDS ‘cure’: Two new studies are giving hope for new and easier ways to manage the incurable HIV/AIDS virus. “In one approach, doctors have treated two infected newborns with strong cocktails of drugs, driving their virus into near invisibility. In the second, they have ‘edited’ patients’ immune systems to resist the virus.” Though neither study amounts to a ‘cure’ quite yet, they both promise better future treatment options for people infected with the dangerous virus. “There is no vaccine and no cure for HIV, which infects 1.1 million Americans and 35 million people worldwide.” (NBC News)