Blood pressure and risk of vascular dementia
High blood pressure could significantly raise the risk of developing the second most common form of dementia, according to a study from The George Institute for Global Health, published in Stroke. The medical records of more than four million people were analysed, with researchers finding that heightened systolic blood pressure was associated with a 62% higher risk of vascular dementia between the ages of 30–50 years. They found that over a median follow-up period of 7 years, 11 114 people developed vascular dementia, and that patients aged 51–70 years had a 26% higher risk of vascular dementia. The study also found that high blood pressure was still a risk factor even after adjusting for the presence of stroke, the leading cause of vascular dementia.

Internet use linked to mental health disorders in young
Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute have found a strong link between excessive internet use and increased levels of psychological distress – including suicidal ideation – in young people, according to a study published in BMC Public Health. Using data from Young Minds Matter, the largest youth mental health survey ever conducted in Australia, the researchers found that while most young people aged 11–17 years used the internet or played electronic games, around 78 000 or 4% experienced problematic internet or games use behaviour which impacted negatively on their life. Lead author Ms Wavne Rikkers stressed that it was unclear from the research whether psychological distress led to overuse of the internet or vice versa. “These young people could be experiencing more mental health problems as a result of their internet use, or they could be turning to the web to help them deal with their psychological distress,” Ms Rikkers said. “It really is a chicken or egg scenario. Nevertheless, the significance of the links is sufficient to warrant concern and further research.”

High fitness levels reduce risk of diabetes and prediabetes
A study published in Diabetologia, which analysed fitness levels across two decades, is the longest study demonstrating that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) reduce the risk of developing prediabetes or diabetes. The study, which adjusted for changes in body mass index over time, provides strong evidence supporting the commonly accepted dogma that fitness is beneficial in reducing the risk of prediabetes or diabetes. The CARDIA study consisted of 4373 African-American and white women and men who were recruited and examined in 1985–1986 from four US communities and balanced on age, race, sex and educational attainment. CRF was assessed prospectively by treadmill exercise testing at baseline (Year 0 [Y0]: participants aged 18–30 years), early adulthood (Y7: the same participants now aged 25–37 years) and again at middle age (Y20: the same participants, now aged 38–50 years). Development of prediabetes or diabetes was ascertained during scheduled visits (at Y0, Y7, Y10, Y15, Y20 and Y25) for the CARDIA study. This study found that when using treadmill exercise testing to measure CRF, an 8–11% higher fitness level reduced the risk of developing prediabetes or diabetes by 0.1%.

Magic mushrooms for resistant depression
Psilocybin – a hallucinogenic compound derived from magic mushrooms – may offer a possible new avenue for treatment of resistant depression, according to UK research published in The Lancet Psychiatry. The small feasibility trial, which involved 12 people with treatment-resistant depression, found that psilocybin was safe and well tolerated and that, when given alongside supportive therapy, it helped reduce symptoms of depression in about half of the participants at 3 months post-treatment. The psychedelic effects of psilocybin were detectable 30–60 minutes after taking the capsules. The psychedelic effect peaked at 2–3 hours and patients were discharged 6 hours later. No serious side effects were reported, and expected side effects included transient anxiety before or as the psilocybin effects began (all patients), some experienced confusion (nine patients), transient nausea (four patients) and transient headache (four patients). Two patients reported mild and transient paranoia. At 1 week post-treatment, all patients showed some improvement in their symptoms of depression. Eight of the 12 patients (67%) achieved temporary remission. By 3 months, seven patients (58%) continued to show an improvement in symptoms and five of these were still in remission. Five patients showed some degree of relapse.

Potato consumption linked to high blood pressure
People who eat more potatoes, whether they are boiled, baked, mashed or French fried, have an increased risk of developing hypertension, according to US research published in the The BMJ. The researchers followed over 187 000 men and women from three large US studies for more than 20 years. Dietary intake, including frequency of potato consumption, was assessed using a questionnaire. Hypertension was reported by participants based on diagnosis by a health professional. After taking account of several other risk factors for hypertension, the researchers found that four or more servings a week of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes was associated with an increased risk of hypertension compared with less than one serving a month in women, but not in men. Higher consumption of French fries was also associated with an increased risk of hypertension in both women and men. However, consumption of potato chips (crisps) was associated with no increased risk. The authors pointed out that potatoes have a high glycaemic index compared with other vegetables, so they can trigger a sharp rise in blood sugar levels, and this could be one explanation for the findings.

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