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Poor sleep linked to Alzheimer’s-related plaque buildup

Not getting enough sleep or good sleep may be linked to the buildup of abnormal proteins in the brain that could signal Alzheimer’s disease, a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.

The authors asked 70 adults, whose average age was 76, about their sleep patterns, including duration and quality. The participants then underwent brain imaging to look for the amount of beta amyloid plaque, a protein involved in Alzheimer’s. Those who reported having trouble sleeping or not getting enough sleep — considered to be less than five hours — had greater buildup of amyloid in the brain.

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This study comes on the heels of another, done in mice, finding that sleep may help wash out waste products in the brain, including beta amyloid.

BOTTOM LINE: Not getting enough sleep or good sleep may be linked to the buildup of an abnormal protein in the brain that could signal Alzheimer’s disease.

CAUTIONS: Because of the small number of participants, the findings may not apply to a wider group. It’s unclear whether lack of sleep caused the plaque buildup, and the study didn’t track whether those with greater plaque buildup went on to develop Alzheimer’s.

WHERE TO FIND IT: JAMA Neurology, online Oct. 21

Flu deaths among kids topped 800 over the last decade

More than 800 US children ages 18 and younger died from flu-related complications over the last decade, many before they even reached a hospital, a new study found.

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The analysis of surveillance data compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at deaths between October 2004 and September 2012 and found that 830 children died from flu-related complications. The most common complication was pneumonia.

While the flu is known to be more life-threatening for children with developmental or genetic disorders, or those under age 2, the study found that 43 percent of the children who died (and whose medical history was known) had no high-risk medical condition. Thirty-five percent of the children died before being admitted to a hospital. Those who were not considered high-risk were more likely to die from complications outside of the hospital and within three days of experiencing flu symptoms.

The findings suggest that all children, regardless of their risk status, should receive the flu shot, and those who have been hospitalized should receive antiviral treatment as soon as possible, the researchers wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: More than 800 children died from flu-related complications over the last decade, many before they reached a hospital.

CAUTIONS: The study looked only at reported cases of children with laboratory-confirmed influenza, so the number of deaths may be higher. It’s unclear how many of the children who died received the flu vaccine.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Pediatrics, online Oct. 28

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