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Be Well

Better mental health for those living to 90s

Today’s 90-year-olds may be mentally sharper than those who reached that age group just a decade ago, Danish researchers found.

Using data of more than 4,000 nonagenarians from a Denmark registry, the researchers divided the group among those born in 1905 who lived into their 90s, and those born in 1915 who were still living in 2010. They interviewed participants in each group and administered physical and cognitive tests to look for symptoms of depression, as well as assess their physical strength and ability to carry out daily-living tasks.

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Participants who were born in 1915 were 32 percent more likely to reach age 95 compared with those born just a decade before. Nonagenarians born in 1915 also scored on average better on the tests of cognitive and physical abilities. The study suggests that mental performance may be improving among the aging, possibly because of better living standards.

BOTTOM LINE: Today’s 90-year-olds may have a better mental capacity than those who reached that age group just a decade ago.

CAUTIONS: The participants were chosen from a registry from one European country so the results may not apply to a wider group.

WHERE TO FIND IT: The Lancet, online July 11

Cutting cord later may help newborns

Waiting longer to cut the umbilical cord after birth may boost babies’ iron levels for months afterward, a review of studies found.

While standard practice within US hospitals is to clamp the umbilical cord immediately after birth, the review found that cutting the cord that early stops the blood that passes from the mother to the baby and could affect the infant’s iron levels.

The researchers reviewed 15 studies that collectively included nearly 4,000 women who had a baby, and assessed the health of the mother and the baby based on the time the umbilical cord was clamped. They found that when the cord was clamped more than one minute after birth, the health of the mother was not affected and babies had higher blood levels of iron a couple days after birth. Three to six months later, they were less likely to have iron deficiency; iron helps prevent anemia. Babies with delayed cord clamping also had a higher birth weight.

Babies whose cords were clamped later, however, did have a slightly higher risk for jaundice.

Researchers suggest that it may be beneficial to cut the cord one to three minutes after birth, which is the practice recommended by the World Health Organization.

BOTTOM LINE: Waiting a few minutes after birth to cut the umbilical cord may be healthier for the baby.

CAUTIONS: The study looked only at full-term newborns, and it’s unclear whether the higher iron levels helped babies’ development.

WHERE TO FIND IT: The Cochrane Library, July 2013

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