Author Archives: Zuzanna Walter

Impact of COVID-19 Isolation and Social Distancing on Mental Health

As a method of novel coronavirus disease transmission suppression and an attempt to reduce the risk of infection, social restrictions – such as social distancing and sheltering in place – have been put into place and remain active in the majority of the United States. Such measures have isolated many older adults at home, leaving them with limited contact and social interaction for the duration of the outbreak. As evidenced by global statistics revealing higher death rates among this demographic, the COVID-19 pandemic has been disproportionately affecting older adults.

Current literature suggests that social interaction is an integral component of mental health and wellbeing, while loneliness has been associated with morbidity and mortality in prior research. While the isolating effects of social distancing measures have been felt acutely by the entire population and may be especially profound in older demographics, relatively little scientific evidence on the subject is currently available. A recent study published in the Pan American Journal of Public Health aimed to provide further information on the implications of social distancing measures on patient mental health.

Coping with Coronavirus Isolation

A team of researchers aimed to examine the impact of isolation and social distancing among adults aged 60 and above during the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. To conduct this analysis, the study’s authors asked convenience sampling respondents to complete a web-administered survey exploring the effects of social distancing on mental health factors, including loneliness, stress, and behavioral changes. In total, data from 833 responses from participants aged 60 and above were included in the sample.

Effects of Social Distancing on Older Patients

Of the total survey respondents, 36% reported being stressed while nearly 43% reported feelings of loneliness. Approximately one-third of participants reported feelings of increased loneliness during the social distancing period specifically. Respondents also reported engaging in more solitary activities and fewer in-person activities, using email and text messages more than usual, and spending more time using technology than before.

The study’s authors noted significant differences between younger patients aged 60-70 and those above the age of 71; changes in physical activity, drinking, recreational drug use, and sleeping pattern were found to differ by age. Participants over the age of 71 showed more resiliency with 74% experiencing little to no stress, according to the authors.

“That’s where older adults have a strength,” lead researcher and clinical associate professor at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Gerontology Kerstin Emerson told HealthDay. “They have life experience and coping mechanisms that we don’t often give them credit for, but that’s part of their wisdom. We can really turn to older adults as examples of how to manage and live through bad periods of history.”

Furthermore, two-thirds of survey respondents reported using more social media than they would before the pandemic began revealing that older adults are actively engaging in other forms of social connection and becoming increasingly comfortable online. However, for some older individuals remote connections may be more difficult to achieve due to a lack of internet or smart device access; Emerson noted that her team’s results don’t reflect the most vulnerable populations socially isolated in rural areas or those without sufficient economic resources.

As social distancing regulations and isolation measures persist across the globe, it is important to consider the effects of these strategies on mental health – especially among older adults in the United States. The latest findings indicate the potential adverse psychiatric effects associated with continued shelter-in-place practices and highlight the need for increased mental health screening among vulnerable populations at this time.

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Meet Our August Partner of the Month: Vumedi

VuMedi is the largest video education platform for doctors. A comprehensive resource with over 30,000 videos from medical institutions including Cleveland Clinic, UCSF, Stanford, Columbia and other globally recognized institutions. 450,000 doctors use the platform to educate themselves and ensure they are up to date on practice changing medical advances. VuMedi’s mission is to help clinicians make optimal patient care decisions through comprehensive video education from a variety of trustworthy institutions and practitioners.

VuMedi builds a robust video-sharing community by partnering with doctors, hospitals, meetings and societies to allow for the rapid dissemination of groundbreaking medical information.  VuMedi engages doctors who are publishing cutting edge research, allowing them to distribute their findings quickly to other clinicians around the world, who then take the learnings and apply them as needed across their practices.

VuMedi takes great pride in the trust placed by the medical community in the content we provide. The content is paired with the ability for our technology to target the right communities through a unique, proprietary algorithm paired with a human “education” team of subject matter experts.   Physicians who need to access new topics and research can easily find multiple points of view on the exact subject they are looking to better understand.

VuMedi was founded at the University of California, Berkeley by Roman Giverts. In the ensuing decade, it has focused on ensuring authentic content is delivered in the right way and at the right time to help the medical community deliver the best patient care.  It’s why today, doctors trust VuMedi to provide clinically relevant, succinct presentations of data in a compressed and categorized footprint.

Interested in joining VuMedi’s physician community?  Visit us at www.vumedi.com

Interested in contributing content or partnering at the hospital, meeting society level?  Send us a note contact@vumedi.com

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Novel Blood Test Shows Promise for Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a debilitating and incurable condition affecting approximately 6 million Americans aged 65 and older. As the number of AD cases in the United States is projected to reach an estimated 14 million by the year 2050, there is a pressing need for effective prevention therapies. Currently, there are limitations in diagnostic testing methods for Alzheimer’s disease; to date, the diagnosis of AD has been largely based on amyloid plaques and tau tangles identified in the brain postmortem.

Emerging evidence from Lund University evaluated the potential profound impact on Alzheimer’s research and care an inexpensive and accessible diagnostic test for the presence of plaques and tangles would have. In the recent study, researchers demonstrate the great promise of a novel blood test in discriminating between persons with and without AD as well as identifying the disease in individuals at known genetic risk as early as 20 years before onset.

The large international study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and reveals that measurements of phospho-tau217 (p-tau217) could help medical professionals accurately identify symptoms of Alzheimer’s in living patients.

Identifying Alzheimer’s Disease 

Researchers in Arizona, Sweden, and Colombia investigated the discriminative accuracy of plasma phospho-tau217 at differentiating Alzheimer’s disease from other neurodegenerative disorders. To do so, the study’s authors evaluated a new p-tau217 blood test administered in 1,402 cognitively impaired and unimpaired participants. Subjects included 81 participants from Arizona’s Banner Sun Health Research Institute Brain Donation program, 699 patients from the Swedish BioFINDER Study, and 522 Colombian autosomal dominant AD-causing mutation carriers and non-carriers.

P-tau217 Accurately Distinguishes Risk

The cross-sectional study found that plasma p-tau217 discriminated Alzheimer’s disease from other neurodegenerative diseases with significantly more accuracy than established AD plasma- and MRI-based biomarkers.

In the Arizona cohort, the novel blood test successfully discriminated between brain donors with and without the subsequent diagnosis of “intermediate or high likelihood of Alzheimer’s” with 89% accuracy. Meanwhile, in participants with and without a diagnosis of “high likelihood” the assay was 98% accurate. Higher p-tau217 measures were associated with increased brain tangle counts only in participants with present amyloid plaques.

Within the Swedish cohort, the assay discriminated between persons with clinically diagnosed Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases with 96% accuracy, similar to tau PET scans and CSF biomarkers and better than several other blood tests and MRI measurements. Further, it distinguished between patients with and without an abnormal tau PET scan with up to 93% accuracy.

Finally, in the Colombian cohort, the blood test was able to distinguish between mutation carriers and non-carriers 20 years before their estimated age of onset of mild cognitive impairment. For all of the analyses performed, p-tau217 was found to outperform p-tau181 – a similar component of tau tangles and blood test – as well as several other studied assays; its performance did not differ significantly from that of key CSF- or PET-based measures.

In recent years, much progress has been made in the development of blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease. Although the plasma p-tau217 was found to discriminate AD from other neurodegenerative disease, additional research is needed to validate these findings in larger and more diverse cohorts in order to both optimize the blood test and determine its potential role in the clinical setting.

”The p-tau217 blood test has great promise in the diagnosis, early detection, and study of Alzheimer’s,” lead author Oskar Hansson, MD, PhD, told Science Daily.“While more work is needed to optimize the assay and test it in other people before it becomes available in the clinic, the blood test might become especially useful to improve the recognition, diagnosis, and care of people in the primary care setting.”

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