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Posted - Nov. 2, 2004 at 7:40 a.m.



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Nov 02, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- ALZHEIMER'S FACTS AND FIGURES

November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness month, a good time to learn about the disorder that affects 20 percent of those past 75, U.S. experts say. Suffered by the late President Ronald Regan, Alzheimer's wreaks havoc with the neurological functioning of 4.5 million Americans. The progressive, neurodegenerative disease, characterized by memory problems that eventually lead to severe cognitive and functional impairment, can be slowed with treatment, although currently there is no cure. The average patient survives eight to 10 years after diagnosis, although the disease can last for as long as 20 years, Alzheimer's Association officials say. In people 65 and older, Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia. Early onset Alzheimer's can occur in patients in their 40s and 50s. Each year, some 100,000 people die of Alzheimer's and 360,000 are diagnosed with the disease that costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually.

PHONICS CAN HELP DYSLEXIC ADULTS READ

U.S. researchers say studies show phonics-based instruction can change brain activity in adults with dyslexia, resulting in improved reading. The findings from a study by scientists at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and Georgetown University Medical Center, reported in the journal Neuron, shows with some 112 hours of phonic-based instruction, adults with dyslexia improved their reading and exhibited changes in brain activity while reading, says Lynn Flowers of Wake Forest. "We know that dyslexia is not something children outgrow, and our findings suggest that it's never too late for instruction to overcome this disability," Flowers says. Dyslexia, or difficulty in learning to read, is linked to underactivity in brain areas that process language and "decode" words into groups of letters associated with meaningful sound patterns.

SMOKING, HEROIN AFFECT SAME BRAIN SYSTEM

University of Michigan scientists say smoking and heroin affect the same "feel good" brain center, explaining why those who light up report feeling calm. The researchers say smoking produces major changes in the flow of chemicals called opioids, known to play a role in quelling pain, heightening positive emotions and creating a sense of reward, between brain cells, temporarily and long-term. The same system is stimulated by heroin and morphine. The research team told the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience the results come from a pilot study of young male pack-a-day smokers and non-smoking comparison volunteers. The researchers say the surprisingly large effect on opioid levels suggests a promising road of discovery that may lead to better understanding of the effects of smoking, including the mystery of why it is so hard to quit, despite tobacco's many health dangers, says neuroscience researcher David Scott.

PERMANENT MAKEUP POSES LASTING PROBLEMS

Lip, eye and other permanent makeup, a new trend among women tired of having to reapply cosmetics, may lead to lasting skin problems, Alabama scientists say. The University of Alabama, Birmingham, dermatologist Dr. Sarah Boyce says allergic reactions are a major drawback of the procedure. She says the skin can stay swollen and peel as long as the tattoo remains. Eyebrows and fill-in lip colors may be popular, but they cause a reaction that holds the pigment in the skin, and can causes painful problems, Boyce says.

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(Editors: For more information about ALZHEIMER'S, contact Kuleni Gebisa at (415) 318-4226. For PHONICS, Karen Richardson at (336) 716-4587 or krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu. For SMOKING, Kara Gavin at (734) 764-2220 or kegavin@umich.edu. For MAKEUP, Hank Black AT (205) 934-8938 or hblack@uab.edu)

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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