Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Greetings, MindSite News readers! The federal government extended telehealth prescribing for a while longer (see my story here.) In today’s Daily, scientists explore a mystery: Why centenarians almost never develop Alzheimer’s. Officials in Minnesota crack down on health insurers that violate parity laws, and a small California city launches a crisis response team. Plus, could adopting a pet improve your mental health? And a note on ‘hangxiety.’

Live to 100 and you’re unlikely to develop Alzheimer’s. Scientists want to know why

Herlda Senhouse has lived through 19 presidential administrations – and counting. Barack Obama and Franklin Delano Roosevelt are her favorites. “He did such wonderful things for the people,” she told the Boston Globe, speaking of FDR. Now 112 years old, she remembers FDR clearly, almost as well as she recalls what she did yesterday, and a group of Boston-area researchers are working to figure out why. They believe Senhouse’s secret to living so long – with her memory and thinking intact – lies in her genes. 

Scientists hypothesize that super agers, rare as they are, have genes that protect them from dementia and similar disruptions associated with aging. Roughly one in 5,000 US citizens is 100; those 110 and older are one in 5 million, the Globe reports. What isn’t rare about super agers is their mental sharpness. “We can learn why these people delay or escape Alzheimer’s disease, and use that to come up with drugs to combat it much earlier in a person’s life, so they don’t get the disease,” said Thomas Perls, a professor at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine who is leading a study on centenarians and Alzheimer’s.

For his latest research, Perls and his team have created tiny “brains in a dish” from the blood cells of centenarians. Once created, they introduce amyloid, the sticky protein that builds up in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. Their goal is to identify what genetic variants stand out to protect centenarians’ brains after the amyloid is introduced and ultimately, to create pharmaceuticals that mimic the effect of the protective genes. Nearly 1,000 centenarians and their children are part of the study. They’ll also enroll spouses of centenarian’s children as a comparison group. “They share the same environment, they probably share a lot of the same health behaviors and leisure activities as the centenarians’ offspring, but they don’t have at least some of the protective genes,” said Stacy Andersen, a co-author of the study.

Minnesota sanctions HealthPartners for violating mental health parity laws

Minnesota commerce officials have determined that HealthPartners, a provider of health insurance and health care, violated parity laws in its coverage of mental health treatment, MPR News reports. Both federal and Minnesota state laws require health insurance companies to diagnose and treat mental health conditions on par with medical and surgical services.

The state’s Department of Commerce found that HealthPartners denied coverage for residential mental health treatment before 2018 and reconsidered denied claims for mental health care less often than it did for physical treatments. The company accepted the findings along with a $150,000 fine and one year of state monitoring to ensure it complies with revamped procedures.

 “We think it’s a good start,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI Minnesota. “We see children boarding in the emergency room because they can’t access residential treatment…We see people waiting for three months or six months to even see a therapist…When we deny access to care, people don’t get better.”

New study suggests adults with mental health conditions at greater risk of heart attack and stroke

Adults under 40 with mental health conditions are at greater risk of heart attack and stroke and should receive regular check-ups and appropriate medication, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. The researchers analyzed health insurance data that includes the country’s entire population. They looked at adults aged 20 to 39 who had health checkups between 2009 and 2012 and had no history of heart attack or stroke to that point. When they followed this group through 2018, they found that those with at least one mental health condition had a 58% greater risk of heart attack and a 42% greater risk of stroke. 

“The heart is a muscle and being under constant stress will weaken your heart,” Kimberly Parker, a licensed clinical social worker who wasn’t part of the study, told Medical News Today. “Stress increases blood pressure which puts the body in a higher category for heart attack and stroke. Stress also triggers unhealthy habits where one can overindulge with unhealthy eating. Preventative measures are therapy, working out, utilizing mindfulness meditation with breath work, and if needed…psychotropic medications.” 

Following tragedy, California city launches its first mental health crisis response team

The Angelo Quinto Crisis Response Team officially began service earlier this week, named in honor of an Antioch resident and Navy veteran who died at the hands of police officers while experiencing a mental health emergency in December 2020. His sister had called 911 to get help and the responding officers handcuffed and restrained him. He went limp on the floor and died three days later.

“I asked if there was somebody else that I could have called and a lot of people, everybody, said that I did the right thing,” Quinto’s sister, Isabella Collins, said at a press conference introducing the new crisis team. “But I’ve often said that the right thing wouldn’t have killed my brother.” 

There weren’t other options at the time, reported the Mercury News. Now there is one. Antioch city officials started the new crisis team with support from the federal American Rescue Plan, and will continue to fund it with $1.8 million a year in city funds. The team will operate 24/7 and will support Antioch police by responding to non-violent, non-life threatening calls which police would previously answer. 

In other news…

Animal-assisted therapy can aid your mental health. So, the departments of animal services and mental health in Riverside County, CA came together to create PAIR, the Pets Assisting In Recovery program. It pairs dogs and cats in need of homes with people struggling with stress and anxiety.

The programs also provide trained therapy animals for group and individual counseling sessions. NBC LA spotlighted Pepsi, a dog adopted through PAIR and trained as a therapy animal who has helped children open up. “When she came to the Riverside University Health System with us, there was a clinician who had difficulty getting a child out of her shell. [The child] would curl up into a little ball and hide under the chair,” said Tabby Arroyo, who works with PAIR. “They brought [Pepsi] in, and in the first session, you can see how the girl came out from under the table. Pepsi was able to save the child.”

Financial worries are hurting Americans’ mental health. Rising interest rates, inflation, and tentative incomes are to blame, according to a new survey from Bankrate, CBS News reports. “Inflation really hit us hard this year, as opposed to prior years,” wrote financial planning professor Megan McCoy in Bankrate’s report. “It hit the average American much more closely because it was reflected directly in our gas or in our grocery bills.”

Hangxiety? What’s that? Different from a hangover, it’s when you wake up after a night of drinking only to worry and stress over everything you did the night before. For some people, it can feel like near panic. People struggling with anxiety when they start to drink may be more prone to hangxiety the next day. It’s a vicious cycle, clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly explained to Discover. People may feel anxious about a social situation and use alcohol to relax, but once the alcohol wears off, anxiety can return worse than before, she said. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

Recent MindSite News Stories

Feds extend telemedicine prescribing for up to 18 more months 

When the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency comes to an end tomorrow (May 11), people will be able to continue getting prescriptions for drugs that treat ADHD, opioid use disorder and other conditions from medical providers via telehealth for as many 18 more months.

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Shame of a City, and a Nation

Two ugly strains of American life came together this week on a New York subway: the fear and hatred of people with mental illness and the belief that vigilante action is justified against people who make others frightened or uncomfortable.

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Breaking Away From Hate

Trauma, abuse, and mental health problems can make people more vulnerable to violent extremism. Here’s how a movement founded in part by former white supremacists is helping extricate Americans from violent hate groups.

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Type of work:

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...