Denmark’s first dementia village

Mike the Psych's Blog

Denmark has opened a village equipped with a music library, restaurants and shops reserved for dementia sufferers.

Svendborg Demensby on the island of Funen is the first of its kind in Denmark and is modelled on similar villages in Italy, Canada and the Netherlands.

The village of 125 homes was developed on the site of an old brewery which had already been used as a care centre for the elderly. The idea is to give residents the feel of living in a small town and is expected to give dementia sufferers a safer environment and a more fulfilling life in comparison with ordinary sheltered housing. It’s a pilot scheme with plans to open similar projects in Aalborg, Odense and Herning.

The Danish Alzheimer’s Association cautiously welcomed the initiative but voiced worries about the villagers being cut off from the outside world. “It concerns us when special dementia villages are being…

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Can dementia patients actually get better?

head_outline_puzzle_1600_wht_10307There has been some excitement about reports that people with early-stage Alzheimer’s have recovered from their memory after being put on a controversial recovery plan.

Scientists say the results are unprecedented. There were only 10 patients, aged late 40s to mid-70s, in the trial and most of the reports are anecdotal but they include a 69 year-old entrepreneur who was able to go back to work and expand his business and a woman who recovered her fluency in two foreign languages.

There is currently no one drug which can reverse the symptoms which include confusion, loss of speech and memory loss (but see post about symptoms other than memory loss).

The California researchers claim that a customised programme of 36 different treatments can restore some patients with Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairment to normality and improve their lives significantly.

The plan is called Metabolic Enhancement for Neural Degeneration or MEND. Basically it requires patients to make major lifestyle changes – exercise and sleep patterns – as well as taking drugs and vitamin supplements.

Brain scans of all 10 patients showed significant increases in grey matter. The improvements lasted as long as the patients stuck to the plan lasting up to four years.

The MEND programme

  • Fast at least 3 hrs before bedtime
  • Low GI & low-calorie cereal
  • At least 30 mins exercise, 4 to 6 days a week
  • Hormone supplements
  • Melatonin to guarantee 8 hours sleep
  • More than a dozen dietary supplements including reveratrol, curcumin & vitamins D3 & K2

British experts are being more cautious one saying the experiment had been carried out sloppily and risked raising unfair expectations among patients.

The head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said it was likely that the best way to deal with it was to use multiple strategies but that this study was too small.

The researchers at the University of California now want to expand the trial to larger groups. This will be important to establish the reliability of the plan using a blind controlled method with good diagnostics and follow-up.

See previous post on dementia

Dementia update 2016

elderly_man_holding_a_custom_text_sign_12871The government has announced a pilot programme to screen 40-year olds for dementia. The government wants to make Britain “the best place in the world to live with dementia“.

There are about 850,000 in the UK who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other severe neurodegenerative problems (approx 70% have Alzheimer’s and 20% vascular dementia).

Only those over 65 have a mid-life MoT at present. If the pilot is a success it will be extended to all GPs allowing them to suggest ways that people can cope with it better.

Exercising more, controlling weight and blood pressure, and eating better, are a few ways that could help.

Another part of the project is to enlist people in research to allow doctors to better understand and treat the condition.

Dementia can be frightening and the Alzheimer’s Society says  more than 9 out of 10 people think hospitals are frightening places. The health secretary has pledged that people in high dependency units will be seen regular by consultants, up to twice a day if appropriate.

Dementia support groups welcomed the shift in attitude from the government which has made dementia one of its top four priorities. “Many people with dementia face stigma and a health and care system that simply does not work for them resulting in emergency hospital admissions, extended stays and desperate loneliness

Public Health England is looking at lifestyle as a risk factor and asking doctors to look at patients with high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats or early signs of type 2 diabetes (this is part of the mid-life MoT).

A study published by Cardiff University in 2013 had looked at the lifestyles of over 2,000 men aged 45-59 over 35 years.

It found that men who were non-smokers, who took exercise, kept their weight down, drank little and ate well, had a 60% drop in dementia and cognitive decline as well as 70% fewer instances of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

The director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s society says “What’s emerging is that what’s good for the heart, in terms of lifestyle, is also good for the head. We don’t yet understand why this is so and we need to do more research on it”

If we could delay the average age on onset of Alzheimer’s by five years we could cut patient numbers (currently 850,000 and predicted to rise to 2 million by 2050) by a third” Dementia is the leading cause of death for women in England and Wales.

Researchers at Yale University think that helping people to have a more optimistic view of old age could delay the onset. They found that people with pessimistic views of old age, thinking that the elderly are irritable, slow to learn and forgetful, are themselves more likely to acquire the disease.

However it’s hard to untangle the psychological and medical factors given that early changes can take place 15 years before symptoms show. Recent US research suggests that forgetfulness in your 60s can be a sign of a higher dementia risk

However memory loss is not the only symptom.

Walking slowly could be an early sign of dementia, according to researchers in France who measured people’s walking speed and gait. Speed of walking has also been associated with life expectancy along with other simple tasks.

The researchers acknowledge that people could also be influenced by other illnesses such as cardio-vascular disease or depression which could have an impact on the brain.

Some of the symptoms might seem more obvious – like not recognising yourself in the mirror,  forgetting how to work the microwave, or not knowing what day or year it is.

Even a warped sense of humour could be an early sign of dementia. So if you are laughing inappropriately at tragic events or enjoy slapstick humour they could be early warning signs which show up 9 years before other symptoms.

The leader of this research at UCL said “Personality and behaviour changes should be prompts for further investigation and clinicians need to be more aware of these symptoms as a potential early sign of dementia”.

There is a lot of research into this tragic condition and there is also some good news. The number of men developing the condition has dropped considerably since the 1990s when there were 42 cases per thousand population now down to 27. In older men over 85 the incidence has almost halved from 72 to 38 cases per thousand.

This has been attributed to men living healthier lifestyles than they did 20 years ago. However with obesity and diabetes on the increase among the middle-aged these gains might not be maintained. So its back to “what’s good for your heart is good for your brain”

Do vampires know something we don’t?

mouth_vamp_teeth_1600_clr_17745Injecting/transfusing yourself with the blood of virgins (Kim Jong II and Pope Innocent VIII – well maybe not so innocent as blood donors all died), bathing in it (Countess Bathory – or Ingrid Pitt if you’re a Hammer film fan) or just taking a bloody bite (Dracula and a long line of vampires since) may seem other-worldly but scientists now believe that they may have been onto something.

Scientists in California are testing an Alzheimer’s treatment that involves injecting blood plasma from young people in the hope it will reduce brain ageing.

Saul Vileda’s experiments with mice of different ages showed that when you mix their blood. Giving blood from older mice to younger mice accelerated cognitive decline. 

He then found that when he injected older mice with young blood it changed the brain circuitry in the older mice creating new synaptic connections. Plasticity also returned relating to learning and memory-related genes.

He believes it’s because the proportion of different molecules in blood changes with age and older blood has more factors associated with inflammation.

Since the research was published they have received offers of children’s blood and requests from aged billionaires.

However they have taken an ethical stance and in trials at Stanford  University volunteers  with early stage Alzheimer’s  are being injected with young blood plasma. The experiment is reported in a BBC documentary “How to stay young”.

As Vileda says “We have heard about vampires. Is there some truth in that? Children heal so quickly. Is it the fountain of youth?

Well, vampires are immortal after all.

Dementia – more than just memory loss

head_outline_puzzle_1600_wht_10307Behavioural changes in mid-life put down to relationship problems, the menopause, or a mid-life crisis may in fact be early symptoms of dementia according to Jonathan Rohrer, a specialist in frontotemporal dementia at University College, London.

He says doctors are “stuck on the idea” that memory loss was the key symptom. Not so. Whilst that is associated with Alzheimer’s, personality changes and loss of motivation can be warning signs of other forms of dementia. Unfortunately these take much longer to be diagnosed.

Most common in middle-aged people, frontotemporal dementia affects the frontal lobes of the brain leading to loss of motivation, vision problems, and shedding of inhibitions.

People become more irritable, saying rude things that are socially unacceptable, as one of the symptoms is loss of empathy towards loved ones. People go to the GP and say “my partner’s not right” and the doctor says “it’s just mid-life” or “you’re not getting on any more””.

So what are the warning signs?

  • Loss of inhibition including tactless comments and impulsive behaviour
  • Loss of motivation but not accompanied by sadness
  • Loss of sympathy or empathy such as showing less interest in others
  • Cravings for sweet or fatty foods
  • Slow or hesitant speech including stuttering
  • Repetition of compulsive behaviour
  • Decline in personal hygiene

Dr Rohrer has just announced that he is starting a project to look for the genetic causes of this form of dementia.

Reported in The Times

My last post on dementia

Being bilingual has health benefits

head_gear_500_wht_2011The ability to speak a foreign language may double your chances of recovering from a stroke.

Even if you only learn a new language later in life it might help you develop more neuronal connections and strengthen your “cognitive reserve” that helps you cope with brain damage.

Foreign languages challenge the mind and compelled the brain to form significantly more connections. This means it can reroute neural circuits much more easily if damaged.

At one time it was thought that women recovered from strokes better than men because their brain hemispheres were more generalised than men’s i.e. men seemed to have a more dominant hemisphere. You can se the reasoning behind that idea.

In this latest study over 600 stroke patients in Hyderabad, India had their records analysed. This is an area where the majority of people spek two or more languages.

41% of the patients who were bilingual had kept their memory functions unimpaired compared with only 20% who spoke only one language.

Being multi-lingual made no difference when it came to recovering loss of speech however. There was no difference no matter how many languages were spoken.

The study also showed that what you see on a MRI scan and what you get in real life can be different. Two people with the same level of atrophy in their brain because of loss of neurone due to dementia can function quite differently mentally.

People who are very active, do physical exercise, but also do a lot of mental activity tend to perform better, so if your mind and body are active you’re able to cope better with potential damage that diseases can bring” Said Dr Bak who led the study.

150,000 Brits suffer a stroke every year so these findings are important. Scientists already knew that people who are more mentally active throughout their lives are better at dealing with a range of neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s.

There are studies from Belgium and Nigeria which show that bilingual people tend to have dementia diagnosed as much as five year’s later than people who do not speak any foreign languages. The same effect was also found in American nuns but I’m not sure why. (No jokes about speaking in tongues please).

Dr Bak also found that it’s never too late to learn a language. In his unpublished research he found that started to learn a new language as late as 78 had an even bigger protective effect than learning the language at a younger age.

Story in the Times; research published in Stroke journal

I posted on the value of learning a foreign language in relation to dementia four years ago. Click here to read it.

Protect your memory

head_outline_puzzle_1600_wht_10307Apparently we are experiencing an epidemic of premature memory loss. Scientists are now saying our memory begins to fade at 45 years of age rather than at 60 as was previously believed.

Unfortunately failing mid-life memory – the occasional slips which are referred to as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) – could also be an early symptom of senile dementia. This brain disease is now striking people 10 years earlier than it did 20 years ago and is regularly being diagnosed in people in their 40s.

Half of those diagnosed with MCI go on to develop senile dementia. But half don’t so what makes the difference?

There seems to be no simple explanations. Some experts have blamed environmental pollution including exhaust fumes and pesticides. Others have blamed an over-reliance on technology, junk food and our lifestyles generally.

More people are referring themselves to doctors about memory problems. The vast majority suffer from what psychologists have called “security protection overload”. They feel overwhelmed by the numbers, codes and operating systems they need to know to function in a hi-tech environment.

Who hasn’t experienced ‘PIN amnesia’? It happened to me today as I used a credit card I don’t use very often. All my cards have different PINs which I remember pretty much all the time. The stress of getting it wrong and worrying about three strikes and out is enough to interfere with memory recall anyway.

People are using their memory less as they store information on their smartphones. And we’ve seen what happens when people over-rely on sat-navs and end up in a river. The brain is like  a muscle. Use it or lose it!

We have to keep active and our brains active by doing new and different things. Keeping the blood flowing to our brains and making new connections through imagination and planning.

For those of us with middle-aged brains the upside is that we are generally calmer, less neurotic, better in social situations, wiser, and more contented. The Seattle Longitudinal Study, which has tracked the mental abilities of thousands of adults over the past 50 years, has found that middle-aged adults perform better on 4 out of 6 cognitive tests than they did as young adults.

And while middle-aged people can perform tests as well as young people in conditions of silence they are more distracted than them in noisy environments. This might also explain the “doorway amnesia” where we move from one room to another and forget why we are there. The movement breaks our concentration as we are distracted by new stimuli in the new room.

Forgetting is a healthy brain function. You don’t want your brain cluttered up by irrelevant information about previous events when you need to remember something today. People who can’t forget – it’s called hypermythesia – get confused.

Healthy brains allow us to recall information when we need it. The problem is that we don’t always retrieve it efficiently. Our library of information becomes less efficiently managed as we get older.

This post is based on an article in the Times Body and Soul segment which also suggests the following ways to protect your memory.

Walk for 30 minutes a day, three times a week. Regular exercise provides the brain with oxygen and nutrients.

Eat vegetables and nuts. We know mediterranean diets are good for us . Now nutritionists at Rush University Chicago have developed the MIND diet, a specially formulated brain-protecting diet.

Give up transfats. Found in burgers, biscuits and cakes. Designed to increase the shelf-life of food but not people.

Eat less sugar. Studies have shown that high blood glucose can damage brain function. Not to mention sugar ruins your teeth and makes you fat!

Lose weight. It’s not PC to use the F word but obesity is a killer and costs the country a fortune. Overweight people’s memory declines over 20% faster than people of normal weight.

Avoid cigarettes and beer. Middle-aged men drinking two-and-a-half pints of beer a day speed up their memory loss by 6 years. Smoking has also been linked to a faster decline in memory.

Drink strong coffee. Twice a day. It helps middle-aged people do short-term memory tests but appears to have no effect on young people. Caffeine also strengthens brain connections. So there you skinny decaff latte drinkers. Not good for you!

PS Brain training games don’t help. You might get better at the games but that’s all according the the Alzheimer’s society. Same goes for crosswords and Sudoku.

Two ways to stave off dementia

woman_reading_book_1600_wht_7865If you’re already middle-aged then this finding may come too late for you – but you can still help your grandchildren..

1 Children who get good grades at the age of 10 are significantly less likely to develop dementia in later life.

Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden – who studied 7,500 dementia-free pensioners for at least 20 years and compared their mental health against their education and work experiences – claim that children who stretch themselves in class build up a “cognitive reserve” that makes them more resilient to memory loss in old age.

Children who scored in the top fifth at school and went into jobs that involved complex analysis had a 39% lower risk of developing dementia than the rest of the group.

In a matching study of 440 people over the age of 75 over nine years it was found that pupils with the lowest grades at school were 50% more likely to suffer dementia after the age of 75 even if they went on to study at university or had intellectually challenging jobs.

This is more evidence that low IQ scores in childhood is linked to a higher risk of dementia after a similar study in Scotland in 2008 that found that people with poor academic scores as children were at a significantly higher risk of developing vascular dementia.

It is also more evidence that challenging the brain throughout its lifetime gives you more mechanisms to deal with the symptoms of dementia. Although there are mixed views about so-called “brain training”, exercise and a healthy diet can definitely improve your brainpower as you get older.

Having a cognitive reserve doesn’t protect you from the physical damage of dementia but can help people finding ways of minimising the effects.

Dr Laura Phipps from Alzheimer Research said “With some people there’s something about their brain – the way it works, how many connections they have in the brain, how easily they form these connections – that means in the face of brain damage they can find compensatory strategies and carry on with life as normal”

A neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institute said “Our findings highlight the importance of early-life cognitive performance for the late-life risk of dementia. It appears that baseline cognitive ability, even at age 10, may provide the foundation for successful cognitive ageing much later in life. Formation of cognitive reserve is a process that apparently begins early in life”

Dr Phipps was keen to stress that poor school results in childhood didn’t necessarily mean that a child was exposed to a greater risk of dementia or memory loss when they got older. More research was needed to look at other factors such as diet and genetics.

artist_mannequin_brush_1600_wht_66802 If you’re already in adulthood take up life drawing!

30 volunteers took part in an experiment at Newcastle University.

Two groups either took brisk walks or did crossword puzzles or Sudoku. The third group took an art class drawing a nude male.

All the volunteers took a series of tests over eight weeks. The walking group showed the biggest improvement in physical health and a small increase in the cognitive tests, those doing increasingly difficult crosswords and sudoku became better at them and improved their mental skills.

However the art class showed the greatest enthusiasm for the task and showed the biggest improvement in the memory tests.

The art class was also the most sociable which is also an important factor in keeping the brain sharp.

The clinical psychologist who organised the tests said learning a new skill could be a benefit in maintaining brain power. “Learning something new engages the brain in ways that seem to be the key. Your brain changes in response no matter how many years you have behind you. Capturing an image on paper is not just intellectually demanding, it also involves learning how to make the muscles in your hand guide the pencil or paintbrush in the right direction.”

An additional health benefit was that the volunteers stood in the art class for three hours a week which burns calories and improves health.

NB. Recently there has been a health campaign to get more office workers to stand up during the day to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes but there has been no real evidence that it has been effective.

Japan has problems with ageing population

japan_peg_figure_1600_wht_12106Japan is experiencing  a surge in crime among the elderly population. These geriatric delinquents steal, fight, and occasionally murder people.

Juvenile crime fell by 15% during the first half of this year but offences by the elderly rose 3%.

It has been called Japan’s tsunami. A quarter of Japanese are over 65 and 15% of them suffer from dementia. On top of that the birth rate is in decline so  if things continue in this way there won’t be enough younger people in work to pay taxes and support the increasing proportion of elderly people.

Japan has one of the lowest levels of crime in the world but older people are more likely to commit theft, including shoplifting, often because of poverty and out of desperation.

Murders are committed by elderly careers driven to desperation by a chronically ill spouse.

Tamano Tsujikawa, a lawyer and member of a committee on elderly people at the Japan Bar Association says “Behind this increase in crimes by elderly people lies hardship in daily living. Society’s safety net is broken.

In the old days elderly people were supported by younger generations. That family function has gone and forced old people to live alone. And the environment surrounding such people is getting worse because of economic stagnation and a society that neglects its weaker members.”

A 71-year old man who committed suicide by setting himself alight on a train after struggling to make ends meet had said to his sister shorty beforehand. “Do they just want us old ones to drop dead quickly?

I’ve posted about this problem before and it’s not going away.

Future-proofing your health

looking_in_mirror_successful_1600_wht_5648Scientists have found that making behavioural changes now can significantly improve your health in 20 years time.

They reached these conclusions after following thousands of people over a twenty year period to see what impact diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices made.

Exercise

Gentle and sustained exercise every day is good for your brain and can cut the risk of developing dementia by 40% according to a study that tracked people in a community in Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948.

A 20 year study into female nurses found that those who walked  30 minutes a day scored significantly better on mental-health tests.

However three years down the line the advice for a healthy heart is that it’s not good enough just to exercise – it  has to be intense.

Danish researchers recently reported a study of 10,000 adults in the BMJ which showed that a daily power walk or jog could cut the risk of heart disease by 50% whereas a slow amble made no difference.

The fast walking halved the risk of metabolic syndrome – a collection of factors such as a bulging midriff, high blood pressure, and abnormal blood fat levels – and jogging reduced it by 50%.

Generally the more effort you put into your exercise the better. Some experts say two 60-second workouts a week can reduce the risk of heart disease from middle-age onwards. The participants in one study did all-out 6 second sprints 6 times increasing to 10 times.

They lost 1kg without changing their diet or other activities but more importantly their cardiovascular function was improved after just 8 weeks. It suggests that HIT can have a significant impact on obesity and heart disease.

On the other hand yoga is an excellent way of reducing tension, reduces bmi, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Research at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam shows that regular yoga can be as effective as strenuous forms of exercise when it comes to heart health. For patients with existing heart disease taking medication the benefits were even greater.

So if you can’t do high intensity training (HIT)or have a pre-existing heart condition yoga sounds like the ideal solution.

Eating meat

Eating even small amounts of processed meat like bacon, sausages, or salami, can increase your likelihood of  dying prematurely by 20% according to research at Harvard based on 100,000 people over 28 years.

Unprocessed red meat also carries a health risk. Daily servings of red meat (85g) over the length of the study brought an 18% increased risk of dying from heart disease, a 10% increased risk of dying from cancer and eating 100g a day increased the risk of diabetes by 19%.

Red meat is considered dangerous because steak often contains high amounts of saturated fat and salami and bacon contain high amounts of salt.

The BHF is reviewing its guidance on fat however and suggests you eat a healthy range of fats including the saturated type you find in lean meat and some dairy; along with fats from nuts, avocados, oily fish and seeds.

Replacing red meat with poultry, fish, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy foods could cut your risk of dying prematurely by 20%.

Eating naturally occurring fats rather than that in biscuits, cakes and snacks is the best advice.

Friends

Feeling isolated at work or under threat from colleagues is not just upsetting but is a long-term risk to your health and can more than double the risk of serious illness or early death.

A 20-year study at Tel Aviv university tracked more than 800 white-collar workers. Those who were surrounded by bullies and backstabbers were 2.4 more likely to die during the study.

On the other hand feeling supported and welcomed by co-workers seems to protect your health and well-being. Considering how much time we spend at work it’s important that it is a positive experience and somewhere you can get emotional support if you need it.

But it’s not just at work. Living alone in middle age can double your chances of developing Altzheimer’s especially if you are widowed or divorced according to the findings of a 20-year study of 2,000 people published in 2011.

Vitamin supplements

Some supplements may do more harm than good. German research published in Heart in 2012 found that calcium supplements taken to fend off osteoporosis can double the risk of heart attacks.

Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that men with prostate cancer who take more than 7  multi-vitamins a week are 30% more likely to get advanced and fatal forms of the disease.

Defenders of supplements argue that people who take them are more likely to be ill in the first place. But if you have a healthy diet and aren’t vegan why would you need to take supplements anyway?

Conscientiousness

Being conscientious i.e. doing what you say you will do, and paying attention to detail has significant health benefits according to the results of an 80-year study of American children from the age of eight called the Longevity Project.

Conscientious people live significantly longer. Being conscientious means having a prudent nature, being persistent and well-organised, somewhat obsessive and not generally carefree, say the authors of the study..

“Taking life seriously makes people want to live more meaningful, committed lives.  They also take fewer risks and look after their well-being everyday; they achieved much for their families and nurtured close relationships. They were persistent and successful and dedicated to things and people other than themselves.”

Holidays 

A quarter of us don’t take all our holidays in the UK (an average of 5 weeks). The US isn’t so generous with paid leave but data from the earlier mentioned Framingham study shows that women who don’t often take holidays are eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took two holidays a year.

Our bodies fact to our lifestyles and if that involves being stressed it’s not good for us.

Sex

Having sex is particularly important for middle-aged men. Those who have intercourse several times a week significantly reduce their risk of suffering a fatal stroke.

The University of Bristol monitored the cardiac health and sexual activity over over 900 men in Wales from a former mining village. The men were aged 45-59 when first studied in the early 1980s.

20% reported having sex once a month or less, 25% had sex twice a week or more often. The rest of the group were somewhere between these two extremes.

The 25% who enjoyed the most sex suffered the fewest fatal strokes according to the report in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

 Eating & Drinking

Studies in Japan show that stopping eating when you feel 80% full can reduce your calories intake by around 20%. Restricted calorie intake has been linked to longevity.

If you don’t fancy that approach a mediterranean diet helps replacing processed foods with freshly prepared meals rich in olive oil, oily fish and nuts. A low carb diet rich in nuts, grains, oat cereals and barley can reduce the risk of heart disease by 10% over 10 years.

Drinking in moderation can help you long term. A study of almost 2,000 men and women published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research showed that men and women who drink moderately tend to live longer than heavy drinkers or teetotallers.

Experts from the university of Texas found three drinks a day did no harm. Low-level alcohol consumption protects against coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in developed countries. So the experts think the benefits outweigh any risks.

Drinking tea also helps. Four or five cups a day helps to protect your heart. A survey of 13,000 people found that those drinking tea (with or without milk) had a better cardiovascular profile than coffee drinkers or those who drank neither.

Tea has a positive effect on blood pressure and has anti-oxidants that have survival benefits.

Diet Drinks are a definite no-no. Drinking artificially sweetened drinks including water is definitely not good for you. The American College of Cardiology suggest that people drinking two or more of these drinks a day are 30% more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem than people who never drink them.

Prime sources: Times Body + Soul June 2012 “How to be healthy in 20 years time”; Times Body & Soul January 2015 “The midlife healthy heart guide: the rules for men and women”; plus various posts from this site.