Could your heart be killing you?

heartIs your heart killing you?  A radical new theory suggests that our heartbeat could be responsible for Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia.

Dementia is the umbrella term used to describe all sorts of degenerative conditions that damage our brains. It is emerging as one of the world's biggest health concerns, and one of our most deadly diseases.

More than 40 million people around the world have it, and the fear is that as the population ages more of us will be effected. About 50,000 New Zealanders have dementia now, and that number is predicted to triple to 150,000 by 2050.

Conventional thinking is that Alzheimer's disease is caused by the deposit of plaques on the brain, and today there's no cure. "One way to avoid it all is to die young" Professor Jonathan Stone of the University of Sydney told This Way Up's Simon Morton.

Professor Stone is a New Zealand-born neurobiologist working at the University of Sydney. He suggests that the combination of our pulse and our deteriorating vascular system causes small bleeds in the brain that increase as we get older, resulting in dementia.

"When I started on this quest for understanding dementia I didn't imagine for a moment that the heart was involved; there was no literature suggesting it, and I didn't realise that it would in fact turn out to be a major driver".

Tech: Neon and drones

Peter Griffin on Sky's streaming video-on-demand service, Neon. Also, proposed laws governing drones in the US could rule out Amazon's new delivery service.

African cycling

African cycling
Photograph: Mario Stiehl.

It's being billed as the first "properly African" team to compete in the Tour de France.

But when members of Team MTN-Qhubeka join the rest of the peloton for the start of this year's tour in the Netherlands on Saturday July 4th, they won't just be carrying the hopes of a continent on their Lycra-clad shoulders.

World sport cycling's governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale or the UCI, will be hoping their presence could also help turn sports cycling into a truly global sport.

African cycling fan Tim Lewis, author of Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda's Cycling Team (Yellow Jersey Press), told This Way Up's Simon Morton that the team combines a major African telco MTN with Qhubeka, a charity providing bicycles to those in need in South Africa. The majority of the 9 riders on the team will be African.

Mr Lewis says the team has been getting some good results in Europe and won't just be making up the numbers.

"There's incredible physiological ability from a lot of Africans but they haven't had very much experience of road racing. So bringing them in alongside some European names... means that they can come through faster than they would otherwise."

Birds: white-fronted terns

White Fronted Tern DOC CC
White-fronted tern pair. Photo: Dick Veitch/DOC (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Hugh Robertson finds a flock of white-fronted terns, or sea swallows.

Naked Science

Dr Chris Smith with the latest science news. This week, using nanoparticles to unclog narrow arteries, and a study showing babies born to teenage dads are more likely to experience birth defects.

Micro location technology

iBeacon 'micro location' technology lets retailers communicate with the smartphone in your pocket. Tim Andrew of Localz is working on the technology in Australia and the UK.