Women stay mentally sharp farther into old age than men typically do, and scientists now think they know why. It all has to do with how the brain burns energy. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that women’s brains burn energy in a much more youthful way throughout adulthood. Women’s brains appear to be about three years younger than men’s of the same chronological age, even in their 20’s, and that difference holds for the rest of their lives.
Binge drinking and prolonged heavy drinking may trigger a permanent change in a person’s DNA, which results in an even greater desire for alcohol. A study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that among binge and heavy drinkers, two genes are modified that influence drinking behavior—one that influences the body clock and another regulating the stress-response system. Scientists hope the findings may eventually help identify biomarkers for people at risk for alcoholic changes.
And finally, more than half of all American workers say they’ve suffered from job burnout, but most of them won’t take a “mental health day” away from the job to deal with it. The University of Phoenix survey shows only a third of workers have taken time off for mental health, mostly because they say their companies don’t view it as an acceptable reason to be off work.
Death rates for most major health conditions have been in decline, but chronic kidney disease is a big exception, according to a study in the journal JAMA Open. Researchers say that deaths due to chronic kidney disease have increased overall by 58 percent over the last 15 years… and among people under 55, who previously suffered little chronic kidney disease, death rates are sharply up as well. Scientists blame high-sugar, high-salt foods and the increase in health problems such as high blood pressure and type two diabetes… which can trigger kidney disease.
Some people say having a tough childhood makes kids grow up fast. But a new study in the journal Biological Psychiatry finds that it also ages children prematurely. Researchers analyzed DNA of children age eight to 16 who had been exposed to violence, neglect, or emotional abuse… and found that on a cellular level, they were older than similar children living in a more stable environment. Those changes are reflected in the average age of puberty… which is lower among children growing up in a tough environment.
And finally… if you’re a night owl, your health may suffer for it. Previous studies have linked being a night owl to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease… and now a study in the journal Chronobiology International has added up the effect—night owls may have a 10 percent higher risk of early death. Researchers admit they don’t know why a person’s chronotype has such an effect.