About two-thirds of people with dementia in the United States are women, and researchers are discovering it’s not just because they live longer. Reproductive history also plays a role. Scientists are focusing on the role of estrogen as a potential protective factor against Alzheimer’s disease. Several who are involved in this research explain.
Dr. Rachel Whitmer, Professor of Epidemiology, University of California-Davis
Dr. Heather Snyder, Senior Director, Medical and Scientific Operations, Alzheimer’s Association
Dr. Pauline Maki, Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Illinois-Chicago
What we now call “homesickness” used to be a medical diagnosis called “nostalgia,” and it was considered life-threatening. Today many people consider homesickness to be a childish emotion, but an expert says it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all suffer from it sometime and need to know how to cope.
Dr. Susan Matt, Professor of History, Weber State University
Dr. Chris Willard, Lecturer in Psychology, Harvard Medical School
Between 10 and 20 percent of new moms experience postpartum depression, and it can be difficult to treat because most antidepressants take a month or more to work. But a new injectable drug could change that if it’s approved by the FDA. The drug, called Brexanolone, is the first new class of antidepressants in decades and is being developed specifically for postpartum depression. A study in The Lancet shows that it works quickly… and researchers say it could be a “game changer” for women.
Multiple sclerosis results when the body’s own immune system attacks myelin, the tissue insulating nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. The relapsing-remitting form of the disease is especially hard to treat… but a study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that an asthma drug already available in Japan could help. Researchers say the drug Ibudilast (i-byoo-dih-last) slows brain shrinkage associated with progressive MS by 48 percent compared to patients taking a placebo.
And finally… a new study shows that angry people are most likely to think they’re a lot smarter than they really are. The study in the journal Intelligence finds that anger is related to narcissism… and inflates a person’s self-perception. Researchers say angry people are no more intelligent than others… but they’re more likely to think they are.
Medical bills have long been labeled the number one cause of bankruptcy in the US. A recent study has examined how medical crises produce personal financial disaster. Researchers say for the uninsured, medical bills are, indeed, a heavy burden. But for both insured and uninsured, illness or injury can cause disruption of employment that may linger for years, and from which family finances may never recover. Experts discuss causes and possible solutions to the problem.
Dr. David Himmelstein, Distinguished Professor of Public Health, City University of New York at Hunter College
Dr. Matthew Notowidigdo, Associate Professor of Economics & Strategy, Northwestern University
Researchers have discovered a variety of components in foods that are essential to health but are low in quantity in most diets. One of these is a set of compounds called polyamines. Researchers explain what they are, how they work, and how people can replace those that are needed in the diet.
Researchers have found another way they might be able to identify Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage. A study in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology shows that an eye exam using already-available technology can reveal thinning in the retina of the eye… which is strongly correlated with early Alzheimer’s. Scientists used the technique to study 30 patients in their mid 70’s, none of whom had Alzheimer’s symptoms. Seventeen of them had thinning in the retina, indicating they may have early Alzheimer’s. Pet scans and other tests then indicated the eye test was right.
About 10 percent of people in the U.S. experience sleepless nights as a result of restless legs syndrome at one time or another. But now researchers say they’ve identified how the painful syndrome is triggered. A study in the journal Sleep Medicine shows that the area of the brain controlling leg movement seems to be in a constant state of readiness… as if the conscious brain is asking for the legs to move. Scientists hope the finding may lead to better ways to treat the condition.
And finally… wrinkles are usually a telltale sign of aging, but they might be a sign of something else as well–heart disease risk. A new study from French researchers suggests that deep forehead wrinkles—more than are typical for a person’s age—could be an easy, low-cost way to identify people with atherosclerosis. The study finds that over a 20-year period, people with deep wrinkles were nearly 10 times more likely to die of heart disease than people with a smooth forehead.
For decades, the US has exported much of its recycled waste to China, an option no longer available to us by Chinese government policy. Now much of this waste may go to other Asian third world countries that are poorly equipped to take it. Experts say US consumers need to improve their recycling habits, but some advocates say we should aim for more—a “zero waste” lifestyle where a family of four can literally fit its annual trash in a pint jar. Experts discuss recycling options and how to reduce waste.
Amy Brooks, University of Georgia New Materials Institute
Bea Johnson, author, Zero Waste Home and founder, zero waste lifestyle movement