According to a new study published in the journal Neurology, men over the age of 70 are more susceptible to memory loss and cognitive impairment than women. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic examined 1,450 people in their 70s and 80s every 15 months for three and a half years and found 7.2 percent of men and 5.7 percent of women developed mild cognitive impairment during that time. Previous studies, however, have found men are less likely to develop full-blown dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than women. Rosebud Roberts, lead author of the study and a professor of epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic, said that, though men were more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, women with cognitive problems may progress into dementia and Alzheimer’s disease more quickly. More here.
The first increase in monthly social security and supplemental security income benefits since 2009 takes effect this year. The cost-of-living adjustment automatically raises benefits based on increases in the Consumer Price Index as measured during the third quarter of each year. If prices rise, so do payments. If prices fall, benefits remain the same. In 2009, payments increased 5.8 percent based on spikes in energy prices. The past two years, however, payments remained flat due to low inflation. The 3.6 percent increase for 2012 means nearly 60 million social-security recipients will get an average of an additional $467 this year. More here.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of Americans being screened for cancer continues to fall below recommended national targets. Sallyann Coleman King of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control said screening for colorectal, cervical, and breast cancers can help find the disease at an earlier stage when it can be treated more effectively. Still, the report found that breast cancer screening rates were 72.4 percent, short of the national goal of 81 percent. Screening for cervical cancer was 10 percent below the target and colorectal cancer screening rates were 12 percent short of the goal. The report based its findings on data gathered during the CDC’s 2010 National Health Interview Survey. More here.
Doctors commonly estimate a person’s risk of developing heart disease based on the likelihood of suffering a heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years. But, according to a new study, estimating short-term risk may give patients a false sense of security. Calculating a person’s lifetime risk of developing heart disease paints a much more accurate picture of their risk. Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, study researcher and an associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University, says doctors are giving incomplete and misleading risk information if they only focus on the next 10 years of someone’s life. According to the study, a person’s risk of developing heart disease rises significantly if they have just one of the major risk factors, which include high cholesterol or blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes. More here.
Research examining medical records for more than 11,000 men and women found women reported higher levels of pain than men did. Men and women were asked to rate their pain on a zero-to-ten scale with 10 being the worst pain imaginable. The results found that women rated their pain up to a full point higher than men with the same condition. The greatest differences in reported pain were found in patients with musculoskeletal, circulatory, respiratory, and digestive disorders. Dr. Atul Butte, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Stanford university and senior author of the study, said though a one-point difference may not seem like much it can be an indication of whether or not a pain treatment is working effectively. More here and here.
A report examining patient complications and deaths at nearly 5,000 U.S. hospitals named Baltimore the city with the nation’s best hospitals. The report, produced by HealthGrades, found top-rated hospitals in 38 states and named Phoenix, Cedar Rapids, Richmond, Cincinnati, West Palm Beach, Chattanooga, St. Louis, Hartford, and Grand Rapids among the top 10 cities for hospital care. Medicare patients at top-rated hospitals had a 30 percent lower risk of death and their risk of in-hospital complications was 2.0 percent lower than patients at all other hospitals. The report said the lives of 166,000 Medicare patients could have been saved if all hospitals operated at the same level as the top-rated hospitals. More here and here.
According to research from Swedish scientists at the Karolinska Institute, people who eat foods rich in magnesium have a reduced risk of suffering a stroke compared to people with lower levels of the mineral. Magnesium, which can be found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and beans, may lower the risk of stroke because it lowers blood pressure. The research looked at the results of seven previously published studies of more than 240,000 people and found that for each additional 100 milligrams of magnesium per day, the risk of stroke dropped 8.0 percent. The U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance for magnesium is 420 milligrams a day for men over the age of 31 and 320 milligrams daily for women. More here.
To better understand Americans’ spending and saving habits and how they’ve been affected by the weak economy, AARP Bulletin conducted a survey of 1,018 adults over the age of 18. According to the results, more than three quarters of Americans said they are saving more of their money and cutting back on spending. The top two reason cited for changing spending habits were to have more money available for emergencies and to save more for retirement. As for how Americans have been reducing their debt, 75 percent said they limited the number of times they went out to eat, made purchases and took vacations. An additional 73 percent said they were paying cash or debit card rather than using their credit cards. Only 53 percent of adults said they were currently saving for retirement. More here.
Though a healthy diet, regular exercise, and remaining socially active can help preserve cognitive function as we age, some of how our brain ages is determined by genetics. According to a new study published in Nature, about 24 percent of the mental changes that occur as we age are determined by our genes. Ian J. Deary, PhD, researcher and professor of psychology at the University of Edinburgh, said the findings will encourage researchers looking for the genetic and environmental contributions to why some people’s cognitive functions age better than others. The study analyzed genetic material from nearly 2,000 people whose general intelligence was tested at age 11 and again when they were 65, 70, and 79. More here.
There are an estimated 5.4 million Americans suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and, by 2050, that number is expected to triple, costing $1 trillion in medical and nursing-home expenses. Because of the staggering numbers associated with the disease, the federal government has announced the first National Alzheimer’s Plan, which sets 2025 as a target for developing more effective treatments, addressing the medical and social problems of dementia, and developing ways to prevent the illness. Harry Johns, president of the Alzheimer’s Association and one of the advisers working on the plan, said what is important is developing a comprehensive plan that deals with the needs of people who already have the disease. The plan, which is still being written, is the first to deal with the issue of Alzheimer’s and the rapidly aging American population. More here.