To Your Health! A Year-End List Worth Saving
< Dec. 26, 2012 > -- Humans seem to love lists-the top 10 Caribbean beaches, the five best coffee shops in your neighborhood, the interminable weekend to-do list. Here's another one to pique your interest: Below are some of the most compelling health stories of the year. Perhaps they will inspire you to live healthier this coming year.
Staying active mentally when you're young and middle-aged may help protect your brain against Alzheimer's disease later in life. Researchers found that activities like reading, writing, and playing games seemed to prevent the buildup of a brain protein linked to Alzheimer's. Along with using your brain power, you can further lower your risk for the disease by not smoking, keeping cholesterol levels in check, and drinking in moderation.
A study earlier this year found that people who use sleeping pills more than occasionally are more than four times more likely to die. Those who take the highest doses are also at greater risk for cancers of the esophagus, lung, colon, and prostate. The study didn't prove that sleeping pills actually lead to early death or cause cancer. More research is needed. But talk with your doctor about any sleep problems.
Over the last 75 years in the U.S., the risk of dying at any given point in time has fallen by 60 percent. One reason for the drop is improved lifestyle choices, including smoking cessation. Another reason is advances in medical care. If you want to live long and live well, consider the advice of longevity experts: Stay physically, socially, and mentally active, and stick to a healthy diet.
Although 40 percent of people with migraines could be helped with preventive medications, only about a third of that total are getting help, according to new guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society. A variety of medication types are available, ranging from antidepressants to beta blockers. Herbal medications also can be effective. If you suffer from migraines or frequent headaches, talk with your doctor about treatment options.
After reviewing numerous studies on hormone therapy, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that women shouldn't take estrogen or progestin to help prevent disease. Instead, these hormones should be used only to help relieve symptoms of menopause-and even then, at the lowest dose and for the shortest amount of time possible. Hormone therapy may raise the risk for several conditions, including stroke, dementia, and blood clots.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new guidelines calling for across-the-board obesity screening for adults. Obesity now affects more than a third of American adults. It can lead to a host of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. If you want to lose weight, start by talking with your doctor.
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