Putting more brain in the bank

Mental and physical activity seem to be equally important in keeping the brain active to ward off cognitive decline in older age. Exercise seems to affect the brain directly, increasing the number of synapses and enhancing the action of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that make brain cell–to–brain cell communication possible. It also increases the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a "brain juice" protein that promotes the production of new brain cells and the survival of existing ones. (Locked) More »

Medications: No more than necessary

Taking a thyroid medication or a proton-pump inhibitor for too long may lead to bone problems or increased susceptibility to certain infections. No one should suddenly stop taking thyroid medicine out of fear of breaking a bone. But particularly if you're older, it might be time to discuss the dose you're taking with a doctor to make sure it's not too high. Thyroid levels should be tested periodically and the dose of thyroid medicine adjusted if the need has decreased. (Locked) More »

Pot smokers can maybe breathe a little easier

Moderate consumption of marijuana doesn't adversely affect lung function, according to a study. A study published in 2012 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) had some good news for people who smoke marijuana: smoking at a rate of one joint a day for as long as seven years doesn't seem to affect lung function adversely. And then there was the really good news for pot smokers: smoking marijuana in moderation may actually improve lung function, perhaps because inhaling gives the lungs and the chest muscles a bit of a workout. (Locked) More »

Another reason to get out there and get moving!

Parkinson's disease is a brain disease that affects the body and how it moves. Yet moving the body — that is to say, exercising — may be one of the best and most underutilized ways of combating the condition. Exercising vigorously when you're middle-aged may lessen your chance of getting Parkinson's disease when you're older. And for people who already have the disease, exercise during the early stages — when a fair amount of physical movement is still possible — may slow the pace at which the disease gets worse and physical movement becomes increasingly difficult. More »

Can anxiety cause a heart attack?

Several studies have shown that about a quarter of people with cardiovascular disease have some kind of anxiety problem and, in some cases, the anxiety seems to make the heart condition worse. Researchers have reported, for example, that heart patients who have generalized anxiety disorder — constant, pervasive worrying, even about mundane matters — are more likely to have heart attacks and serious heart problems than heart patients who don't. (Locked) More »

Red, brown, green: Urine colors and what they might mean

Most of the time, urine is a pale yellow color. Occasionally, though, urine turns a very different color. Urine can change color for harmless reasons having to do with the foods you've eaten or medications you're taking. Although an abnormal urine color can be an early sign of a serious medical condition. To be on the safe side, it should be discussed with a doctor or another clinician. (Locked) More »

A possible brain food that you've probably never heard of

There's some research that lends some credence to claims that the nutrient Choline may be something of a "brain food" that fends off cognitive decline in old age. In the brain, choline speeds up the creation and release of acetylcholine, a protein that carries signals among brain cells and is important for memory and assorted other brain functions.  (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Is my LDL cholesterol too low?

I'm 80, I exercise and eat a healthy diet. My internist says my LDL is too low and that I should cut my statin from 40 mg to 20 mg a day. I also take 2,000 mg of niacin daily. Is there general agreement that one's LDL should not go below a certain point? (Locked) More »