Diet might delay — or hasten — the onset of menopause

Researchers linked consumption of certain foods to age at menopause. They found that women who consumed more oily fish and legumes went through menopause later, while those who ate more refined pasta and rice began the change earlier. Regardless of any potential effect on age at menopause, adopting a healthful diet is always a good idea. (Locked) More »

Is fibromyalgia real?

Q. My friend was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but it seems like she might be imagining her symptoms. Is fibromyalgia a real condition? A. The short answer to your question is yes. Fibromyalgia is a real condition that affects some four million Americans. It's a chronic pain syndrome that experts believe may be caused by a malfunctioning nervous system. Researchers using magnetic resonance imaging to examine the brains of people with fibromyalgia have found abnormalities in the part of the brain that processes pain signals from the body. It appears that this part of the brain is essentially boosting the intensity of normal pain signals, potentially causing the body to feel pain without a physical cause. People with fibromyalgia experience muscular pain and tenderness throughout their body along with other symptoms, including extreme fatigue, mood disturbances (such as anxiety and depression), headaches, and problems with sleep and memory. More »

Stay safe from superbugs

Superbugs are bacteria that have developed immunity to some or all antibiotics used to treat infections. Most often people will be infected with superbugs only in a hospital setting. But the risk of infection with a superbug can be reduced by washing hands regularly, reducing antibiotic use when possible, and asking questions about infection-control procedures in a hospital setting. (Locked) More »

Protect your brain from stress

 Image: © iMrSquid/Getty Images It's not uncommon to feel disorganized and forgetful when you're under a lot of stress. But over the long term, stress may actually change your brain in ways that affect your memory. Studies in both animals and people show pretty clearly that stress can affect how the brain functions, says Dr. Kerry Ressler, chief scientific officer at McLean Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Scientists have seen changes in how the brain processes information when people experience either real-life stress or stress manufactured in a research setting. (For the latter, researchers might challenge subjects to perform a difficult task, such as counting backward from the number 1,073 by 13s while being graded.) Either type of stress seems to interfere with cognition, attention, and memory, he says. More »

Baby’s early arrival may hint at future heart problems for mom

 Image: © metinkiyak/Getty Images Preterm birth has long been known to bring health risks for the baby, but it may also bring risks for the mother. A study in the June issue of Hypertension shows that women who gave birth to a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy were more likely to experience rising blood pressures later on compared to women who delivered closer to term. If they had this pattern, they were also more likely to show signs of coronary artery disease, which is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Because of the unique demands that pregnancy places on a woman's body, it may serve as a stress test for the female heart, says Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, the Michael and Lee Bell Professor of Women's Health at Harvard Medical School. In the May issue, we talked about how other pregnancy-related conditions — gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia (a type of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), and other pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders — can raise a woman's risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Preterm birth should now join that list, says Dr. Manson. More »