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Smoking may hasten mental decline in men
February 6th, 2012
06:45 PM ET

Smoking may hasten mental decline in men

The list of reasons to quit smoking just got longer.

A new study published today on the website of the Archives of General Psychiatry has found that smoking appears to accelerate the pace of age-related cognitive decline in middle-aged men.

The mental function of the average 50-year-old male smoker can be expected to decline as quickly as that of a 60-year-old who has never smoked, the researchers estimate, even after factors such as educational level and overall health are taken into account.

"While we were aware that smoking is a risk factor for lung diseases, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, this study shows also its detrimental effect on cognitive aging," says lead author Séverine Sabia, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at University College in London. "This detrimental effect is evident as soon as [age] 45."

And it's not just the pack-a-day crowd that needs to worry. So-called social smokers also put their brains at risk whenever they light up, the study suggests. "Intermittent smokers showed the same cognitive decline as persistent smokers, showing the importance of definitive smoking cessation," Sabia says.

Female smokers did not display similar declines. Researchers say this unexpected finding may reflect gender differences in smoking and health patterns, rather than differences in how the brain responds to smoking.

"That is new and surprising," says Joseph Quinn, M.D., a neurologist at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland, who was not involved in the new research. "While there are lots of possible explanations, all are speculative. But women are not off the hook."

Health.com: The 10 states most addicted to smoking

Sabia and her colleagues analyzed data on 7,236 British civil servants who participated in a long-running health study known as Whitehall II. Over a 25-year period, the men and women periodically answered questions about their smoking habits: how old they were when they started to smoke; how much they smoked each day; and, if they'd quit, how long it had been since they kicked the habit.

Three times in 10 years, the same group also underwent a battery of tests designed to measure their short-term memory and their capacity to plan, organize, and pay attention (known as executive function). On average, the workers were 56 years old when they first took the brain tests.

Male smokers "showed a cognitive decline as fast as non-smokers 10 years older than them," Sabia says.

Health.com: Crazy ways smokers finally kicked the habit

There was some good news. Former smokers who had been off cigarettes for at least ten years showed no increase in cognitive decline compared to men who had never smoked.

"Anyone who stops smoking reduces their risk," Quinn says.

One question the study can't answer is whether the cognitive decline the researchers measured can be linked to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, says David Teplow, Ph.D., interim director of the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Research at UCLA, in Los Angeles.

"Are these people going to get diseases? That's what we want to know," Teplow says, adding that he hopes the researchers will continue to follow the study participants into old age, when a potential link between smoking and dementia would become apparent.

Health.com: 25 signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease

Previous research has identified smoking as a risk factor for dementia, but the extent of the association remains unclear, Sabia and her colleagues note.

In the meantime, the study's message for smokers is clear: Quit now.

"It is just that simple," Teplow says. "Live a healthy life, exercise, and eat a good diet. And a good diet means not inhaling cigarette smoke."

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Filed under: Health.com • Men's Health • Smoking

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soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    Ever notice that these articles always contain the magic word "MAY"? Which cause this or that? That word covers a lot of territory and means absolutely nothing. I'm also amazed at all the research dollars that are thrown at the already proven evils of cigarette smoking.
    Isn't time to be spend those precious dollars on other health related issues?

    February 6, 2012 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • aginghippy

      If these "studies" really had anything to do with public health, then yes, it would be time to turn their attention to other issues. However, it is obvious that this is all about politics and an irrational bias against smokers. I fully expect the next news flash to be that smoking causes hangnails.

      February 7, 2012 at 09:39 | Report abuse |
    • tmc2

      smoking causes penis enlargement , but they dont ever print that

      February 7, 2012 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
    • glennrobert

      The word MAY! My parents both heavy smokers died early. Mother 39, father 57. They ask me not to smoke and I didn't. I am 82 years old so there MAY be a message there!

      February 7, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      aginghippy – what are you talking about? You should record yourself sometime and listen to it. Actual who knows, maybe it will still sound rational.

      this says that smoking leads to cognitive decline faster, just like it leads to lung function decline faster. HOW IS THIS NOT RELATED TO PUBLIC HEALTH?

      February 7, 2012 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
    • Eddiejay

      Good Lord, Tony – these dollars ARE being thrown at health related issues – at the SOURCE! Smoking and second hand smoke are the cause or contributors of so many ailments and diseases, I don't have time or space to list them all here. Since the 1940's the percentage of American adults who smoke has been going down. In the 1940's the percentage of adult smokers in the US was something like 45%. Today, it's between 19-23% roughly. This is the result of education for the most part. Can you even imagine the health care issues and costs that would exist today in a country that has over TWICE the population it had only 60 years ago? This money is not wasted. Because every day there is a teenager who does or does NOT put his money down on the counter to buy his or her first pack of cigarettes. Awareness is the best weapon against the stupidity that overwhelms a person at the start to begin the smoking addiction. That Awareness cannot be stopped. We cannot revert to being a country that treats illnesses caused by smoking. We need to maintain the effort that dissuades young people from starting int he first place.

      February 8, 2012 at 20:33 | Report abuse |
    • Chopy

      Unfortunately, there is no easy way of doing this!The best thing is to approach them and make freidns with them and then, explain to them that the smoke is coming into your apartment, and distracting you and making you cough! Or, explain that you have guests that have asthma and that your smoking is bothering them and you! (Though, I doubt that it will work, even if they are reasonable people, because they think slow suicide is ok! But, personally, when some one takes that up, I think they should get a note signed from everyone they know,friends and family that it wont bother them to see them on lung machines and breathing tubes, when they get older, as thier lungs deterriorate and thier love ones and family have to witness them dying like this!!!).They will think you are trying to infringe on thier rights to smoke..(commit slow suicide in my opinion). If they are Christians, remind them that they are destroying GOD's Temple! You are to do nothing to desecrate the living temple of the LORD!If not, then direct a fan towards them, and when you smell the smoke, TURN IT ON!!This will be the biggest hint , if they refuse to do anything about thier smoking. Obviously second hand smoke DOES KILL, and the proof is in! I dont even let my kids go around anyone that smokes, because of that! And, with my asthma, its even more terrible to have to suffer through.I wish you well..Jesse

      August 1, 2012 at 15:55 | Report abuse |
  2. Julnor

    "Are these people going to get diseases? That's what we want to know," Teplow says... Translation "Can I get another grant? That's what I want to know."

    February 7, 2012 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff

      uhhh yeah, of course they want more grants. They are interested in how smoking affects health...and guess what it takes money to do that.

      trying thinking beyond the level of a 7th grader

      February 7, 2012 at 16:33 | Report abuse |
    • Joey

      You sure did get 'em again Jeff, back with that 7th grader comment. lulz

      February 7, 2012 at 18:25 | Report abuse |
  3. Peer pressure wins again

    With all the dangers we know about lighting up today, you've got to be either stupid or gullible to start smoking in the first place.

    February 7, 2012 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • thizz

      Or you just dgaf, like myself. Honestly everyone dies from something sooner or later. I'm going to enjoy a cig if I want.

      February 7, 2012 at 13:00 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      as long as you pay higher health care premiums so the rest of us don't have to pay for the millions of dollars you'll need in healthcare....you're free to do what you want

      February 7, 2012 at 16:26 | Report abuse |
    • Joey

      As long as non-smokers have to pay a social security and medicare premium for their longer lives, I have no problem paying a little extra for health insurance.

      February 7, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse |
    • thizz

      umm, you want to know why that logic is flawed? Smokers cost health care less, cause we don't live as long. How about non-smokers pay more. Honestly I'm tired of this argument. Everyone is going to get sick eventually, even all you non-smokers, and cost health care money. Plus all the taxes smokers pay for a pack of cigs makes up for it. All you high and mighty non-smokers need to get over yourself. Its funny how non-smokers try to push their agenda on smokers, while smokers are not going around trying to force everyone to smoke.

      February 8, 2012 at 09:58 | Report abuse |
  4. fronco123

    Smoking made me much smarter , much stronger and its healthy for me. non smokers are more dumber then i thought.

    February 7, 2012 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. OnlyInSantaFe

    This is a simulacrum of research designed to reinforce much sought after credibility of attributing disease to smoking. Viz. "Age-related memory loss more common in men, study finds". http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/25/health/memory-loss-more-common-men/index.html?iref=obnetwork . It's linked on the same CNN web page as the "blame it on smoking" study.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mr Flinstone

    duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Smack daddy

    bulls**t!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 7, 2012 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Yo mama

    eat a dick

    February 7, 2012 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. KyAg

    hi

    February 7, 2012 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Skittles

    my dog abuses me

    February 7, 2012 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gene

      Thats the funniest thing I have heard/read all day! HAHA

      February 7, 2012 at 12:33 | Report abuse |
  11. GIANTS 4 tha win!!!

    PATRIOTS SUCK

    February 7, 2012 at 11:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. sam

    I'm sorry but to correct this ANTI SMOKING LIE,It is ALCOHOL thats shrinks the BRAIN and Kills millions of cells for every drink of the GAS People LOVE.............

    February 7, 2012 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. sam

    ANybody knows that,and most drinks have big old GUTS and are OUT OF SHAPE to and cannot function with a Few beers or SHOTS for breakfast seeings you can buy it 24/7 all over the USA

    February 7, 2012 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Myto Senseworth

      They can't buy booz on Sunday where I live. They hang out in church untill the bars open on Monday..

      February 7, 2012 at 13:02 | Report abuse |
  14. sam

    And they also have rotted livers,throats,spleens,kidneys,bladders,pancreases,etc.......Go figure

    February 7, 2012 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Blake

    My girlfriend puffs on my penis like a cigarrette. She is trying to quit

    February 7, 2012 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Myto Senseworth

    People that take regular baths MAY be removing the UV protection offered by natural oils in our skin. Baths, creams, peels....MAY be the root cause to skin cancer. STOP BATHING NOW TO protect yourself from the dangerious UV radiation.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nathan

      Myto Senseworth i see you point and what you getting at, MAY could mean that there is a small change also,
      You MAY win the lottery if you buy that ticket. just because they use MAY doesn't mean it will happen.

      February 8, 2012 at 18:34 | Report abuse |
  17. SeaChange

    "Female smokers did not display similar declines. Researchers say this unexpected finding may reflect gender differences in smoking and health patterns, rather than differences in how the brain responds to smoking."

    Wish they had expanded on this; what are "gender differences in smoking"? You would think they would ask simple questions like how many packs a day do you smoke, do you smoke down to the butt, etc. Same for the health patterns – ask enough questions to delineate. This appears to have been a small, incomplete study.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Myto Senseworth

    Mother's milk and baby formula may lead to smoking and drug abuse and could eventually lead to death. Every smoker is known to have consumed these dangerious foods early in life.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Rhodes

    Google around on IRON and Alzhimer's and you'll find a clue as to the cause.

    Tobacco smoke has a lot of iron in it and iron overload in middle age contributes to development of Alzhimer's.

    This is also why women are exempt... They lose iron through menstruation and don't start building up iron overloads until they are older.

    February 7, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. palintwit

    This explains why teabaggers are morons. They all smoke. And I'm sure this holds true for women as well. Just look at the Palins.

    February 7, 2012 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NavyAirVet

      Why are you obsessed with Sarah Palin, she is a nobody that you keep bringing up; for some perverted reason.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:58 | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      This also explains why President Obama is scripted. He smokes.

      February 8, 2012 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
  21. SmokersRObtuse

    Amazing how stupid some people are that think tobacco is good for them. This product needs to eliminated or insurance coverage should test and then decline any bills or coverage related to small minded people who smoke b u tts. My insurance premium should not sky rocket since someone has cancer and is now interested in saving their life. They choose the coffin nails and need to just learn to diminish quietly. Hey I know it sounds mean but one doesn't take a g un and play Russian roulette daily doe they? Of course not that would be stupid right?

    February 7, 2012 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joey

      My social security and medicare deductions shouldn't be as high as they are because you and your ignorant ilk want to live until you're 120. Do us a favor and die early so we don't have to pay for your Depends.

      February 7, 2012 at 18:22 | Report abuse |
    • NavyAirVet

      Sorry you feel that your judgement is the supreme knowledge that we should all live by. Unfortunately for you, smoking is legal, will always be legal and you can only whine about people who partake in the habit. Freedom gives me the right to smoke and the government taxes the product as a legal product, so they won't make it illegal. Everyone dies from something and even if you die from an auto accident, we aren't going to ban vehicles. Get over your biased self.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
    • Eddiejay

      To NavyAirVet – I never cease to be amazed at the ignorance some people use in their arguments supportive of smoking as some sort of "right". Your automobile argument is a classic fallacy. Yes, people die every year in automobile accidents, and yes, that has not prompted our government to ban automobiles. However, automobiles serve a greater purpose – they provide transportation that is very valuable. Just like trains and airplanes and even cruise ships. People die every year in those modes of transportation. But smoking has not utility. It is the ingestion of dangerous chemicals into one's body and into other people's bodies through dangerous second hand smoke. Yes, it is a legal product, and yes it is taxed. But your "right" does not in any way supersede the right of non-smokers to breathe air as empty of your smoke as is possible. That is why your "right" does not exist in many States in restaurants bars, bowling alleys and other businesses. As long as there are ignorant people in the US, there will be smokers. But as long as there are intelligent responsive local and state lawmakers, smoking will become more and more restricted, until it reaches a point where you can only smoke in your own home or car. And Thanks to GOD for that.

      February 8, 2012 at 20:44 | Report abuse |
  22. mouse

    My Mom turned 76 today, she has been smoking all her adult – close to 60 yrs – and her doctor tells her she has the health of a much younger woman – I've never smoked and my doctor tells me the same. Yes, smoking MAY cause cancer but I'm sure there are other contributing factors and I think that by person as what may kill one may not another.......p.s. I doubt any one THINKS smoking is good for them

    February 7, 2012 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff

      I never wear my seat belt and I haven't been killed in a car accident yet.

      you think at 7th grade level.

      February 7, 2012 at 16:31 | Report abuse |
    • Joey

      Jeff, your 7th grade level comment is an insult at a 3rd grade level. And you just keep using it over and over again. lulz

      February 7, 2012 at 18:23 | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      I agree mouse. Cancer is mostly genetic. I highly doubt cigarettes are the sole cause of anybody's cancer.

      February 8, 2012 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
  23. Tony

    Here's something for the people who do these studies:
    You're not an a $s hole every time you talk,
    but every time you talk you're an a $s hole.

    borrowed from the every time you drive you smoke waste of taxpayers money

    February 7, 2012 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sam

      Is that why all the mummies dies of Heart disease ? There was no TOBACCO BACK THEN

      February 9, 2012 at 06:12 | Report abuse |
  24. Joey

    Manufactured garbage study. Nicotine has been shown in countless studies to ward off alzheimer's and parkinsons. Until it became politically incorrect that is...

    Researchers have long been aware that fewer smokers get Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases than non-smokers. Up to April l992, of the 17 studies on Alzheimer's and smoking which had been published in peer-reviewed journals, 13 reported a reduced risk for smokers and only four found no difference between smokers and non-smokers. Similar findings have been published on the effect of smoking and Parkinson's disease.
    In an article in The Times of London (9/7/93), Dr. James Le Fanu provided an examination of the research on smoking and its apparent protective effect for certain diseases. Dr. Le Fanu stated unequivocally: "Smokers have a 50 per cent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's–and the more smoked the greater the protection." He also noted that emerging research points to a similar effect of smoking on Parkinson's disease.

    February 7, 2012 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eddiejay

      Hey, Joey, according to Dr. Le Fanu, there is a "[a] non-drug treatment for hay fever devised by acupuncturist Andrew Broch, himself a sufferer, who found that a couple of rubber bands around the elbow reduced his symptoms of sneezing and itchy eyes. The idea is now commercially available as "the Original Qu-Chi acupressure band"" Here, Dr. Le Fanu is promoting the use of a couple rubber bands around the elbow as a legitimate treatment for hay fever! I think you opened your mouth and inserted foot by even bringing up a "doctor" who could give Donald and Daffy Duck a run for their money. In short, he's a QUACK!

      February 8, 2012 at 20:55 | Report abuse |
  25. Mitch

    Got a light?

    February 7, 2012 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Leonid Brezhnev

    Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope.

    February 8, 2012 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. peyote

    Hey blake if you really want your girlfriend to stop puffing on your man cigarette put a ring on her finger works everytime

    February 8, 2012 at 01:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • slick79

      hA!!!! Seriously tho I think Blake has a mangina. So his "woman" is lickin carpet mostly...

      February 8, 2012 at 09:48 | Report abuse |
  28. dt

    My grandfather started smoking unfiltered cigarettes back when he was about 11 years old. This would be around 1922. He quit in 1977/1978. He died in 2001 at age 90. Thats a good age. My Grandmother smoked too for years on end too, and she's 89 now. So yeah, everybody who thinks all smokers die young is a retard.

    February 8, 2012 at 07:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Dk

    I think obesity is just as bad as smoking. But hey it's your life do what you want

    February 8, 2012 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. mountainmama42

    I am 70. Smoked 2 pks a day for 59 years. I am a writer and researcher. Never been sharper or more alert in my life. This is a load of horsepucky. My doctor says it is all genetic. My family all lived up to 100 or over in a few cases and all were smokers. Mom at 96 is sharp as a tack.
    However, I nor my family drank alcohol, took legal or illegal drugs /perscriptions. Eat right ( no red meat or fat) and excercise by growing gardens and walking a lot. This is all a bunch of lies so they can place more taxes on smokers. Notice they don't tax alcohol or red meat at the same rate.

    February 8, 2012 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      Completely agree.

      February 8, 2012 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
  31. Andrew

    The president is a middle aged man who smokes.

    February 8, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Andrew

    People don't want to hear this, but smokers can have long lives too. Longevity is mostly genetic.

    February 8, 2012 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Simpaticni

      Smoking is about personal heatlh and the heatlh of those in the vicinity. It's bad, but it's a matter of choice. If someone want to kill himself slowly, let him. However, I still think tobacco is a dangerous, addictive drug and should be treated the same way as other dangerous drugsAuto emissions are bad for everyone and are killing the planet. This a a serious problem that needs addressing before it's too late.It's not an either/or question. Both these problems should be addressed.

      August 2, 2012 at 07:16 | Report abuse |
  33. Andrew

    More politically correct garbage from CNN.

    February 8, 2012 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. usagainstyou

    The acticle says smoking may hasten mental decline. I think mental decline must already be present in order to smoke.

    February 8, 2012 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carlos

      wow that's a hard spot cause you don't want to start a fight but you do need to stick up for your rights. so id go to the apantmert first and tell them that your getting their smoke coming into your apantmert and you feel as if you shouldn't have to close your windows because of them but that something needs to be done about this. going to the apantmert mangers first will get you the respect from them for coming to them before starting a feud with the neighbors. besides its easier on you if the apantmert complex takes care of it for you. if that doesn't work then id talk to the people below.

      August 1, 2012 at 17:23 | Report abuse |
  35. John

    Honestly, I want to meet the single person left on Planet Earth that has figured out the secret to immortality. Everyone is going to die from something someday, be it from their smoking habit because they MAY develop lung cancer, or their eating habits, because they MAY develop diabetes or heart disease, or their alcoholic consumption that MAY cause them to develop cirrhosis, and on and on. At the end of the day, all the choices we do make we are responsible for, plain and simple. What I want to see are the projected statistics on what would happen if our entire national population STOPPED smoking, STOPPED drinking, and STOPPED consuming foods laden with refined sugar or HFCS. Then, I would like to know the following: How will our nation intend to support the increase in population, increase in elderly, and the increased demand placed on an already weakened economy? Everyone thinks they can cheat the reaper, but regardless of what we do or dont do, ALL of those factors big and small will ultimately contribute to our final demise. Enjoy the time you do have on this Earth, and dont get caught up living your life as a list of dont's.....you'll drive yourself nuts!

    February 9, 2012 at 03:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Me

    Who cares, somebody let me bum one.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. formenshealth

    smoking is very dangerous for health
    avoid cigarrate smoking, drinking

    March 26, 2012 at 08:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. formenshealth

    if one may avoid smoking drinking, then ones health will improve definitely without any doubt

    smoking cause various diseases.

    visit – http://www.buzzpharmacy.net

    March 26, 2012 at 08:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Vicki

    You do not make anyone do anhintyg. You don't control others. He has to make this decision himself. If he's ready to quit smoking, he should talk to his doctor about the options available to him. He can quit cold turkey, he can use the stop smoking patch, there's stop smoking gum, and there's also prescription medication that he can take. With any stop smoking aid, it has to be used properly and according to the directions. You can't do this for him. He has to do it for himself. All you can do is be supportive.

    August 1, 2012 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.