November 18th, 2013
09:18 AM ET
Women who used birth control pills for three years or more have twice the risk of developing glaucoma later in life, according to new research.
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve and is a leading cause of blindness in the United States.
It’s been well documented that low-estrogen levels following menopause contribute to glaucoma in women. Scientists don’t know exactly why this happens. But years of using birth control pills, which can also lower estrogen levels, may add to the problem.
The study, conducted by researchers at University of California, San Francisco, Duke University School of Medicine and Third Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Nanchang, China, did not differentiate between women who took low-estrogen or regular birth control pills. Investigators theorize that when women are not on the pill, their natural estrogen levels go up and down, which seems to prevent the eye from developing glaucoma. When women go on the pill, their estrogen levels are consistent, and in some cases consistently low, which could cause them to develop the condition.
This research project is the first to suggest an increased risk of glaucoma in women who have used oral contraceptives for three or more years. The researchers looked at data on more than 3,400 women aged 40 and older from across the United States, who answered questionnaires about their reproductive health and eye exams. FULL POST
August 12th, 2013
04:05 PM ET
You are looking at a woman's face; the contours and features seem so familiar. You see the billowing brown hair, the broad smile, the almond-shaped eyes. You may even be able to describe things about her: Famous talk show host, actress in "The Color Purple," philanthropist.
You feel a familiar pang of frustration because the name seems to be in your grasp, but you cannot come up with it.
The person, of course, is Oprah Winfrey. The inability to conjure the name of such a famous face, for some people, is one of several symptoms of a brain disease called primary progressive aphasia (PPA).
The disease "affects a person's ability to communicate," said Tamar Gefen, a doctoral candidate at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, adding that the disease attacks language centers in the brain.
"Slowly, over time a person loses the ability to name, comprehend, write and communicate," Gefen said.
The loss is not fleeting, but persistent, progressive, and socially crippling. Patients do not just have difficulty naming Oprah, but can have problems recognizing their own family members or friends. All of that makes having an accurate test for the disease important.
July 31st, 2013
04:08 PM ET
There is no single test to determine if someone has dementia. The harsh reality is that at this point, it can only be conclusively diagnosed during an autopsy.
So for now doctors rely on physical exams, lab work and cognitive indicators to diagnose dementia with a high degree of certainty while a patient is still alive.
Anemia may be one sign someone has an increased risk of developing dementia, according to a new study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“I’ve been studying Alzheimer’s for a long time,” says study author Dr. Kristine Yaffe, of the University of California – San Francisco. “In particular, I’m interested in things you can modify: cardiovascular disease, sleep, physical activity. We’ve done a number of studies looking at how different chronic diseases of the body effect aging. We started looking into the issue of anemia... after seeing rudimentary studies that linked it to dementia.”
March 10th, 2013
07:58 PM ET
Talk about a startling juxtaposition: A mummy in a CT scanner. You may be wondering: Why in the world would a mummy get a CT scan?
It turns out that preserved peoples are great study subjects, especially when you are trying to figure out the roots of health problems that span millennia.
A study released Sunday in The Lancet suggests that atherosclerosis - the disease that makes arteries go rigid, and is a leading cause of death worldwide - may have been around for thousands of years.
"We like to say that we found the serial killer that's stalked mankind for 4,000 years," said Dr. Randall Thompson, attending cardiologist at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, and lead author of the study.
March 4th, 2013
05:01 PM ET
Centralized record-keeping systems may help improve rates of colon cancer screening, according to a new study.
Researchers at the Group Health Cooperative, a non-profit health care and insurance system in Washington state, used electronic health records to identify and monitor almost 5,000 patients who were due for a colon cancer screening but hadn't gotten it.
One group of patients received "normal care" - reminders from their doctor during appointments. A second group received a letter in the mail encouraging them to get screened; a third group got a call from a medical assistant on top of all of that, and a fourth group got a "patient navigator" to manage the screening process.
Each additional step increased the percentage of people who got screened, from 26% in the "normal" group to 65% in the patient navigator group.
January 22nd, 2013
11:03 AM ET
Older Americans who have hearing loss have an accelerated decline in thinking and memory abilities, compared to those with normal hearing, according to a study published in JAMA Archives of Internal Medicine.
Those with hearing loss experience a 30% to 40% greater decline in thinking abilities compared to their counterparts without hearing loss, according to the findings published Monday.
Hearing loss is common among old older adults, affecting about two-thirds of adults 70 and older, and about one-third of adults younger than 60, according to lead study author Dr. Frank R. Lin of Johns Hopkins University. A large number of people with hearing loss are untreated, Lin explained, because they associate hearing loss with the stigma of getting older.
About this blog
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.