Health Buzz: Ibuprofen and Alzheimer's and Other Health News

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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories might protect against Alzheimer's

Those who take ibuprofen on a regular basis for five years may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease as they get older, according to a new study. And people who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines in general may have a decreased risk. But the findings are not concrete enough to warrant advising patients to take a daily dose of ibuprofen, or any other type of NSAID, to ward off Alzheimer's, noted the researchers, led by Steven Vlad, a fellow in rheumatology at Boston University School of Medicine. Long-term use of NSAIDs carries a risk of gastrointestinal problems.

Still, "this trial is big enough and the results are good enough that it may reopen the debate--that we should do a prevention study with these medications," William Thies, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association, told HealthDay.

Find out how to reduce your risk for dementia by shedding excess belly fat, and learn the difference between Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.

Autism and Schizophrenia May Be Related

A new study supports the idea in autism research that people diagnosed with either schizophrenia or autism often share the same rare genetic mutations, Nancy Shute reports. Julie Daniels, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, looked at the health records of the parents of 1,227 Swedish children with autism who were born between 1977 and 2003. Those parents were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia as parents of children who didn't have autism. Other studies of early childhood brain development have shown that in both autism and schizophrenia, the brain development process is accelerated from birth to age 3.

In the On Parenting blog, Shute explains why the new study--while scary on its face--is actually good news. Earlier, she reported on evidence dismissing the link between vaccines and autism. And U.S. News's Bernadine Healy recently looked into the autism-vaccine link, after the independent Office of Special Masters of the Court of Federal Claims--with a 20-year record of handling vaccine matters--conceded that the brain damage and autistic behavior of Hannah Poling stemmed from her exposure as a toddler to five vaccinations on one day in July 2000.

 Wal-Mart and Target Expand Drug Discount Programs

Wal-Mart has expanded its drug discount program to include some over-the-counter medicines and additional women's health medications priced at $4, and it adds a new option to purchase 90-day supplies of certain medications for $10. Target also announced that it is expanding its drug discount program to remain competitive with Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart provides a list of drugs that are eligible for discounts. U.S. News's Michelle Andrews reported on Wal-Mart's discount program when it first launched in 2006. Obesity May Affect Severity of Asthma

 A study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine points to significant differences in lung function among asthmatic women with varying body mass index numbers, Matthew Shulman reports. Obese women appear to be more prone to "dynamic hyperinflation," a condition in which air breathed into the lungs becomes trapped and cannot be exhaled. As such, these women may have more trouble breathing during an asthma attack than do nonobese women. "They may experience more shortness of breath and, compared with nonobese patients, are closer to severely exacerbating an asthma attack," says John Heffner, the immediate past president of the American Thoracic Society and a specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine in Oregon.

For the 12th year, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology is offering free asthma screening exams with specialists at 250 locations across the country. Also, U.S. News explains why it's important to stick with prescribed asthma medications, and why it's essential to know the policy at your child's school on access to asthma inhalers.