Drinking Alcohol May Lower Dementia Risk
A new study finds that people who drink alcohol moderately have a lower risk of dementia, BBC News reports. Researchers at Wake Forest University followed 3,069 people ages 75 and older over a six-year period. Participants who drank on average one to two alcoholic drinks a day had a 37 percent lower risk of dementia than those who did not drink. But researchers found that drinking any amount of alcohol may accelerate memory problems in people who have mild cognitive impairment. In addition, heavy drinkers—people who drank more than 14 drinks a week—had nearly double the usual risk of developing dementia.
Here are 10 things you should know about Alzheimer's disease and a look at ways to predict and ward off memory loss. Also, consider how to keep your brain fit.
Cost of Medicine: Are High-Tech Medical Tests and Treatments Always Worth It?
Experts say that spending on new health technology—not just fancy machines but also drugs, devices, and procedures—makes up as much as two thirds of the more than 6 percent annual increase in healthcare costs (this year's costs: $2.5 trillion). It's one of the key reasons why U.S. healthcare is so expensive, says one expert. U.S. News's Katherine Hobson describes how high-tech and expensive medical tools may be overused.
Several forces are driving the excess use of high-tech medicine, she writes. The most commonly cited is so-called "technology creep." First a device gets approved for a high-risk population for which it provides a proven benefit. But its use then expands to lower-risk groups, changing the calculus of clinical and financial risk and reward, Hobson writes. Technology creep is at work in imaging, where the number of CT and MRI scans charged to Medicare increased more than 15 percent annually between 2000 and 2004. The odd economics of health also abet the spread of technology, Hobson reports. Healthcare providers are paid for each procedure or service rather than for improving the total health of patients, which means there's an incentive to offer more tests and treatments. Continue reading.
Learn how technology is changing the medical profession. In April, U.S. News's Dr. Bernadine Healy wrote that three innovations based on information technology—clinical practice guidelines, electronic medical records, and large-scale population science—will bring medicine into a new biological revolution. And check out how personalized treatments will transform medical practice.
Too Many Breast Cancers Diagnosed by Mammograms?
A study released last week showed that about 1 in 3 breast cancers detected on screening mammograms is overtreated. In other words, these malignancies wouldn't have caused symptoms or death in a woman's lifetime, according to research published in the British Medical Journal. The study's authors reviewed data from women who began screening at age 50, and the researchers found that mammograms save 1 life for every 10 cancers that are diagnosed and treated unnecessarily. (Another study published three years ago measured 1 saved life for every 2 cancers unnecessarily treated.) What this means is that mammograms lead to more unnecessary surgeries and more unneeded courses of chemotherapy than saved lives, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz reports. One expert thinks that women need to make informed decisions when it comes to deciding whether to be screened with mammograms, rather than being told simply that the X-ray is lifesaving.
— Megan Johnson
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