Health Buzz: Heavy Smoking Doubles Alzheimer's Risk

Teens lie about drug use, and so do parents; obesity drug failure leaves fewer options for diabetics.

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Heavy Smoking Linked to Alzheimer's, Dementia Risk

Looking to lower your odds of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia? Stop smoking if you light up. New research finds that heavy smoking during middle age more than doubles a person's risk of these brain disorders later in life. People who smoke two packs of cigarettes a day increase their risk of Alzheimer's by 157 percent, according to a study published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. And they have a 172 percent higher risk of developing vascular dementia, the second-most-common form of dementia after Alzheimer's. Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 20,000 people who were followed for 23 years starting in their 50s and 60s to see who would develop these conditions as they hit their twilight years The heightened risk may be due to smoking causing tissue inflammation, which plays a role in Alzheimer's, the study authors say. "We've known for some time that smoking is bad for your respective health," research scientist Rachel Whitmer told Reuters. "This really adds to our understanding that the brain is also susceptible."

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  • Teens Lie About Drug Use, (And So Do Parents)

    Teenagers' confidential reports about illicit drug use are used by doctors and public health experts to measure the extent of the problem, and to help teens in trouble. But it turns out that teens fib big time in those anonymous surveys—and their parents do, too, writes U.S. News correspondent Nancy Shute.

    Researchers asked 432 African-American teenagers and their parents to participate in an anonymous survey about their use of cocaine, opiates, and marijuana, and said they would also be drug-tested. Of the 211 teenagers whose hair was tested for cocaine, 2 said they used it—while 69, or 34 percent, tested positive, according to a new study in Pediatrics. Of the 244 parents tested, 15 said they had used cocaine, while 69, or 28 percent, tested positive.

    The parents surveyed were pretty bad at guessing if their child was using alcohol or drugs. For instance, 9.6 percent of the parents said their teenager drank alcohol, while 25 percent of the teenagers said they did. With marijuana, 9.5 percent of parents said their teenager smoked dope, while 17 percent of the teens said they did. [Read more: Teens Lie About Drug Use, (And So Do Parents).]

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    • Obesity Drug Failure Leaves Fewer Options for Diabetics

      When it comes to dealing with the rapidly inflating diabetes epidemic, U.S. public health experts face a long, tough road ahead, writes U.S. News's Deborah Kotz. Diabetes rates are expected to soar: As many as 1 in 3 adults will develop the chronic, life-threatening disease by 2050 compared to 1 in 10 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes today, according to estimates released Friday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And drugs to treat obesity, a major cause of type 2 diabetes, are in the dumpster: While the obesity drug Meridia (sibutramine) was withdrawn from the market earlier this month due to its link to heart attacks and strokes (not that it was particular effective), lorcaserin, an experimental weight-loss pill, will probably never be sold. It was rejected a few days ago by the Food and Drug Administration due to still-unanswered questions about its effects on diabetics and concerns over an animal study showing high rates of cancer in rats that were given the drug.

      While Arena Pharmaceuticals, maker of lorcaserin, vows to continue pursuing approval, Jack Lief, its chief executive, acknowledged in a Monday conference call with reporters that obesity drugs don't work very well in diabetics. The FDA is currently reviewing applications for two other experimental obesity drugs, but if the past is any indication, they, too, may only produce modest weight loss along with health risks that may not be known until the drugs are prescribed to many folks for years. (Meridia was on the market for 13 years before the full extent of its heart risks became known.) [Read more: Obesity Drug Failure Leaves Fewer Options for Diabetics.]