Health Advice



Personality and Alzheimer's Disease

Scott LaFee on

Apart from biological factors such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles, new research suggests some personality traits may be risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. The factors have been proven to be causal but may be associated with Alzheimer's and related dementias.

Specifically, scientists found that neuroticism -- the personality trait that describes someone who gravitates toward unsettling emotions, such as anxiety and depression -- may increase the likelihood of developing amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain.

Conversely, the personality trait of conscientiousness -- being responsible, careful, goal- and detail-oriented -- may reduce the likelihood of developing them.

Body of Knowledge

Shy people purportedly produce less dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter, in their brains. Dopamine plays a role in how we experience pleasure and think and plan, and helps encourage ambition, focus and finding things interesting.

Stories for the Waiting Room

The Lown Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, issues its own hospital rankings based on measures of social responsibility such as equity, value and outcomes. Here are the top five:

Carepoint Health-Christ Hospital, Jersey City, New Jersey

Saint Michael's Medical Center, Newark, New Jersey

Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore

Oroville Hospital, Oroville, California

University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, Baltimore

Doc Talk

Orthopnoea: breathless while lying down

Phobia of the Week

Hygrophobia: fear of dampness, which is not to be confused with a fear of fog, known as homichlophobia

Never Say 'Diet'

The Major League Eating record for jellied cranberry sauce is 13.23 pounds in eight minutes, held by Juliet Lee. This month, we'll note some holiday-themed records held by professionals, though as amateurs, many of us will do our best when the day comes.

Food for Thought

Caramel coloring sounds pretty -- and pretty innocuous. However, the additive to snacks, candy, soft drinks and baked goods is made by treating sugar with ammonia, which can produce possible cancer-causing byproducts. The International Agency for Research on Cancer ruled in 2011 that caramel coloring is "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

Best Medicine


A priest, a rabbi and a minister are all admitted into a hospital together for alcohol poisoning. They had apparently been visiting too many bars together.


"Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure." -- Oprah Winfrey

Medical History

This week in 1984, Baby Fae died, who had been born just one month before and who had lived for 20 days with a transplanted, walnut-sized young baboon heart. At birth, Fae was diagnosed with an almost-always-fatal heart deformity. Leonard L. Bailey, a heart surgeon at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, proposed an experimental xenotransplant to the mother. A handful of earlier animal heart transplants into adults had provided less than four days of sustained life, but Bailey believed the infant's underdeveloped immune system might be less likely to reject the transplanted tissue, and a new drug cyclosporine would help. Fae died of complications from the transplant, but the heart itself had not been rejected.

Ig Nobel Apprised

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh, then think. A look at real science that's hard to take seriously, and even harder to ignore.

In 1997, the Ig Nobel Prize in medicine went to Carl Charnetski and Francis Brennan of Wilkes University and, um, James Harrison of Muzak Ltd. for their discovery that listening to so-called elevator music stimulates the immune system and may help prevent the common cold.


Q: What is the average speed of circulating blood in your body?

a) 1-2 miles per hour

b) 3-4 miles per hour

c) 5-6 miles per hour

d) Less than 1 mile per hour

A: b) 3-4 miles per hour, but that's just the average. Flow is faster in some places, slower elsewhere (for purposes of improved tissue oxygenation). Blood pumped fresh through the heart's aorta moves at an impressive 15 inches per second, or 10 mph.

Last Words

"Oh, you young people act like old men. You have no fun." -- French American entertainer and activist Josephine Baker (1906-1975)


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