Stories We're Following This Week

News + Insights from Around the Web + The Patient's Playbook Bottom Line. 

Do Hardened Arteries Increase Your Risk of Dementia? 



"White women with low calcium buildup scores had a significantly decreased risk of dementia."

—Researchers believe that clear arteries may be associated with lower levels of dementia. (WebMD)

Bottom Line: Having a healthy heart is good for your brain too, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. The key is preventing and reducing calcium buildup, also known as atherosclerosis. Lifestyle changes—reducing stress, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking—are the best deterrent against clogged arteries. But for some, medications for high cholesterol and high blood pressure may also be necessary and helpful. Be sure to consult with your doctor about the best options for your specific presentation and current health status. 

New Study Confirms: Feed Kids nuts Earlier to Avoid Allergies Later



"There is now scientific evidence that health care providers should recommend introducing peanut-containing products into the diets of 'high-risk' infants early on in life (between 4 and 11 months of age)."

—Follow up on a landmark study finds that babies exposed to nuts were still less likely to develop a
peanut allergy, even among those children who eventually stopped eating peanuts. (NPR)

Bottom Line: Between 1997 and 2008, peanut and tree nut allergies nearly tripled, leading pediatricians to recommend delayed exposure to nut products. But a groundbreaking study last year found that high-risk babies who were fed a soupy, peanut-butter mush were 80% less likely to develop a peanut allergy by age 5, compared with kids who were not exposed. Researchers recently followed up on these children and found that those who weren't maintaining exposure to nuts still did not develop allergies. But as recent guidance points out, physician advice is advised: "Infants with eczema or egg allergy in the first 4 to 6 months of life might benefit from evaluation by an allergist" before they try peanut-based foods.

Don't Obsess over BMI—Focus on Body Fat Instead


"Body mass index—a ratio of weight to height—is still widely used in doctors’ offices. But it’s an imperfect measure of body fat and... categorizes some muscular people as being overweight."

—A new study suggests that people with a high body-fat percentage have an increased risk of death even when they have a low or normal BMI. (STAT)

Bottom Line: Researchers found that a high body-fat percentage (greater than 38% in women and 36% in men) was associated with increased mortality over an average of 4-6 years. Obsessing over a number on a scale is not a productive way to measure health gains. As the lead author remarked, “Healthy body composition is not just thinness.” 

Feeling Itchy? Here's When to See a Doctor.



“Different itches require different tactics to subdue them. But most important to the sufferer is to know when it’s time to seek medical advice."

Bottom Line: Most of us experience dry, itchy skin at some point in our lives. But chronic itching (lasting longer than 6 weeks) means something is probably wrong. This itch-and-bite guide from The Washington Post offers tips on soothing your skin at home, plus telltale signs that it might be time to seek professional help.

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