Betsy Agnvall is a features editor for health at AARP Media. She's fascinated by research that helps us understand how to live our lives to the fullest - keeping mind and body strong and sharp. She previously worked as a freelance writer for The Washington Post, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Safety and Health magazine and other publications.

Holiday Blues? 7 Ways to Cheer Up

The winter solstice — and the shortest day of the year — will soon be upon us (Dec. 21), and not everyone is feeling the holiday spirit. Illness, loneliness, financial troubles, family problems and depression can make many dread the “most wonderful” time of the year and endanger both mental and physical health. A recent University of Chicago study found that feelings of loneliness and isolation can lead to increased stress, higher blood pressure and other health problems. Here are some things you can do …

Feel Younger Than Your Age? You May Live Longer

Turns out, you really are only as old as you feel. Researchers at the University College London found that those who feel younger than their years live longer than those who feel their age or older, according to a new study published online Dec. 15 in JAMA Internal Medicine. “In our study, we found that those people who felt older than they are were less likely to survive,” Andrew Steptoe, one of the study authors, told CBS News. “People who felt younger than …

Poor Sleep Quality, Sleep Apnea May Raise Dementia Risk

Does your spouse complain that you snore loudly or gasp in your sleep? Better pay attention — and not just for the purposes of marital harmony. A new study finds that people who have breathing problems while sleeping and those who don’t get enough deep sleep are at higher risk for dementia, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology. Scientists are increasingly finding that good sleep is crucial to brain health. Previous studies have suggested sleep quality and duration are connected to memory …

Midlife Diabetes Tied to Memory Problems Later in Life

Having diabetes or prediabetes in midlife is linked to memory problems later in life, according to new research published in Annals of Internal Medicine. In fact, diabetes appears to age the brain about five years faster than normal aging. Johns Hopkins researchers in Baltimore tracked the blood sugar levels and brain health of more than 15,000 adults ages 48 to 67 with regular exams for 20 years and found there was nearly 20 percent greater decline in memory and cognitive function in those with …

Robin Williams’ Suicide Triggered by Type of Dementia?

A gossip website has attributed actor Robin Williams’ suicide to Lewy body dementia, a devastating disease that affects an estimated 1.4 million Americans, most of them men over age 60. Sources told TMZ that Williams’ doctors agree that the dementia was a “key factor” that drove him to suicide, though neither the diagnosis nor the doctors’ statements have been confirmed. >> Famous People We’ve Lost in 2014 Lewy body dementia is the second or third most common type of progressive dementia, according …

Trick or Treat: Does Chocolate Help Brain Health?

A new study this week that linked the antioxidant-rich flavanols in cocoa to improved memory in healthy older adults produced lots of yummy headlines, so  it’s OK to stuff ourselves with leftover Halloween candy, right? Well, not exactly. Study participants — all between the ages of 50 and 69 — saw striking improvements in memory after drinking a special cocoa drink daily for just three months. On average, the memory of 60-year-olds improved to perform more like that of  30- or 40-year-olds, according to …