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.

Major New Study Tests Drug to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

In what some experts are calling the most important Alzheimer’s research of the decade, scientists at 61 medical centers across the country and elsewhere have launched a groundbreaking study to test whether an experimental new medication can protect healthy older adults from the memory loss and brain damage caused by the disease.  “Our best chance of really changing the disease is to start treatment before people have symptoms,” said lead researcher Reisa Sperling, professor in neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of the …

Learning a Second Language at Any Age Can Slow Brain Aging

I lived in Stockholm for two years after college and doggedly learned Swedish, even though most Swedes speak beautiful English. Not only could I communicate better with then-tiny (now giant) Swedish nephews, turns out it was a good move for my brain. Learning a second language – even as an adult – helps protect the brain from aging,  says a new study published in the Annals of Neurology. “Learning a language later in life is a challenge but is very, very good for …

Calling All Cynics: Your Mistrust Is Bad for Your Brain

If you’re a cynic, you’ll probably disregard this, but researchers say that cynical mistrust will triple your risk of developing dementia. Scoff all you want, but researchers in Finland who tested 1,449 older adults (average age: 71) found that highly cynical people were three times more likely to develop dementia than those with a more trusting, optimistic personality, according to a study published today in the journal Neurology. In other words, “your personality may affect your brain health,” explained lead …

Can Young Blood Reverse Aging in Older Brains?

What’s the secret of youth? It may be all in the blood. Three new studies published Sunday showed that when the blood of young mice was put into the systems of older mice, the effects of aging were reversed, improving both muscles and brains. Researchers will now race to find practical implications for older human brains. One of the study authors plans to start a trial this year, giving young blood to Alzheimer’s patients to see if it can reverse …

Sleep Patterns in Midlife Can Affect Memory Later

Like most Americans, I rarely get the doctor-recommended eight hours of sleep every night. Usually, I get too little sleep. Occasionally, I get too much. So I worried when I saw a new study that found that how much women sleep in middle age can affect their memory later in life. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston evaluated the link between sleep duration and memory in more than 15,000 women age 70 and older who were  stroke and …

Sleep Disorder Linked to Brain Disease

Thrashing about while you’re asleep may be a sign of something more troubling than mere restlessness: It could be a predictor of brain disease. A new study suggests that 80 to 90 percent of people who suffer from rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder will eventually develop Parkinson’s or another brain disease. What’s REM sleep behavior disorder? It’s a condition that causes people to act out vivid, intense, even violent dreams. People who have it often yell, punch and kick …