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.

Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor: Key to Recovery Was Support, Determination

John Odom is looking forward to walking into Boston Medical Center this week for a memorial honoring survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. After all, when he left the hospital last May, the doctors and nurses weren’t sure he would ever walk again. Odom, 66, was one of the most severely injured of the bombing victims, enduring 11 surgeries and weeks on life support after shrapnel from one bomb tore apart his legs. “I want to be able to walk in …

Should All Older Adults Be Screened for Dementia?

Should older adults be routinely screened for Alzheimer’s disease or memory problems? Maybe, maybe not. A government panel says there’s not yet enough data to recommend either for or against it. The panel’s uncertainty reflects the complexity of the issue at a time when scientists are progressing much faster in their ability to diagnose Alzheimer’s than in their ability to treat it. This news is especially relevant in light of the recent discovery of a blood test that can predict with 90 …

The Surprising Risks of Antibiotics

The next time you find yourself asking for an antibiotic to treat a nasty cough or sinus infection – or accepting one when your doctor offers it - consider this: Doctors are overprescribing antibiotics and putting patients at risk, sometimes giving patients three times as many antibiotics as are warranted, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. This practice can cause harmful side effects and lead to infections that kill thousands of Americans …

Alzheimer’s Deaths: Much Higher Than Reported

Alzheimer’s disease may cause up to six times more deaths than previously reported, making it the third leading cause of death in the country, just behind heart disease and cancer. The disease kills as many as half a million people each year, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology. “We know that a lot more people are passing away from this disease than we recognized before,” said lead author Bryan D. James, an epidemiologist with Rush University …

Winter Weary? 6 Ways to Cheer Up

Sick of winter yet? The harsh winter has left schools and governments closed, thousands without power and even the usually sunny South at an icy standstill. It’s also caused a cabin fever outbreak of record proportions. Not only are we bored and craving sun; being stuck inside alone can be bad for our health. A University of Chicago study found that feelings of loneliness and isolation can lead to increased stress, higher blood pressure and other health problems. >> Sign up …

New Guidelines Aim to Reduce Women’s Stroke Risk

Older women have a higher risk of stroke than men and should strive to reduce that risk, say the first guidelines aimed specifically at preventing stroke in women. Women share many of the same risk factors for stroke with men, but their chances of having a stroke can be increased by hormones, pregnancy and childbirth, said Cheryl Bushnell, M.D., associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., who led the team of experts who developed the …