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.

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 …

The Surprising Good News About Getting Older

The headline in this morning’s Wall Street Journal caught my eye:  “We Actually Get Nicer With Age.” Wow! So much for the stereotype of the grumpy old man and the cranky old lady. According to the article, as people get older, they report increases in positive traits such as conscientiousness, agreeableness and emotional stability. What’s more, negative traits – like neuroticism, anger and anxiety – seem to decline. Overall,  as we age we become “more responsible, more agreeable and more …

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 …