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.

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 …

Hearing Loss Tied to Brain Shrinkage

We’ve known for several years that hearing loss is linked to dementia and decline in memory and thinking skills, but we don’t yet understand why they are connected. A new study from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore may provide an explanation: Older adults with hearing problems appear to have a greater rate of brain shrinkage as they age. Researchers used information from the ongoing Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging to study 126 adults ages 56 to 86 who had yearly MRI brain scans …

Meditation Rivals Medication for Depression

Want a free, easy tip for reducing anxiety, depression and pain without medications? Try meditation. New research finds that meditation may be equally as effective as antidepressants in helping to reduce anxiety, depression and pain, according to a review of studies published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers reviewed 47 randomized clinical trials with 3,515 participants and found that mindfulness meditation improved symptoms of depression by 10 to 20 percent and symptoms of anxiety by 5 to 10 percent. “This is …

Vitamin E May Slow Alzheimer’s Progression

We haven’t discovered a cure for Alzheimer’s, or a drug that reverses the ravages of the disease, but researchers may have found a treatment to slow disease progression that’s simple, cheap and safe. Among more than 600 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, a daily high dose of vitamin E slowed the decline in the ability of patients to perform everyday tasks, such as dress or bathe independently, by about six months on average. And, perhaps more tellingly, those taking …

Good News About Exercise: It’s Never too Late to Start

Need inspiration to head out to that Turkey Trot in the frightful weather? A new study finds that regular physical activity later in life boosts the likelihood of healthy aging up to sevenfold. What’s more, the findings, published yesterday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, show that it’s never too late to start. “Significant health benefits were even seen among participants who became physically active relatively late in life,” wrote the study authors, led by Mark Hamer of the …