Personal Health and Well-being

Candy Sagon writes about health topics for AARP. She previously was a reporter with the Washington Post and has written numerous articles on food, health and nutrition for national magazines.

New Lower Blood Pressure Goal: Is It for You?

For older adults with high blood pressure, experts have been arguing for more than a year about how low the optimal BP reading should go. Should patients age 50-plus aim for a systolic level (the higher number in the reading) of 140 to 150, as a panel of experts recommended in 2013? Or should they use extra medication to aggressively lower it to 120, as a major federal study of adults urged in September? That September announcement included the startling …

The Despair That’s Killing White, Middle-Aged Americans

For decades, the death rate among all groups of Americans has been steadily declining, thanks to advances in medicine and quality of life. But 15 years ago, that trend suddenly reversed for one group: white Americans ages 45 to 54. In what a new study termed “an epidemic of despair,” two Princeton economists find that suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse are driving up deaths among less-educated, middle-aged, white Americans — some of it due to job loss and financial woes. The number …

Experts Argue Against New Mammogram Guidelines

The American Cancer Society’s newly announced change in mammogram guidelines has made the debate on when, and how frequently, to get breast cancer screening even more confusing for women. Even worse, this change was based on the advice of a panel  that “did not include a single surgeon, radiologist or medical oncologist who specializes in the care and treatment of breast cancer. Not one,” said an op-ed column in the New York Times written by three breast cancer experts who …

Bad News, Bacon Lovers: Processed Meat Linked to Cancer

“Better not eat that. It’ll give you cancer. Didn’t you hear about that report?” the woman asked, as her friend reached for the bacon at the cafeteria breakfast bar. “That report” refers to the one this week from the World Health Organization (WHO) that caused a tizzy among lovers of bacon, cold cuts, sausages and hot dogs by saying consumption of processed meats “causes colorectal cancer.” Based on an analysis of more than 800 studies by 22 experts from 10 …

Dietary Supplements Send 23,000 to ER Yearly

Popular over-the-counter supplements, including multivitamins, energy boosters and diet pills, send 23,000 Americans to the emergency room yearly with chest pain, heart palpitations, choking and other problems, according to the first large study to look at the products’ adverse effects. The federally funded research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It’s based on data from 63 emergency rooms across the country, from 2004 to 2013. Unlike prescription medicines, the $32 billion supplement industry is largely unregulated; the …

Is It a Cold or the Flu? Here’s How to Tell

Judging by all the people sneezing and coughing on my flight last week, and the ubiquitous “Get your flu shot” signs at every pharmacy, it’s obvious we’ve begun the dreaded cold and flu season. So how can you tell if your aches and scratchy throat are a typical cold or a more serious bout of the flu? A quick rule of thumb is that cold symptoms generally occur from the neck up, whereas flu symptoms take over your whole body. …