En español | 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.
After the alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m., each day brings a new set of challenges: deadlines and responsibility at work, AP history homework, French quizzes, soccer carpools, meetings at school, dogs that need to be walked and a hardworking husband who is rarely home before 8 p.m. My mother died in February after a difficult illness, and still I sometimes wake in the middle of the night in grief and panic. Add to that list a new study to worry about: The stress of my life may be increasing my risk of getting Alzheimer's disease.
Three years ago, magazine writer Katie Hafner's family was in turmoil. Her mother was 77 and at loose ends, cast adrift by her husband's incipient dementia (he had moved back in with his family of origin).
Dr. James West would have earned a spot in medical history solely on the basis of his signature achievement as a surgeon. In 1950, West was part of the team at a Chicago-area hospital that was responsible for the first successful human kidney transplant (in this case, into Ruth Tucker, who was in danger of dying from polycystic kidney disease). Drugs to suppress the immune system and prevent it from rejecting a transplanted organ didn't yet exist, so the transplant only lasted three months before it was rejected. But the operation gave Tucker's remaining kidney enough of a break that it could start working again, and she lived for an additional five years as a result. And the breakthrough helped pave the way for the organ transplants that today give tens of thousands of people each year a new lease on life.
Booze. One of humanity's earliest culinary inventions and possibly one of the things that started agricultural civilization in the first place, alcohol has been with us for a long time. But we are still learning much about how it affects the body and about our consumption habits. In other words, there's good points and there's bad points.
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