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More reasons to stop smoking

Looking to lower your odds of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia? Stop smoking if you light up. New research finds that heavy smoking during middle age more than doubles a person's risk of these brain disorders later in life.

People who smoke two packs of cigarettes a day increase their risk of Alzheimer's by 157 percent, according to a study published in October in the Archives of Internal Medicine. And they have a 172 percent higher risk of developing vascular dementia, the second-most-common form of dementia after Alzheimer's.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 20,000 people who were followed for 23 years starting in their 50s and 60s to see who would develop these conditions as they hit their twilight years The heightened risk may be due to smoking causing tissue inflammation, which plays a role in Alzheimer's, the study authors say.

"We've known for some time that smoking is bad for your respective health," research scientist Rachel Whitmer told Reuters. "This really adds to our understanding that the brain is also susceptible."

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Acne linked with suicide risk

People being treated for severe acne are twice as likely as their untreated peers to commit suicide, new research suggests -- fueling debate about whether the risk is caused by the condition itself or a drug used to treat it. Swedish researchers analyzed data from nearly 6,000 people treated with the acne medication isotretinoin, marketed as Accutane, between 1980 and 1989.

By the end of 2001, 128 of these patients were hospitalized because of a suicide attempt, and 17 male and seven female patients had died by suicide, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Suicide risk was highest within the six months after treatment ended -- perhaps because patients were upset that although their condition improved, their social lives did not, researchers speculate.

"All patients with acne of a severity for which isotretinoin is [needed] should have psychosocial factors and suicidal intent monitored," Australian researchers Parker Magin and John Sullivan wrote in an editorial accompanying the study. "Given the extended period of risk, families of patients may also have a role in this monitoring."

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'Drowsy driving' is common

More than 40 percent of drivers say they've fallen asleep at the wheel, and about one in 10 admitted doing so during the past year, according to a study released in November by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit research and educational organization.

For the unlucky ones, driving drowsy can end in death, their own or another's, writes U.S. News and World Report's Deborah Kotz. In fact, one in every six deadly car crashes results from a fatigue-impaired driver, estimates the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's compared with about one in three caused by a drunk driver.

Yet only one U.S. state, New Jersey, has a law against driving while sleep-deprived, whereas every state has laws against drunk driving. This seems ludicrous, especially when you consider research suggesting that sleep deprivation has effects similar to imbibing a few drinks.

"Sleepiness decreases awareness, slows reaction time and impairs judgment, just like drugs or alcohol," said AAA Foundation President Peter Kissinger in a statement released with the study. Australian researchers, for example, have found that volunteers who hadn't slept for nearly 20 hours had response speeds that were 50 percent lower than well-rested folks on some cognitive tests; their performance was on par with those who had a blood-alcohol content of 0.05 percent, which is approaching the legal limit.

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Sugary drinks raise gout risk

Women who drink fructose-rich beverages, such as sugar-sweetened sodas and orange juice, are at increased risk for gout, a new study finds. The incidence of gout -- a painful type of inflammatory arthritis -- in the United States increased from 16 per 100,000 people in 1977 to 42 per 100,000 in 1996. That rise coincided with a large increase in soda and fructose consumption, the study authors noted. Fructose-rich beverages can cause a buildup of uric acid in the blood, which leads to gout, HealthDay reports.

In this study, researchers analyzed data from 78,906 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study between 1984 and 2006. The women had no history of gout at the start of the study. Over the next 22 years, 778 of the women were diagnosed with gout.

Compared with women who consumed less than one serving of sugar-sweetened soda per month, those who consumed one serving per day were 74 percent more likely to develop gout and those who consumed two or more servings per day had a 2.4 times higher risk.

Compiled from News wire sources

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