Dear HealthSmart,

    Lots of people in our extended family—including a couple of cousins in their 60s—have suffered from Alzheimer’s. These cousins were high school dropouts. By comparison, our family is more highly educated, with graduate degrees. Are we less likely to get this disease?

    HealthSmart asked Dr. Kenneth Langa, M.D./ Ph.D. Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan and lead author for the JAMA Investigation: “A Comparison of the Prevalence of Dementia in the United States in 2000 and 2012”. Here’s his response:

    Yes, there’s cause for optimism about your family’s odds of avoiding AD. There are no guarantees. But our study shows that people with more schooling have a better chance of fending off the disease. That’s because they typically have more “cognitive reserve,” which makes their brains more resistant to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

    This strengthening of the brain’s neurological pathways creates a greater defense against cognitive decline and the development of dementia. While our study focused on a person’s years of educational attainment, other factors such as independent learning, and educational endeavors in one’s leisure time, may also affect the brain’s ability to fight disease.

Dear HealthSmart,

    I suffer from arthritis at the base of my right thumb and am exploring treatment options. I’ve heard that surgery can be avoided by opting to receive injections. Is this true?

    HealthSmart asked Dr. David Ruch, M.D., Chief of Hand Surgery and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the Duke University School of Medicine. Here’s his response:

    Injections aren’t a cure or a lifelong solution. But for many people they offer temporary relief. Cortisone is the injection of choice. The first shot will give you about eight months of relief, the second about sixth months, the third and fourth about five months and so on with decreasing relief after each injection. However, keep in mind that the injection itself is very painful. And because the joint isn’t large enough to accommodate a lot of fluid, injections may cause atrophy of the fat around the joint.

Dear HealthSmart,

    I’ve seen lots of TV shows on hoarding disorders. And although not as extreme, I feel I could be suffering from such a disorder. What classifies someone as a hoarder?

    HealthSmart asked Dr. Fugen Neziroglu, Ph.D., Director of the Bio Behavioral Institute in Great Neck, New York. Here’s her response:

    The media contributes to the notion that hoarding disorders always fall on the more extreme end of the spectrum. But the reality is that disorganization is often mistaken for hoarding disorders, which vary widely in severity. A true hoarding disorder has two components: the acquisition of possessions and the inability to discard possessions. Often hoarders believe they need to keep everything they collect, or their memories will be lost.

    Some hoarders isolate their behavior to certain rooms of their home, leaving more common areas clean and presentable. Others isolate hoarding solely to their cars and still others fill their entire living space with possessions to the point that they can’t even walk around.

    The Bio Behavioral Institute offers an online quiz to help you determine if you have a hoarding disorder.

    Do you have questions on health or wellness you’d like answered by the nation’s leading medical researchers? If so, you can send them to Editor@WashNews.Com. Or mail them to Ellen James Martin, P.O. Box 30303, Bethesda, Maryland 20824. HealthSmart is a national newspaper column from the Washington News Service in DC. Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity. Due to demand, we are unable to reply to all inquiries. Information conveyed through the column is no substitute for care from physicians or other medical professionals.

Copyright Ellen James Martin 2017-2018