HealthSmart Q & A-17

Dear HealthSmart,

How does education attainment relate to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia?

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

Our study indicates that the more schooling we have, the better able our brain is to fend off disease. This is because of what we call our “cognitive reserve” which makes the brain more resistant to Alzheimer’s and dementia. In our research, we saw a decrease in rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s as an individual’s years of education increase. More schooling leads to the strengthening and multiplication of connections between brain cells and to the creation of additional neural networks. This strengthening of the brain’s neurological pathways creates a greater defense against cognitive decline and the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s. While our study focused on a person’s years of educational attainment, other factors such as online, independent learning, educational endeavors in one’s leisure time, may also affect our 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, MD, Chief of Hand Surgery and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Duke University School of Medicine. Here’s his response:

Injections aren’t a cure or a lifetime 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 sixth months, the third four to five months and so on with decreasing relief after each injection. Keep in mind, however, that the injection itself is very painful. And because the joint isn’t large enough to accommodate a lot of fluid, it may cause atrophy of the fat around the joint.


Dear HealthSmart,

I’ve seen a lot of TV shows on hoarding disorders. And although not as extreme, I feel as though I may be suffering from a similar disorder. What classifies someone was a hoarder?

HealthSmart asked Dr. Neziroglu, Director of the Bio Behavioral Institute. Here’s her response:

The media contributes to the notion that hoarding disorders always fall on the more extreme end of the continuum, when in fact hoarding disorders vary widely and are often mistaken for disorganization. Hoarding disorders have two components: the acquisition of possessions and the inability to discard possessions. The hoarder’s reasons for these behaviors can be instrumental, such as the thought that they may need the possessions down the line, or that they feel the possession evokes certain memories of a person, or part of their lives, and they worry without the possession they will forget these memories. Some hoarders isolate their behavior to certain rooms of their home, leaving more common areas clean and presentable, some isolate hoarding to their cars, and others fill their entire living space with possessions to the point it affects daily mobility and usage of the home. The Bio Behavioral Institute, as well as at the Institute of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, offers an online quiz that can help determine if your behavior is that of an individual struggling with 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 to HealthSmart is a national newspaper column from the Washington News Service in DC. Due to demand, we are unable to reply to all inquiries. Responses through the column are no substitute for care from physicians or other medical professionals.

Copyright Ellen James Martin 2021


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