Smoking, hot flashes, and Alzheimer's

January 18, 2011 3:14:22 PM PST
There is new information regarding three major health issues including a study that shows why smokers light up, treatment for hot flashes, and a test to detect Alzheimer's. One of the biggest recurring health issues is smoking. Frequent smokers have reported the urge to light up a cigarette when they see someone else smoking or spot a pack of cigarettes in their reach. The constant temptation to smoke makes it increasingly difficult to nix the habit, which can lead to devastating health problems down the road.

A new study reveals a significant difference in the brain function of those who smoke compared to those who do not. Researchers showed images of smoking in movies to participants, half of whom were smokers, while conducting brain scans. The pathway regulating the action of hand to mouth by those whose smoke was activated by the images. This did not happen with the non-smokers. The study is helpful to understand why certain people are overwhelmed by the urge to smoke and may sometimes give in to temptation.

A second health issue is hot flashes, which affect many women that are going through menopause. Hormone therapy is risky making antidepressant medication a better option for treatment. The drug Lexapro, also called Escitalopram, reduced hot flashes by 47 percent after two months in a study of over 200 women. This is compared to the 33 percent reduction in the placebo group. Ellen W. Freeman, Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine stated that, "hot flash frequency decreased significantly in the women who took the Escitalopram."

Additionally, a small study looking for plaque in the brain may be able to identify patients with Alzheimer's disease. The brain scan indentified over 90 percent of patients that were later confirmed to have Alzheimer's. Although it is an early study, neurologists remain optimistic. As of now, brain plaques that cause Alzheimer's can only be confirmed by a biopsy, after death.