Anchor lead: When it comes to stress and memory impairment, are some stressors worse than others? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Stressful events in middle-aged women are associated with memory impairment, while such a relationship is not seen in men, a Johns Hopkins study led by Cynthia Munro has shown. This difference in stress response may explain why more women than men will ultimately develop dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. Munro describes the study.

Munro: We asked people about specific events, whether they had experienced them over the past year, or ever. Specific stressful events were things like divorce, loss of a spouse, job loss, stressful experiences that people might have. And we also them about traumatic events. Had they been in combat or had they been the victim of a physical assault? In women the greater number of stressful experiences was associated with more of a decline in their ability to remember.  :28

Munro notes that the chronic stressors such as divorce were much more impactful than isolated traumatic events, and may have to do with stress hormone elevation. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


Anchor lead: Does a stress reaction explain why women experience dementia more often than men? Elizabeth Tracey reports

One in six women over 60 will develop Alzheimer’s disease while 1 in 11 men will do so, the Alzheimer’s Association says. Now a new Johns Hopkins study led by Cynthia Munro may help explain why women are more likely to develop the condition than men.

Munro: I went in with the idea that there should be an effect of stress on memory and that it should be in women but not in men, and that’s what we found. I was actually really surprised that it turned out that way because the women at follow up were younger than what you would expect to have dementia, they were in their early sixties. But to see sort of the incipient memory decline related to stress is really exciting because maybe we can intervene. Maybe there’s something we can do to prevent that memory decline.  :29

Munro’s study linked stressful life events to impaired memory in a study of more than 900 Baltimore adults who’ve been followed since the early 1980s. Isolated traumatic events had less impact than those that continued over time, such as divorce, the research shows. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


Anchor lead: Should federal regulations be created to reduce sodium in foods? Elizabeth Tracey reports


Obesity and dietary sodium are a bad combination, rendering people much more salt sensitive and at risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, new evidence confirms. Shel Gottlieb, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, says this points to the need for public policy changes.

Gottlieb: It interacts with individuals and their day to day nutrition, but it also has to do with public policy which is a really big deal. The public policy aspect of it then brings you into the whole other realm of when do you start putting restrictions onto society?  :16

Gottlieb says many more people are impacted than anyone thought before.

Gottlieb: Going along with obesity is diabetes is the really big deal and also hypertension. There’s a very heavy overlap between. If you look at all the people with hypertension, all the diabetics, that’s a lot of people, it’s a lot of people. It’s a really big deal.  :14

Since most dietary sodium is in prepared foods policy change is needed, Gottlieb states. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


Anchor lead: Dietary salt is more of an issue in obese people, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Salt re-emerged a few years ago as one of our latest dietary scourges, but studies seemed to suggest that only certain groups of people were sensitive to salt when it comes to blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Now new evidence points to obesity as a factor. Shel Gottlieb, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, explains.

Gottlieb: About the last state that hasn’t become grossly obese I think is Colorado. I think what you have is a public health disaster of obesity, basically a nutritional disaster. The sodium sensitivity is going to play into that. And the other problem is that people have very little control over the amount of sodium in their diet because its mostly in prepared food.  :21

Gottlieb identifies policies to reduce salt in prepared foods as a place to begin.

Gottlieb: Why don’t we start by cutting out let’s say 25% of the sodium? No one will notice. And take it from there because the taste buds themselves will readjust themselves according to the sodium load.  :11

At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


Anchor lead: Can a new method of assessing cysts in the pancreas help identify cancer? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Cancer of the pancreas is deadly, with limited ways to catch the disease early. Now a new test integrating a number of characteristics of cysts found in the pancreas may help predict which ones may be cancerous. Anne Marie Lennon, a pancreas cancer expert at Johns Hopkins and one of the test’s developers, explains.

Lennon:  What we’ve set about doing is developing a comprehensive pancreatic cyst test, which we call CompCyst for short. We used alterations in DNA and combined it with protein markers and clinical features to develop a combination test to identify these three groups of patients: those who had cysts that are noncancerous which need no follow up, those who have precancerous, mucin producing cysts who benefit from surveillance, and those who have cancerous cysts who benefit from surgical resection.  :32

Lennon says many cysts are found in the pancreas when people have imaging for other reasons, and determining whether they are potentially dangerous is important. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


Anchor lead: Nurses may take the lead when it comes to palliative care and end of life issues, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Do you have advance directives in place if you are critically ill and unable to communicate your wishes? How about a health care proxy who knows what you want? Most Americans want to die at home but often don’t, recent data show, yet when nurses get involved in the discussion such goals may be met more frequently. Patricia Davidson, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, isn’t surprised.

Davidson: Nursing is a discipline that’s about the whole person. It’s not about a organ, and it’s not about a biomedical approach. Certainly the nurses, and physicians, and social workers, and chaplains, anybody who works in palliative care, is truly committed to that approach. Sometimes the length of time spent with the patient, the length of time of engagement in the clinical encounter, directly relates to the amount of meaningful information you get.  :30

Davidson says a team approach to care renders all valuable members united in their goal to  provide the best care for patients. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


Anchor lead: Pancreatic cancer is moving up in causes of cancer deaths, Elizabeth Tracey reports

The rankings are shifting when it comes to leading causes of cancer death, the American Cancer Society reported, with pancreatic cancer moving up. Ann Marie Lennon, a pancreas cancer expert at Johns Hopkins, says the uptick is due to better screening and treatment of other types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer.

Lennon: Pancreatic cancer was the fourth leading cause of death due to cancer in the United States. In the last year or two its actually become the third commonest cause, and within the next ten years its predicted to become the second commonest cause of cancer death in the United States. One of the things this shows is how successful surveillance can be, which is really nice to see, for example for colorectal cancer. And what it highlights is what we really need is some way to screen for pancreatic cancer in an effective way. :29

Lennon and colleagues have recently developed a test called CompCyst to help identify cancerous lesions in the pancreas, with an eye toward earlier diagnosis. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.