Published Mar 9, 2023

Dr. B's Weekly Roundup: Aging gracefully

A color photograph of a child's hand resting over the hand of an older person, with slightly wrinkled skin, wearing a turquoise ring.
Published Mar 9, 2023

Welcome to the Dr. B Newsletter, a curated healthcare email that delivers vetted reads on whole-body health. If time is a construct, then age is as well. So this week, let's dig into the construct. Here's the latest on why we feel younger than our age, how our brain ages + what happens when new medicine means you’ll live beyond a childhood diagnosis. But first…

  • The Checkup: soothing support for every age
  • Grow Up! extended mortality + aging brains
  • Healthcare: access + new analysis
  • We Now Treat: psoriasis!

The Checkup

How old are you, really?

A color studio portrait of a thin white woman with long blond hair wearing a brown skirt, white blouse and tan cowboy hat, standing against a brown wall and holding a textured piece of glass, which obscures her face.

How old do you perceive yourself to be?

That’s the question Danish researchers asked study participants over 40. On average, they felt 20% younger than their age.

Why do we do this?! Our brain retains more memories from our formative years than any other, holding close our first kiss, first job, first home, first child etc.—a phenomenon researchers call the reminiscence bump. After 25, we like to revert to the sweet spot where we had both an ambitious future ahead + solid experience behind us. So if you've found yourself around people 15 years younger than you + assumed you're the same age, you're not alone.

This subjective-age gap isn’t the same across countries—the discrepancy implies that we can feel good about any age as long as we feel valued + of use.

Dig deeper + learn why it’s vital for your health to stay young at heart.

This is your brain at...

A color outdoor photograph of an Asian family standing on a rooftop against a sunset city skyline. They are more than ten people crossing generations, from children to grandparents.

A new study offers clues about how our brain ages across our lifespan. Sure, significant evolution happens in childhood. But our brain doesn’t take it easy once we land a job + mortgage. Here are a few highlights:

  • 20-39: We don’t lose synaptic plasticity—our ability to adapt to new experiences. But we reprioritize our adaptations for longer-term benefits.
  • 40s+: Studies on mice imply we call upon silent synapses—connections that don’t spark until needed—when we want to learn new things!
  • 40-65. How we live matters. A highly social 50-year-old can have a younger brain than a 50-year-old living a habitual, low-stimulation life.
  • 65+: Some research suggests that areas of emotional processing + moral decision-making awaken, contributing to a wizened perspective.

When you live beyond diagnosis

An outdoor color photograph of a white woman with short red hair, wearing red lipstick, a brown coat and a black shirt. She's standing outside in front of a city scene on a train platform, smiling big as she moves towards the camera.

Imagine this: As a kid, you’re told your incurable disease means you’ll die in your 20s. So you grow up living as fully as possible for the time you’ve got. You don’t go to college because you won’t have a career. You don’t get braces or wear sunscreen. (What’s the point?) You never dream of having children.

But then, science moves forward. A new drug hits the scene. Your life expectancy expands.

What do you do now?

That’s the tender reality for adults with cystic fibrosis—a disease where excessive mucus production strangles organs, triggering infections and respiratory decline. But a new drug called Trifakta is helping the faulty protein that creates the excess mucus. In eligible patients, organs are functioning better than ever before. These patients are feeling better + face an unexpected future—one that may contain the children + careers they never thought they’d have, but also lack the financial security they’d never expected to need.

How would you feel? Read more on the New York Times website.

Healthcare 411

Why the lab-leak and mask debates are such a disaster (The Atlantic). If you keep up with the news + now believe definitively that a lab first leaked Covid-19 and that masks do not work, read this story. “The lab leak is neither a fact nor a myth. Masks work, except very often they don’t, and asking people to wear masks can work, except very often it doesn’t work at all,” it concludes. The dissection of these points will empower you.

What to know about Interferon Lambda, a potential new COVID-19 treatment (Self). In a clinical trial of mostly vaccinated participants, those given an injection of interferon lambda had significantly lower odds of hospitalization than those given a placebo. Rather than halt viral reproduction (like Paxlovid), interferon lambda offers infection-fighting proteins that encourage the immune response. It’s a single-injection medication with fewer side effects than Paxlovid. But read the article for more on why we shouldn’t expect to see it stateside too soon.

Walgreens won’t distribute abortion pills in states where GOP AGs object (Politico). After nearly two dozen (Republican) state attorneys general threatened legal action if Walgreens began distributing abortion pills, Walgreens assured them that they won’t—neither by mail nor on-site. This includes states where the medication remains explicitly legal. CVS, Albertsons, Rite Aid, Costco, Walmart and Kroger were also approached but have not yet responded.

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