How can we better support caregivers?

An estimated 44 million people provide full-time or part-time care for the elderly,disabled veterans, new mothers, the injured, the sick — a problem that eventually impacts everyone in the nation.

Caregivers have few tools, few support systems and receive minimal, if any, training for these responsibilities. What innovations can we develop specifically to support the caregiver community?

Ask a collected team of leaders on the issue — from a caregiver to a psychologist — about how we can better manage the crisis, at challenges.tedmed.com.

Video: Dan Buettner on how to make Blue Zones in the U.S.

Could we become a nation of red, white and Blue Zones? Today’s New York Times featured a piece about how local governments are working on improving built environments and drumming up community-wide efforts to promote geographic hot spots of health and, hopefully longevity – coined “Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner in his 2008 best-selling book of the same name.

At TEDMED 2011,  Buettner talked about one town’s grand experiment in healthy living. Watch what happened.

Videos: How long can we live?

It’s a question that, well, never seems to die:  Can science significantly extend the human lifespan, and if so, how?

Scientific American delves into the questions with an intriguing series in its September issue, beginning with varied views on process:  Do we try to stem aging itself on the cellular and molecular levels, or do we take a piecemeal approach to curing disease and replace worn bones and organs?

A pre-eminent voice in the fray, Aubrey de Gray, chief science officer of the SENS foundation, spoke at TEDMED 2009 on the former approach:

While Anthony Atala, of the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, showed mind-blowing advances in the same year of growing organs for transplantation in the laboratory.

Meanwhile, as SciAm points out, we continue to increase lifespan nevertheless thanks to better nutrition, maternal care and sanitation, though government stats show that life expectancy varies greatly from country to country, with the U.S. lagging behind other industrialized nations.

New map of health risk: Obesity rates top 30 percent in 12 states

More than one third of U.S. of adults are obese  — with a BMI of 30 or higher — but some states have a bigger problem than others. According to a new analysis of CDC stats from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), obesity rates vary among states and regions, with twelve states having an obesity rate exceeding 30 percent. Mississippi’s is highest at 34.9 percent; while Colorado’s is leanest, relatively speaking, at 20.7 percent.

The costs in terms of chronic disease and healthcare burdens are virtually incalculable.  What’s to be done to stem the epidemic?  Later this summer, RWJF and TFAH will release the 2012 edition of “F as in Fat,” an annual report that analyzes state obesity rates and policy efforts to address the epidemic, and provides policy recommendations to accelerate progress.

Read more about the report here, and details on the CDC statistics here.

Reisa Sperling: How soon can we predict Alzheimer’s?

Can advances in brain scans and other testing techniques help us predict who will come down with Alzheimer’s — decades before symptoms show?  Reisa Sperling of Brigham and Women’s Hospital reports on the latest research in battling a disease whose symptoms show up far too late to cure.

Sperling’s work in the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN) study was published July 11th in the New England Journal of Medicine. In this work, a team of researchers offered a timeline of the disease progression, with biomarkers, including changes in brain size and spinal fluid, evident as early as 25 years before the onset of symptoms. Read more about it here.