Today’s Headlines: Life Length, Hormone Replacement and Alcohol Problems

New risk scoring test gives prediction for how much life you have left. No one can see into the future, but a group of scientists have put together a risk calculator that gives you a sense of what your risk of death might be in the next five years. “Using a simple set of around a dozen questions about such things as the number of cars you own or whether you tend to be a slow or, better, a fast walker, the predictor can give a five-year death risk calculation for any Briton aged between 40 and 70 years old. To create the score, the team analyzed data collected from the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010 from nearly half a million adults aged between 40 and 70. They used a statistical survival model to assess the probability that 655 specific demographic, lifestyle and health measurements could predict death from any cause.” The researchers are quick to say the test can’t really tell you how long you have left to live, but they hope it might change the way you live. “For most people, a high risk of dying in the next five years can be reduced by taking more exercise, quitting smoking and eating a healthier diet. Those with a high score should see this as a health warning and think hard about changing their lifestyle.” (Fox)

Hormone replacement might boost your mood without dulling memory. Women going through menopause experience a whole host of unpleasant symptoms, but many worry if the fix might be worse than the illness. New research out this week has found that taking hormone replacement might actually elevate mood without dulling memory the way some had feared. “After tracking 662 participants for an average of nearly three years, the trial found that women enrolled in the trial around age 50 didn’t perform worse on tests of short- and long-term memory, verbal fluency and reasoning skills regardless of whether they were on oral estrogens-plus-progesterone or an estradiol patch-plus-progesterones. Over time, however, women who were assigned to get oral estrogens and progesterone reported moods that were less anxious, tense, depressed and dejected than those reported by women who were on placebo medications or who received the estradiol patch-plus-progesterone. The study’s findings are in keeping with growing evidence that, for women who take hormone replacements close to the time of their last period, and who stay on it for just a few years rather than decades, easing the symptoms of menopause may not be so dangerous.” (LA Times)

Alcohol problems common in the U.S., but often untreated. Most of us have a drink or two on a regular basis, but new research indicates that drinking is a problem for a large number of people. “The new study looked at the prevalence of drinking issues based on a new definition for alcohol use disorders in the DSM-5 handbook. The new definition classifies problem drinkers as those who have two of 11 symptoms including continuing to drink even if it harms relationships, drinking harming performance at work of school, or inability to quit. The report shows that 30% of those interviewed had been a problem drinker at some point in their lives and 14% currently had problems. Many of the people had never been treated. Overall, men were more likely than women to have trouble with alcohol, and the issue was particularly noticeable among 18- to 29-year-olds, with about 7% showing symptoms of the most severe form of drinking problem, the study found. The researchers say that is in line with increasingly higher rates heavy of drinking among the age group.” The team hopes their research will help destigmatize drinking problems since the data indicates that many people share these problems. If you think your drinking habits might be a problem, talk to your doctor about ways to bring your drinking under control. (TIME)