Medical Notes this week…

Here’s yet another reason for another cup of coffee. A study in the journal Scientific Reports finds that caffeine is one of 24 compounds that have the potential to protect against dementia. The compounds boost an enzyme in the brain that combats misfolded proteins. These proteins, called “tau,” accumulate in the brain as plaques. Misfolded proteins are linked to a variety of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases as well as ALS.

Birth control pills have always been available by prescription but a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health concludes that it would be safe to sell them over the counter. The study concentrated on teenagers, who researchers say wouldn’t have more sex but would have fewer pregnancies if the pill were available without a prescription. Surveys show more than half of girls age 15 to 19 have already used the pill.

And finally, most of us consider we’ve had a good night’s sleep based on how many hours we’ve slept. But a new study in the journal sleep concludes that the quality of sleep is a lot more important than quantity. Researchers even figured out how much better sleep is worth. They say consistently sleeping well brings mental and physical health improvements comparable to someone who’s won a $250,000 jackpot.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

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