The drive to self-improvement is one of the defining aspects of our culture. We are willing to go to great lengths to match our ideals; and if you're not an Adonis or Venus, a mental equal to Einstein, or the spiritual equivalent of a saint, you may have felt a twinge of shame and pressure to whip yourself into shape.
So it's no surprise that as soon as medical science develops a treatment for a disease, we often ask if it couldn't perhaps make a healthy person even healthier. Take Viagra, for example: developed to help men who couldn't get erections, it's now used by many who function perfectly well without a pill but who hope it will make them exceptionally virile.
More boys than girls are born every year in the U.S. But any lead in health men start with vanishes with the first dirty diaper.
From infancy to old age, women are simply healthier than men. Out of the 15 leading causes of death, men lead women in all of them except Alzheimer's disease, which many men don't live long enough to develop. Although the gender gap is closing, men still die five years earlier than their wives, on average.
While the reasons are partly biological, men's approach to their...
The same thing is happening with psychopharmaceuticals -- drugs that work on the mind. Ritalin, the first drug to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, has been widely used by normal students hoping to be extra sharp while taking SATs or cramming for college exams.
Several new medications are on the market and in development for Alzheimer's disease, a progressive neurological disease leading to memory loss, language deterioration, and confusion that afflicts about 4.5 million Americans and is expected to strike millions more as the baby boom generation ages. Yet the burning question for those who aren't staring directly into the face of Alzheimer's is whether these medications might make us smarter.
In theory, it's possible, says Marvin Hausman, MD, CEO of Axonyx Inc., a company whose Alzheimer's drug Phenserine is undergoing clinical trials in Europe. Phenserine is not available in the U.S.
Phenserine, as well as the drugs Aricept and Exelon, which are already on the market, work by increasing the level of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is deficient in people with the disease. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that allows communication between nerve cells in the brain. In people with Alzheimer's disease, many brain cells have died, so the hope is to get the most out of those that remain by flooding the brain with acetylcholine.