ANOTHER REASON TO WORK HARD That challenging job of yours may have you grumbling now, but there may be a reward later: some degree of protection against Alzheimer's disease, suggests new research. In a study of more than 10,000 Swedish twins aged 65 or older, those who reported a history of "complex" work had a lower risk of the disease than others. The finding held even for pairs in which one twin had Alzheimer's and the other didn't.

The study appeared in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

Men and women with the most challenging jobs -- meaning jobs that involve managing or negotiating with or handling tricky interactions with other people, like teaching -- were 22 percent less likely to develop the disease than those with the least-complex jobs. The findings mesh with other studies that have linked regular mental exercise and activities like reading and doing crossword puzzles to lower Alzheimer's risk. Some scientists speculate that such activities give people a greater "cognitive reserve" to offset brain damage that often occurs before Alzheimer's symptoms begin.

RESTROOM TALES Compared with women, men are slobs. That's not just your wife's and mother's opinion. Scientists at the American Society of Microbiology, which last month hired research firm Harris Interactive to snoop on restroom habits, concur. After surreptitiously watching more than 6,000 people last month in places like Atlanta's Turner Field baseball stadium and New York's Penn Station, researchers found a quarter of the men left without washing their hands. One-tenth of women did the same.

The microbiology group repeats this exercise every few years to remind people that hand-washing can stop the spread of diseases.

-- From News Services