TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — People in rural areas are nearly three times more likely to drown than those who live in cities, a new Canadian study finds.
This may be because rural residents are more likely to be around open water and less likely to have taken swimming lessons, according to the researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Their findings — from an analysis of drowning incidents in the province of Ontario between 2004 and 2008 — appeared recently in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education.
A second study by the St. Michael’s researchers found that most drowning incidents occur in public places, such as open water, recreation centers or parks. Even so, four out of five drownings happen without a witness, according to the study, which was published recently in the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine.
The researchers also found that bystanders perform CPR in half of all drowning events, but only for one-third of all other cardiac arrests. This may be due to the fact that most Canadians first learn CPR in swimming classes and are more likely to associate drowning and CPR, the researchers suggested.
Despite being more likely to receive CPR, a drowning victim’s 5 percent chance of survival is as low as all other types of cardiac arrest. This finding shows that more needs to be done to improve the survival chances of drowning victims, study author Jason Buick said in a hospital news release.
“We can improve survival by emphasizing the importance of providing CPR and by teaching more people to perform it,” Buick said.
He also advised people to swim in public places where it’s more likely that there will be lifeguards and other people.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about drowning.
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Slightly less than 1 percent of U.S. anesthesiology residents who began their training between 1975 and 2009 had a substance abuse disorder during their residency, a new study reveals.
Researchers examined data gathered from nearly 45,000 anesthesiology residents during that time and found that the overall rate of substance abuse during the study period was 0.86 percent. High rates in the earlier years were followed by lower rates in 1996 to 2002, but the highest rates have occurred since 2003.
The most common types of substances abused by anesthesiology residents were powerful narcotic painkillers, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and anesthetics/hypnotics, according to the study in the Dec. 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
During the study period, 28 anesthesiology residents died due to substance abuse. Among others involved with substance abuse, 43 percent had at least one relapse over the next 30 years and 11 percent died due to substance use disorder. Rates of relapse and death did not depend on the type of substance, the researchers noted in a journal news release.
The authors believe this is the first such comprehensive study for any in-training physician group, “showing that the incidence [of substance use disorder] has increased over the study period and that relapse rates are not improving,” wrote Dr. David Warner, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues.
“Despite the considerable attention paid to this issue, there is no evidence that the incidence and outcomes of [substance use disorder] among these physicians are improving over time,” they added.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about substance abuse.
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Despite diversity initiatives, there still are too few minority faculty members at U.S. medical schools and those minorities are less likely to be promoted, according to a new study.
Researchers analyzed data gathered from medical schools across the country between 2000 and 2010. During that time, the percentage of minority faculty members increased from 6.8 percent to 8 percent. Minorities include blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
Over the same period, the percentage of newly hired minority faculty members increased from 9.4 percent to 12.1 percent. The percentage of newly promoted minority faculty members increased from 6.3 percent to 7.9 percent. Hispanic faculty members increased from 3.6 percent to 4.3 percent, and black faculty members increased from 3.2 percent to 3.4 percent.
Of 124 eligible schools, 29 percent had a minority faculty development program in 2010. Those schools had a similar increase in the percentage of minority faculty members, from 6.5 percent in 2000 to 7.4 percent in 2010, as those without minority faculty development programs, which increased from 7 percent to 8.3 percent.
After adjusting for faculty and school characteristics, the researchers concluded that minority faculty development programs were not associated with increases in minority faculty, recruitment or promotion, according to the study, which was published in the Dec. 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“[The findings] demonstrate that faculty who are underrepresented in medicine, relative to the general population, have seen little increase in … representation across all schools during this time period, while the prevalence of individuals of minority status in the general population increased to greater than 30 percent by 2010,” said study author Dr. James Guevara, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The American Medical Association has more about medical school.
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Stroke deaths in the United States have been dropping for more than 100 years and have declined 30 percent in the past 11 years, a new report reveals.
Sometimes called a brain attack, stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability.
Stroke, however, has slipped from the third-leading cause of death in the United States to the fourth-leading cause. This, and a similar decline in heart disease, is one of the 10 great public-health achievements of the 20th century, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even so, there is still more to be done, said George Howard, a professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
Howard is co-author of a scientific statement describing the factors influencing the decline in stroke deaths. The statement is scheduled for publication in the journal Stroke.
“Stroke has been declining since 1900, and this could be a result of changes leading to fewer people having a stroke or because people are less likely to die after they have a stroke,” Howard said in a university news release. “Nobody really knows why, but several things seem to be contributing to fewer deaths from stroke.”
It is possible that the most important reason for the decline is the success in lowering Americans’ blood pressure, which is the biggest stroke risk factor, he said. Other reasons for the decline may include reductions in smoking, improved cholesterol levels and better treatments for stroke patients.
“We don’t know how much all of the sources are contributing,” Howard said. “Certainly, we want it to keep going down. But if we don’t understand why the numbers are decreasing, we can’t work toward that trend.”
Howard said the 30 percent decline in stroke deaths in the last 11 years is “a big deal, so you could argue that our battle is won. But I think [there's still] a lot to be accomplished in this area.”
Dr. Andrei Alexandrov, a professor of neurology and director of the UAB Comprehensive Stroke Center, said the decrease in stroke deaths “likely is attributable not only to better … blood pressure control over recent years, but also to a greater number of neurological specialists focused on stroke care across many hospitals in the United States and abroad.”
“Better early stroke recognition and specialized care can also reduce the risk of dying from stroke,” Alexandrov said.
One finding in the report — the lower death rate in people under 65 — needs to be more carefully looked at, said Alexandrov, who was not involved in writing the report. This deserves further attention because many of those who experience a stroke in the southeastern U.S. are young adults.
“More efforts are needed to reduce [stroke death rates] and prevent first-ever stroke incidence, as well as to reverse disability following stroke by improving patient access to hospitals providing clot-busting therapy,” Alexandrov said.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke and stroke prevention.
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Poor children get intellectual and behavioral benefits from home visits by nurses and other skilled caregivers, new research suggests.
The study included more than 700 poor women and their children in Denver who enrolled in a non-profit program called the Nurse-Family Partnership. This national program tries to improve outcomes for first-born children of first-time mothers with limited support.
The goal of the study, which was published online recently in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, was to determine the effectiveness of using trained “paraprofessionals.” These professionals did not need college preparation and they shared many of the same social characteristics of the families they visited.
The women in the study were divided into three groups. One group received free developmental screening and referral for their child. A second group received the screening plus a paraprofessional home visit during pregnancy and the child’s first two years of life. Women in the third group received the screening plus a nurse home visit during pregnancy and the child’s first two years of life.
Compared to those in the first group, children visited by paraprofessionals made fewer errors on tests of visual attention and task switching at age 9. Kids visited by nurses had fewer emotional and behavioral problems at age 6, fewer internalizing and attention problems at age 9, and better language skills.
As the program is tested in new trials throughout the United States and elsewhere, “it will be important to determine whether it is particularly successful in reducing disparities in health, achievement and economic productivity among children born to mothers who have limited psychological resources and who are living in severely disadvantaged neighborhoods,” said study author David Olds, of the University of Colorado, Denver.
“This will enable policy makers to focus [Nurse-Family Partnership] resources where they produce the greatest benefit,” Olds said in a journal news release.
Here’s where you can learn more about the Nurse-Family Partnership.
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Your voice might help listeners determine your approximate height without seeing you, according to a new study.
Researchers had men and women listen to recordings of identical sentences read by men and women of different heights. The listeners were asked to rank the speakers from tallest to shortest.
The results showed that the listeners were about 62 percent accurate in identifying the taller speakers. This rate is much higher than what can be achieved by chance alone, according to the study, which is scheduled for presentation Tuesday at an Acoustical Society of America meeting in San Francisco.
The findings could prove useful in solving crimes, the researchers noted.
“One would certainly like to know if, when an ‘ear witness,’ as they are often called, says that a talker’s voice seemed ‘tall’ or ‘large,’ this information can be trusted. The answer seems to be yes,” study author John Morton, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a society news release.
This ability may be attributed to a type of sound called subglottal resonance, which is produced in the lower airways of the lungs, said Morton.
“The best way to think about subglottal resonances is to imagine blowing into a glass bottle partially full with liquid: the less liquid in the bottle, the lower the sound,” he explained.
The frequency of the subglottal resonance differs depending on a person’s height, with resonances becoming progressively lower as height increases.
“In humans, the resonances are part of a larger group of sounds, which are sort of like an orchestra playing over the sound being made from the glass bottle. [The glass bottle] sound is still there, but it isn’t easy to hear,” Morton said.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about hearing.
When it comes to beating the winter chill, there’s only one thing better than a hot, comforting bowl of soup: A bowl of soup that’s packed with superfoods.
This Curried Carrot, Sweet Potato, and Ginger Soup, cuts down on fat, salt, and calories because it uses chicken broth as a base rather than cream. And you won’t miss that full-fat cream because this soup has a wonderfully creamy texture from puréed carrots and sweet potatoes. Both are rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene, which promotes healthy skin and vision.
This soup works well as a starter, but can easily be turned into a hearty and satisfying meal. Pair it with a whole grain baguette or whole grain crackers for extra fiber. You can also make it vegan-friendly by using vegetable broth instead of chicken.
Ingredients: shallots, sweet potato, carrots, ginger, curry powder, chicken broth, canola oil, salt
Try this recipe: Curried Carrot, Sweet Potato, and Ginger Soup
By Denise Mann
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — A safe and effective male birth control pill may be inching closer to reality, according to researchers.
In laboratory experiments, mouse sperm was blocked from semen while still allowing for normal sexual activity. Without sperm in the ejaculated semen, there is no chance of fertilizing an egg and achieving pregnancy.
But women shouldn’t plan to abandon their birth control pills just yet. At least one expert said this new approach, although promising, is not ready for prime time and won’t be in the near future. Results of animal studies also don’t necessarily translate to humans.
For the study, researchers led by Dr. Sabatino Ventura, a senior lecturer at Monash University in Parkville, Australia, genetically knocked out two key proteins in mice. These proteins — alpha-1A adrenoceptor and P2X1-purinoceptor — transport sperm through the urethra when a man ejaculates, or releases semen.
These “double knockout” male mice were able to have sex normally with female mice, but there were no pregnancies despite ejaculation. In mice and other species, females form a plug in the vagina after successfully mating. In the new study, which was published online Dec. 2 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the female mice did not form a vaginal plug after mating, suggesting that the semen lacked sperm.
Previous attempts to develop a male birth control pill have focused on shutting down sperm production, a tricky and risky endeavor. “This approach is unique because it is nonhormonal and does not affect the development of sperm,” Ventura said.
“The sperm are fine, but they are just not transported at the appropriate time to be ejaculated,” he said.
As far as developing a male contraceptive pill based on these new findings, drug makers are already halfway there, Ventura said. Drugs currently on the market to treat benign enlargement of the prostate gland block the alpha-1A adrenoceptor protein.
“We just need a medicine to be developed for the second [protein] before a drug can be trialed,” he said. “The development of a drug for the second [protein] would most likely require a new molecule, followed by optimization, preclinical trials and then clinical trials.” He said this could take about 10 years.
If developed, this male contraceptive likely would be given as a daily pill just like the female birth control pill, Ventura said.
The new contraceptive would not have any negative hormonal or sexual side effects, Ventura said. “It is likely to be readily reversible so it can be used in young adults who still want to father children in later life,” he said.
When the researchers reversed the procedure and allowed the male mice to fertilize females, they found that the offspring were normal.
Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, a male reproductive urologist in New York City, said he is intrigued by the study but the findings should be viewed with caution. “The focus on the goal of achieving a safe male contraceptive is critically important,” said Bar-Chama, director of the Center for Male Reproductive Health at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York.
Much hope has been pinned on possible male contraceptives in the past. Many attempts involved the male sex hormone testosterone, but Bar-Chama said these drugs failed to live up to their promise or caused serious side effects. Unacceptable side effects included altered sexual activity and irreversible changes in fertility.
“The new technique, while promising, raises some concerns,” Bar-Chama said. “We have a long way to go from showing that what happens in mice is usable in humans.”
Still, Bar-Chama is interested. “I applaud any effort to give couples options whereby the woman doesn’t have to take a hormonal contraceptive, and I look forward to seeing this further developed,” he said.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more about contraception.
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — A recently discovered, aggressive strain of HIV leads to faster development of AIDS than other HIV strains, according to a new study.
More than 60 epidemic strains of HIV-1 exist. This new strain has the shortest period from infection to the development of AIDS, at about five years, according to researchers at Lund University, in Sweden.
The new strain is a fusion of the two most common strains in Guinea-Bissau, a small country in West Africa. It has been identified only in that region. When two strains join, they form what’s called a “recombinant.”
“Recombinants seem to be more vigorous and more aggressive than the strains from which they developed,” doctoral student Angelica Palm said in a Lund University news release.
Previous research has shown that the global spread of different recombinants is increasing. Moreover, increasingly mixed and complex HIV strains are becoming more common in countries and regions with high levels of immigration, such as the United States and Europe.
The new study was published online recently and will appear in the print version of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Patrik Medstrand, a professor of clinical virology at Lund University, said HIV is a dynamic and variable virus.
“New subtypes and recombinant forms of HIV-1 have been introduced to our part of the world, and it is highly likely that there are a large number of circulating recombinants of which we know little or nothing,” Medstrand said in the news release. “We therefore need to be aware of how the HIV-1 epidemic changes over time.”
Health care services should be aware that certain HIV types can be more aggressive than others, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about HIV and AIDS.
By Randy Dotinga
MONDAY, Dec. 2, 2013 (HealthDay News) — While not every woman is intuitive or every man handy with tools, neurological scans of young males and females suggest that — on average — their brains really do develop differently.
The research comes with a caveat: It doesn’t connect the brain-scan findings to the actual ways that these participants behave in real life. And it only looks at overall differences among males and females.
Still, the findings “confirm our intuition that men are predisposed for rapid action, and women are predisposed to think about how things feel,” said Paul Zak, who’s familiar with the study findings.
“This really helps us understand why men and women are different,” added Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California.
Researchers Ragini Verma, an associate professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues used scans to explore the brains of 428 males and 521 females aged 8 to 22.
The goal was to better understand the connectivity in the brain, Verma said, and determine if certain types of wiring are in good shape or like a road “that could be broken or has a bad rough patch that needs to be covered over.”
The study found that, on average, the brains of men seem to be better equipped to comprehend what people perceive and how they react to it. Females, on average, appear to be better able to connect the parts of their brains that handle analysis and intuition.
“It starts when they’re young,” Verma said. “It manifests itself when they are adolescents.”
To put the results another way, “men’s brains are biased toward rapid understanding of a situation and how to respond to it, especially in how to act and move in response to information,” Claremont’s Zak said. “Women’s brains are biased toward integrating information with feelings.”
The findings suggest the hormones that begin to kick in during adolescence push the male and female brains in different directions, he said.
What does all this mean in the context of people’s day-to-day lives?
“It tells us why, almost always, when men and women are in a car together, the man drives,” Zak contended. “His brain is biased toward being better at moving a vehicle along a road and going to the right place, the stereotype of the lost man notwithstanding.”
Also, “women maintain and value friendships and other relationships better than men do. Men can have many friends, but on average we are less good at this,” Zak said.
Verma, the study co-author, said the next step in the research is to figure out if people behave differently depending on how their brains are wired.
The study appears online Dec. 2 in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.
For more about the brain, try Harvard University’s Whole Brain Atlas.
By Alan Mozes
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Rheumatoid arthritis patients can generally look forward to a much better quality of life today than they did 20 years ago, new research suggests.
The observation is based on a comparative multi-year tracking of more than 1,100 rheumatoid arthritis patients. All had been diagnosed with the often severely debilitating autoimmune disease at some point between 1990 and 2011.
The reason for the brighter outlook: a combination of better drugs, better exercise and mental health therapies, and a greater effort by clinicians to boost patient spirits while encouraging continued physical activity.
“Nowadays, besides research on new drug [treatments], research is mainly focused on examining which treatment works best for which patient, so therapy can become more ‘tailor-made’ and therefore be more effective for the individual patient,” said Cecile Overman, the study’s lead author.
Overman, a doctoral student in clinical and health psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, expects that in another 20 years, rheumatoid arthritis patients will have the same quality of life as anyone else “if the focus on the whole patient — not just the disease, but also the person’s mental and physical well-being — is maintained and treatment opportunities continue to evolve.”
The study was released online Dec. 3 in Arthritis Care & Research.
In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, the Arthritis Foundation explains. The resulting inflammation can damage joints and organs such as the heart. Patients experience sudden flare-ups with warm, swollen joints, pain and fatigue. Currently there is no cure but a variety of drugs can treat symptoms and prevent the condition from getting worse.
Up to 1 percent of the world’s population currently struggles with the condition, according to the World Health Organization.
The current study was composed primarily of female rheumatoid arthritis patients (68 percent). Women are more prone to developing the condition than men.
Patients ranged in age from 17 to 86, and all were Dutch. Each was monitored for the onset of disease-related physical and mental health disabilities for anywhere from three to five years following their initial diagnosis. Disease activity was also tracked to assess progression.
The observed trend: a dramatic two-decade drop in physical disabilities. The researchers also saw a decline in the incidence of anxiety and depression.
For example, roughly one-quarter of patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1990 could expect to experience anxiety or depression after four years of treatment, compared with 12 percent to 14 percent of patients diagnosed today.
While 53 percent of those diagnosed at the study’s launch struggled with some measure of physical disability after four years of therapy, that figure dropped to 31 percent among new patients, the findings showed.
Why? The team suggested that at least some of the quality-of-life boost seen among rheumatoid arthritis patients could be attributed to an overall plummet in disease activity — and ultimately physical disabilities — during the study period. This, they said, was a result of overall improvements in treatment strategies.
But investigators also pointed out that while overall quality of life has gotten markedly better over the years, patient psychological “distress” has not dissipated as much as the onset of physical disabilities. And this, they warned, argues against drawing any clear cause-and-effect conclusions based on the current analysis.
That said, “pharmacological [drug] treatment has improved a lot,” Overman noted. “[And] treatment has become more intense. To keep inflammation and disease progression to a minimum, patients start medication as soon as possible, are monitored more frequently and medications are combined for optimal efficacy. Furthermore, effective new anti-inflammatory drugs have become available, such as the biologic agents.”
She added that non-medication treatments — including exercise therapy and a form of counseling known as cognitive behavioral therapy — have also been shown to help.
The bottom line, Overman said, is: “Today, [rheumatoid arthritis] patients have a better opportunity of living a valued life than patients diagnosed with this autoimmune disease two decades ago.”
Dr. John Hardin — vice president for research at the Arthritis Foundation, and a professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City — wholeheartedly agreed.
“Today we have a whole new series of drugs that have changed the face of the disease,” he said. “All very good drugs. So the challenge now is to find the right drug for the right patient.”
Hardin said his foundation is focused on helping to develop tools and techniques that show beforehand which drug is best for which patient, to better tailor treatments.
“And I’m very optimistic going forward,” he added, “given the new powers of biomedical research, and genetics. I think we have every reason to believe that even better treatments will continue to come along, and we’ll know better and better just how to apply those treatments.”
For more on rheumatoid arthritis, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
By Randy Dotinga
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — A new study from Australia sheds more light on what environmental factors might raise the risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“Compared with mothers whose children did not have ADHD, mothers of children with ADHD were more likely to be younger, single, smoked in pregnancy, had some complications of pregnancy and labor, and were more likely to have given birth slightly earlier,” said study co-author Dr. Carol Bower, a senior principal research fellow with the Center for Child Health Research at the University of Western Australia. “It did not make any difference if the child was a girl or a boy.”
The researchers did find that girls were less likely to have ADHD if their mothers had received the hormone oxytocin to speed up labor. Previous research had suggested its use during childbirth might actually increase the risk of ADHD.
The causes of ADHD remain unclear, although evidence suggests that genes play a major role, said Dr. Tanya Froehlich, an associate professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“Many prior studies have found an association between ADHD and [tobacco and alcohol exposure in the womb], prematurity and complications of pregnancy and delivery,” she said.
One thing is certain: Diagnoses of ADHD have become common in the United States. A survey released in November found that 10 percent of American children have been diagnosed with the condition, although the rapid increase in numbers seems to have leveled off.
ADHD is more prevalent in boys. Its symptoms include distractibility, inattention and a lack of focus.
In the new study, researchers examined the medical records of nearly 13,000 children and young adults who were born in Western Australia and took stimulant medications for ADHD between 2003 and 2007. Stimulant drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall are typically used to treat ADHD.
The researchers compared the subjects to more than 30,000 other children to see if there were any environmental differences.
Although factors such as a mother’s younger age and smoking during pregnancy were linked to a higher risk of ADHD in children, “low birth weight, birth at greater than full term and breathing difficulties in the baby were not more common [in the ADHD group],” Bower said.
What’s going on?
“Chronic exposure to smoking in pregnancy may create an imbalance in chemicals that result in ADHD,” said study lead author Desiree Silva, a professor of pediatric medicine at the University of Western Australia.
But Froehlich said the picture may be even more complicated.
Some researchers have suggested that “people with ADHD are more likely to smoke, and then may pass on their ADHD-related genes to their children,” Froehlich said.
Urinary tract infections also are thought to contribute to inflammation that affects the development of the brain in the fetus, she said. Stress during pregnancy — perhaps from being single or a young mother — could do the same thing.
“[However], since ADHD is associated with higher rates of teen pregnancy, it is also possible that the younger and single mothers themselves have higher rates of ADHD, and they are passing on their ADHD-related genes to their children,” Froehlich said.
The Australian researchers called for more study on the subject.
The study appears online Dec. 2 and in the January print issue of the journal Pediatrics.
For more about ADHD, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Got a minute to spare? Then we’ve got an exercise for you! This is a quick-and-easy move that can be done virtually anywhere at any time, whether you’re waiting for water to boil in your kitchen or sitting through commercials in your living room.
In this video, health expert Cynthia Sass, RD, demonstrates the move: Start by standing and lift your left leg straight back, hinging forward at the hips, and reaching your hands straight ahead. Keep your hips level and body straight from hands to heel. In one move, bring your knee up and elbows back, creating a powerful standing crunch. Do 25 on each side.
MONDAY, Dec. 2, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Pictures of diseased lungs and other types of graphic warning labels on cigarette packs could cut the number of smokers in the United States by as much as 8.6 million people and save millions of lives, a new study suggests.
Researchers looked at the effect that graphic warning labels on cigarette packs had in Canada and concluded that they resulted in a 12 percent to 20 percent decrease in smokers between 2000 and 2009.
If the same model was applied to the United States, the introduction of graphic warning labels would reduce the number of smokers by between 5.3 million and 8.6 million smokers, according to the study from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project.
The project is an international research collaboration of more than 100 tobacco-control researchers and experts from 22 countries.
The researchers also said a model used in 2011 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to assess the effect of graphic warning labels significantly underestimated their impact.
These new findings indicate that the potential reduction in smoking rates is 33 to 53 times larger than that estimated in the FDA’s model. They also prove the effectiveness of health warnings that include graphic pictures, according to the authors of the study, which was published online recently in the journal Tobacco Control.
“These findings are important for the ongoing initiative to introduce graphic warnings in the United States,” study lead author Jidong Huang, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a news release.
“The original proposal by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was successfully challenged by the tobacco industry, and the court cited the very low estimated impact on smoking rates as a factor in its judgment,” Huang said.
“Our analyses corrected for errors in the FDA’s analysis, concluding that the effect of graphic warnings on smoking rates would be much stronger than the FDA found,” Huang said. “Our results provide much stronger support for the FDA’s revised proposal for graphic warnings, which we hope will be forthcoming in the near future.”
Learn more about the FDA’s tobacco-labeling rules.
By Steven Reinberg
MONDAY, Dec. 2, 2013 (HealthDay News) — The notion that some people can be overweight or obese and still remain healthy is a myth, according to a new Canadian study.
Even without high blood pressure, diabetes or other metabolic issues, overweight and obese people have higher rates of death, heart attack and stroke after 10 years compared with their thinner counterparts, the researchers found.
“These data suggest that increased body weight is not a benign condition, even in the absence of metabolic abnormalities, and argue against the concept of healthy obesity or benign obesity,” said researcher Dr. Ravi Retnakaran, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
The terms healthy obesity and benign obesity have been used to describe people who are obese but don’t have the abnormalities that typically accompany obesity, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol, Retnakaran explained.
“We found that metabolically healthy obese individuals are indeed at increased risk for death and cardiovascular events over the long term as compared with metabolically healthy normal-weight individuals,” he added.
It’s possible that obese people who appear metabolically healthy have low levels of some risk factors that worsen over time, the researchers suggest in the report, published online Dec. 3 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, welcomed the report. “Given the recent attention to the ‘obesity paradox’ in the professional literature and pop culture alike, this is a very timely and important paper,” Katz said. (The obesity paradox holds that certain people benefit from chronic obesity.)
Some obese people appear healthy because not all weight gain is harmful, Katz said. “It depends partly on genes, partly on the source of calories, partly on activity levels, partly on hormone levels. Weight gain in the lower extremities among younger women tends to be metabolically harmless; weight gain as fat in the liver can be harmful at very low levels,” Katz said.
A number of things, however, work to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and death over time, he added.
“In particular, fat in the liver interferes with its function and insulin sensitivity,” Katz said. This starts a domino effect, he explained. “Insensitivity to insulin causes the pancreas to compensate by raising insulin output. Higher insulin levels affect other hormones in a cascade that causes inflammation. Fight-or-flight hormones are affected, raising blood pressure. Liver dysfunction also impairs blood cholesterol levels,” Katz said.
In general the things people do to make themselves fitter and healthier tend to make them less fat, he added.
“Lifestyle practices conducive to weight control over the long term are generally conducive to better overall health as well. I favor a focus on finding health over a focus on losing weight,” Katz noted.
For the study, Retnakaran’s team reviewed eight studies that looked at differences between obese or overweight people and slimmer people in terms of their health and risk for heart attack, stroke and death. These studies included more than 61,000 people overall.
In studies with follow-ups of a decade or more, those who were overweight or obese but didn’t have high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes still had a 24 percent increased risk for heart attack, stroke and death over 10 years or more, compared with normal-weight people, the researchers found.
Greater risk for heart attack, stroke and death was seen among all those with metabolic disease (such as high cholesterol and high blood sugar) regardless of weight, the researchers noted.
As a result, doctors should consider both body mass and metabolic tests when evaluating someone’s health risks, the researchers concluded.
For more information on obesity, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
By Dennis Thompson
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — The number of U.S. teens who wind up in the emergency room after taking the club drug Ecstasy has more than doubled in recent years, raising concerns that the hallucinogen is back in vogue, federal officials report.
Emergency room visits related to MDMA — known as Ecstasy in pill form and Molly in the newer powder form — increased 128 percent between 2005 and 2011 among people younger than 21. Visits rose from about roughly 4,500 to more than 10,000 during that time, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“This should be a wake-up call to everyone, but the problem is much bigger than what the data show,” said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “These are only the cases that roll into the emergency rooms. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
The SAMHSA study comes on the heels of a string of Ecstasy-related deaths. Organizers closed the Electric Zoo music festival in New York City one day early in August following two deaths and four hospitalizations caused by Ecstasy overdoses. The deaths came a week after another young man died from Ecstasy overdose at a rock show in Boston.
Ecstasy produces feelings of increased energy and euphoria, and can distort a person’s senses and perception of time. It works by altering the brain’s chemistry, but research has been inconclusive regarding the effects of long-term abuse on the brain, Pasierb said.
However, ecstasy abuse can cause potentially harmful physical reactions, Pasierb said. Users can become dangerously overheated and experience rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure and dehydration, all of which can lead to kidney or heart failure.
Alcohol also appears to be a factor. One-third of the emergency room visits involving Ecstasy also involved alcohol, a combination that can cause a longer-lasting euphoria, according to SAMHSA. Teens can become less aware of how much alcohol they’ve consumed, and also can be more likely to make poor decisions that lead to bodily harm.
The newest form of MDMA, the powder Molly, appears to be driving the latest surge in Ecstasy use.
The study relied on data produced by the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits and drug-related deaths.
MDMA affects a person’s level of serotonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles and is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being, said Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Overuse can cause depression, confusion, paranoia, anxiety and sleep disorders.
The Molly that currently is on the streets is usually a very pure crystalline form of MDMA, Delany said. Users can snort it, mix it in alcohol or some other liquid, or take it in a gel cap.
Delany noted that the number of emergency room visits caused by MDMA pales in comparison to the 1.5 million ER visits linked to drug use every year, but said both the rapid increase and the age of the victims are causes for concern.
The use of alcohol with MDMA can create a person who is drunk but hyper-aware, said Delany, comparing it to giving coffee to a drunk person. “You don’t want that, because then you have a wide-awake drunk,” he said.
For his part, Pasierb noted how Ecstasy’s popularity has fluctuated.
Ecstasy underwent a huge rise in use between 1999 and 2001, where it jumped from the club scene and into the mainstream, Pasierb said. Then news of deaths related to Ecstasy began to circulate, and use plummeted.
“We’ve had this six-year quiet lull, and now we’ve got a whole new generation of young people who are being marketed a new product under the name ‘Molly,’” he said.
Molly presents additional problems because it is a powder, and often contains a cocktail of chemicals in addition to MDMA, Pasierb said.
“When it was in a finished pill, it was difficult to tamper with,” he said. “But now that it comes in a powder form, you might have an unscrupulous dealer who cuts it with speed or some other substance.”
For more about Ecstasy, visit the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, Dec. 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Men and women with mild heart disease share the same risks, at least over the short term, a new study suggests.
Doctors have thought that women with mild heart disease do worse than men. This study, however, suggests that the rate of heart attacks and death among men and women with heart disease is similar.
Meanwhile, both men and women who don’t have buildup of plaque in their coronary arteries have the same good chance of avoiding severe heart-related consequences, said lead researcher Dr. Jonathon Leipsic.
“If you have a normal CT scan, you are not likely to have a heart attack or die in the next 2.3 years — whether you’re a man or a woman,” said Leipsic, director of medical imaging at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia. “That’s an important new finding.”
Leipsic said the ability to use a CT scan to diagnose plaque in the coronary arteries enabled researchers to determine that the outcomes are the same for men and women, regardless of what other tests show or what other risk factors patients have.
The results of the study were scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago.
When the coronary arteries — the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart — start building fatty deposits called plaque, coronary artery disease occurs. Over time, plaque may damage or narrow the arteries, increasing the chances of a heart attack.
Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association, said coronary artery disease is associated with both fatal and nonfatal heart episodes, even when a person’s arteries aren’t narrowed. Fonarow was not involved with the new research.
The new study found similar increased risk for major adverse cardiac events in men and women, even after risk adjustment, said Fonarow, who is also a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in both women and men.
“Irrespective of sex, controlling the seven major heart health risk factors — smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, inactivity and poor diet — can substantially reduce the risk of the development and progression of coronary artery disease,” Fonarow said.
These new study findings also suggest that effective medical therapy, along with lifestyle modification, should be started in both men and women who have mild heart disease, he said.
For the study, Leipsic and his colleagues used data from a large international study registry. That registry included nearly 28,000 people from six countries who had images taken of their hearts.
The researchers identified more than 18,000 people without known heart disease whose scans were normal or showed mild disease, in which arteries were less than 50 percent blocked.
These patients, including about 8,800 women and 9,300 men, were then matched with more than 11,000 similar patients.
Based on scan findings and standard risk factors for heart attack and death, the researchers calculated that men and women with mild heart disease had the same risk for death or heart attack.
In addition, men and women who didn’t have any heart disease had the same odds for good outcomes, Leipsic said.
Over more than two years of follow-up, only about 250 of the 18,000 patients had a heart attack or cardiac-related death, the researchers said.
Because the new study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
To learn more about heart disease, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
By Kathleen Doheny
THURSDAY, Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) — If you are in the midst of planning the perfect wedding to the partner of your dreams and you suddenly get a bad feeling in your gut, new research on newlyweds suggests you would be wise to heed that instinct.
“The conscious attitude doesn’t really predict what happens to the relationship over time,” said study author Jim McNulty, a professor of psychology at Florida State University.
Rather, it was what McNulty called “semi-conscious” attitudes — those gut feelings that many chose to ignore — that determined how happy couples were years after they had exchanged their vows.
The finding is published in the Nov. 29 issue of the journal Science.
McNulty and his team followed 135 newlywed couples for four years. Every six months, the researchers measured the couples’ conscious attitudes toward their relationship, asking them to evaluate their marriage by using adjectives such as “good,” “satisfying,” “bad” or “dissatisfied.”
They also measured what psychologists call “automatic attitude.” To do this, McNulty said, the men and women sat in front of a computer. On the screen flashed either a positive or a negative word, such as “awesome” or “awful.” They hit one key to denote it was a positive word and another key for negative.
“Right before they saw the word, we would flash a picture of their partner for a third of a second,” McNulty said. “When people see a picture of their partner, it activates that automatic attitude.” Someone who’s positive toward their partner, he said, will be quicker to hit the positive key and slower to hit the negative key.
The technique has been validated in previous research on prejudice and stereotyping, he noted.
“These automatic, gut-level, immediate reactions might be unrelated to what they consciously think when they evaluated their partners,” McNulty said.
In following the couples, however, the semi-conscious attitudes predicted long-term happiness.
Overall, those who took longer to respond to positive words after seeing their partner’s photo were less happy after four years than those who responded more quickly to positive words.
Why might that be? If the relationship has problems, the person is probably going to be less positive in their gut reactions, McNulty said. If their gut is warning them about problems, he said, it is important to address them before they affect the conscious attitude toward the relationship.
It’s not as simple as having couples take a test before making a big commitment, McNulty said. He said the gut feelings tend to be telling on a group level, but not true in every case. “Some had a lukewarm automatic attitude, but remained happy,” he said.
Currently, there’s not a good diagnostic test that people can take to figure out their gut feelings toward their partner, he said.
“[However], people should try to trust their gut,” McNulty said. “I’m not saying that if people have ambivalence, [they shouldn't] get married. At that point, it makes sense to talk to a therapist.” The negative gut feelings may be pointing to problems that can be worked out, he said.
Danielle Adinolfi, a marriage and family therapist in Philadelphia, said this research backed up what therapists already knew. “Your gut feeling is a survival instinct — it’s something we are born with,” she said. “If you are getting a gut feeling, that is to be trusted.”
In her clinical experience, Adinolfi said, she has often had couples who split up tell her they somehow knew it wouldn’t work out.
Gut feelings about a relationship need to be talked about immediately to try to solve the issues, she said. “Most people do realize they have them,” she said. “But many people ignore them or make excuses for them.”
A therapist who specializes in couples counseling could assess these gut feelings or unconscious attitudes about a relationship, she said.
To learn more about a healthy marriage, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
We barely have time to digest our Thanksgiving turkey before rushing out (at 4 a.m. no less) to snag those marked-down holiday gifts. And, in recent years, Black Friday deals have carried over into other days like Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday—even offering deals ON Thanksgiving. We rounded up a few health-conscious steals you can find this year.
Snag these deals in the wee hours of Black Friday morning.
iTunes Card Multipack for $50 (reg. $60) at Target. These cards are a the perfect way for your friend or family member to download songs for their next workout or run. Plus, you’ll have four $15 cards to distribute—and they make great stocking stuffers.
Nature’s Bounty Vitamins and Supplements, buy one get one free at Walgreens. Vitamins can be costly, so stock up on your fish oil pills, vitamin C, folate, iron, and more!
One blowout and scalp massage for $40 (reg. $50) at Drybar. Give that special woman in your life the gift of fabulous hair with the Joy to the Hair gift certificate.
Athletic shoes up to 50% off at Amazon.com. Whether you’re looking for a walking, running, or cross-training shoe, find great deals from brands like Asics, New Balance, Puma, and more.
Get these deals on Cyber Monday with just a simple click of your mouse.
From December 2nd to 3rd, KIND will offer $10 off KIND Healthy Indulgence Cube (normally $42.50). To help give back at the same time, KIND will donate 12 pounds of food to City Harvest Food Bank for every cube purchased. This will help feed 12 New Yorkers for one full day, which is needed even more now given recent cuts in food stamps and the fact that there are over one million New Yorkers facing hunger today.
While no DIY line smoothers or skin-plumping creams will give you the same anti-aging results as an in-office treatment, “they can make a difference,” says New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD. Four worth the buy:
In-office cost: $75 to $200 per session
DIY option: DDF Revolve Professional 500X ($139; ddf.com) deep-cleans pores and speeds cell turnover.
Derm Verdict: At-home microdermabrasion tools give “excellent” results, Dr. Fusco says, in addition to office treatments “or as an alternative if cost is an issue.”
In-office cost: $300 to $1,000
DIY option: Exuviance antioxidant peel CA10 ($65; exuviance.com) brightens skin and fades brown spots.
Derm verdict: “You get a big bang for your buck with an at-home peel,” says Dr. Fusco. “You’ll maintain smoother skin, lighten new dark spots and unclog pores.”
In-office cost: Around $400 per area for Botox
DIY option: Physicians Formula Expression Line Freeze ($22; at mass retailers) smooths crow’s-feet temporarily.
Derm verdict: “At-home line freezers are very, very distant cousins of injectables,” Dr. Fusco says. For best results with these, start at the first sight of wrinkles.
In-office cost: $400 to $1,600 per area
DIY option: Bliss Firm, Baby, Firm Dual Action Lifting + Volumizing serum ($75; blissworld.com) fills in fine lines.
Derm Verdict: “Topical formulas are terrific for a quick-fix, temporary result on the finest of lines,” Dr. Fusco says.