Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Violence puts wear and tear on kids’ DNA

From the 22 April Eureka News Alert

DURHAM, N.C. — Children who have experienced violence might really be older than their years. The DNA of 10-year-olds who experienced violence in their young lives has been found to show wear and tear normally associated with aging, a Duke University study has found.

“This is the first time it has been shown that our telomeres can shorten at a faster rate even at a really young age, while kids are still experiencing stress,” said Idan Shalev, a post-doctoral researcher in psychology and neuroscience at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy.

Telomeres are special DNA sequences found at the tips of chromosomes; much like the plastic tips of shoelaces, they prevent DNA from unraveling. Emerging evidence suggests that telomeres are “master integrators,” connecting stress to biological age and associated diseases….

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | 1 Comment

Sleeping in Vermont Dumpster Shows Psychiatric Cuts’ Cost – Bloomberg

Sleeping In Vermont Dumpster Shows Psychiatric Cuts’ Cost

via Sleeping in Vermont Dumpster Shows Psychiatric Cuts’ Cost – Bloomberg.

Katherine Gluck blurts out to the judge, “I’m guilty.”

Gluck, 47, is charged on this March morning with threatening her former husband with a hammer. Police who arrested her in Burlington, Vermont, know those tired eyes and stringy blond hair. In December, Gluck was charged but not jailed or hospitalized after she slammed a dead raccoon against the front door of City Hall. Her family urged her to get help for her bipolar disorder, which usually involves getting back on medication. She refused.

June 4 (Bloomberg) — Hurricane Irene wiped out the last state-operated psychiatric beds in Vermont nine months ago. As the only U.S. state with no government-operated psychiatric beds, Vermont’s experience reflects a growing realization among mental-health experts and advocates that the decades-long trend toward outpatient care has reached its limit and public outcry against the latest round of cuts is beginning to change the game. Bloomberg’s Tom Moroney reports. (Source: Bloomberg)

Now, court-appointed lawyer Sarah Reed hopes Judge Thomas Devine will send Gluck to a hospital. The odds aren’t good. Hurricane Irene wiped out the last state-operated psychiatric beds in Vermont nine months ago.

Since then, private-hospital emergency rooms have been backed up with mentally ill patients — some handcuffed to ER beds for as long as two days. Dozens of people are turned away each month without being admitted, and calls to Burlington police about mental-health issues increased 32 percent over the prior year.

As the only U.S. state with no government-operated psychiatric beds, Vermont’s experience reflects a growing realization among mental-health experts and advocates that the decades-long trend toward outpatient care has reached its limit — and public outcry against the latest round of cuts is beginning to change the game….

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Of Health and War (excerpts from a posting at privatelifeinpublichealth)

Of Health and War

Am a bit behind on stuff I’ve put in the WordPress Draft section…this one goes back to around Memorial Day.
Many of you probably know I believe war and preparations for war do not solve problems, only create larger ones.
I also believe war and war preparations are public health issues.
Directly and indirectly they kill, devastate infrastructures and the environment, and ultimately divide and instead of unite humans.

Could Costa Rica’s example of disbanding its army be followed by more (dare I say all?) countries?  Perhaps with education and true love of neighbor, this is a strong possibility…
A few excerpts from  Memorial Day reflections at the blog privatelifeinpublichealth

Brian Lehrer on WNYC has been conducting a survey called “End of War” asking the question “Is War Inevitable?”   http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/series/end-war/

Many responses indicated that if more women were in power that more wars would be prevented because women are more inclined to negotiation, conflict resolution, and a focus on health and well-being for themselves and their families.

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, the first Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, discussed the role of women and war–and the importance of having more women in power to lessen conflicts around the world…

An interesting connection, or perhaps it is the disconnection, of war and health is in the little Central American country of Costa Rica.  In 1991, after having researched the substantial decrease in infant and maternal mortality and increased health and well being of children and families based on the Costa Rican home visiting program, I traveled to San Jose and had a meeting with Dr. Lenin Saenz, one of the architects of the government-funded health care program.  The program included visits to every family in Costa Rica four times a year to assure that all children had their vaccinations, that pregnant women were receiving prenatal care, that the family had clean running water and everyone was in good health.  The visits were done by community health workers who had been soldiers in the war against mosquitoes.  Yes, the war against mosquitoes was mounted by a collaboration between the United Fruit Company and the Costa Rican government.  So many farm workers were dying of malaria that the fruit export business was suffering.  Literally armies of mosquito eradicators were employed in the joint effort.  By the late 1960’s, the mosquito was defeated and Costa Rica was free of the tyranny of malaria.  But now what to do with all of these people who had visited every part of the country spraying and removing breeding areas?  Dr. Saenz and his colleagues in the Costa Rican government decided to fight on…this time against infant mortality, maternal mortality, water borne diseases, and just for good measure, illiteracy.  They retained the army of workers and re-educated them to be home health visitors.  Within 10 years between 1970 and 1980, the health status of Costa Rica dramatically improved as indicated by the drop infant mortality by 69 percent from 61.5/1,000 to 18.6/1,000. How did they finance this one might ask?  All those health workers fighting disease.  Well, they used money that other countries use to pay for their military.  Costa Rica in 1948 had decided not to fight their own people or other countries; they disbanded their army.  Since the mid 1980’s there have been financial challenges that have impacted the success of the Costa Rican war against disease, but there is still no military and the health status far exceeds that of most countries in the world. [My emphasis]

So Is War Inevitable?

This post does not have neat clever ending or political message or even health prescription.  I just find myself wondering if the question needs to be shifted from “Is War Inevitable?” to “Who or What Are We Fighting?” or more importantly,  “Who Are We Fighting For?”

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Feel Like Exercise? Scientists Find Compound That May Help You Work out Harder

Goodness Gracious, just about a pill for everything these days…
While this may be a good thing for some, over dependence on pills is not necessarily a good thing in my humble opinion.

From the 12 June ScienceDaily article 

As science rushes to develop safe weight loss drugs, a new research report approaches this problem from an entirely new angle: What if there were a pill that would make you want to exercise harder? It may sound strange, but a new research report appearing online in The FASEB Journal suggests that it might be possible. That’s because a team of Swiss researchers found that when a hormone in the brain, erythropoietin (Epo), was elevated in mice, they were more motivated to exercise…

..

In addition, the form of erythropoietin used in these experiments did not elevate red blood cell counts. Such a treatment has obvious benefits for a wide range of health problems ranging from Alzheimer’s to obesity, including mental health disorders for which increased physical activity is known to improve symptoms.

“Here we show that Epo increases the motivation to exercise,” said Max Gassmann, D.V.M., a researcher involved in the work from the Institute of Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse-Faculty and Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. “Most probably, Epo has a general effect on a person’s mood and might be used in patients suffering from depression and related diseases.”….

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | 1 Comment

Mildly Stressful Situations Can Affect Our Perceptions In The Same Way As Life-Threatening Ones

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 14 June 2012 Medical News Today article

Financial loss can lead to irrational behavior. Now, research by Weizmann Institute scientists reveals that the effects of loss go even deeper: Loss can compromise our early perception and interfere with our grasp of the true situation. The findings, which recently appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience, may also have implications for our understanding of the neurological mechanisms underlying post-traumatic stress disorder.

The experiment was conducted by Dr. Rony Paz and research student Offir Laufer of the Neurobiology Department. Subjects underwent a learning process based on classic conditioning and involving money. They were asked to listen to a series of tones composed of three different notes. After hearing one note, they were told they had earned a certain sum; after a second note, they were informed that they had lost some of their money; and a third note was followed by the message that their bankroll would remain the same. According to the findings, when a note was tied to gain, or at least to no loss, the subjects improved over time in a learned task – distinguishing that note from other, similar notes. But when they heard the “lose money” note, they actually got worse at telling one from the other.

Functional MRI (fMRI) scans of the brain areas involved in the learning process revealed an emotional aspect: The amygdala, which is tied to emotions and reward, was strongly involved. The researchers also noted activity in another area in the front of the brain, which functions to moderate the emotional response. Subjects who exhibited stronger activity in this area showed less of a drop in their abilities to distinguish between tones.

Paz: “The evolutionary origins of that blurring of our ability to discriminate are positive: If the best response to the growl of a lion is to run quickly, it would be counterproductive to distinguish between different pitches of growl. Any similar sound should make us flee without thinking. Unfortunately, that same blurring mechanism can be activated today in stress-inducing situations that are not life-threatening – like losing money – and this can harm us.”

That harm may even be quite serious: For instance, it may be involved in post-traumatic stress disorder. If sufferers are unable to distinguish between a stimulus that should cause a panic response and similar, but non-threatening, stimuli, they may experience strong emotional reactions in inappropriate situations. This perceptional blurring may even expand over time to encompass a larger range of stimuli. Paz intends to investigate this possibility in future research.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

Pollution Levels in Some Kitchens Are Higher Than City-Center Hotspots (Downside to Energy Efficiency?)

From the 14 June 2012 ScienceDaily article

A study by the University of Sheffield has found that the air we breathe inside our own homes can have pollutant levels three times higher than the outdoor environment, in city centres and along busy road

Researchers from the University’s Faculty of Engineering measured air quality inside and outside three residential buildings with different types of energy use (gas vs. electric cookers). They found that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in the kitchen of the city centre flat with a gas cooker were three times higher than the concentrations measured outside the property and well above those recommended in UK Indoor Air Quality Guidance1. These findings are published in the Journal of Indoor and Built Environment.

“We spend 90 per cent of our time indoors and work hard to make our homes warm, secure and comfortable, but we rarely think about the pollution we might be breathing in,” said Professor Vida Sharifi, who led the research. “Energy is just one source of indoor pollution, but it is a significant one. And as we make our homes more airtight to reduce heating costs, we are likely to be exposed to higher levels of indoor pollution, with potential impacts on our health.”…

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

CDC Study Finds Universal Motorcycle Helmet Laws Increase Helmet Use, Save Money

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2012/p0614_motorcycle_laws.html
Annual cost savings in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws were nearly four times greater (per registered motorcycle) than in states without these comprehensive laws, according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

Helmets prevent 37 percent of crash deaths among riders and 41 percent among passengers. They also prevent 13 percent of serious injuries and 8 percent of minor injuries to riders and passengers.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , | 1 Comment

   

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