Archive for August, 2008

The leading cause of injury death for those over 65

Falls are the leading cause of injury death and hospitalization for people over 65 in the United States.   One out of every three persons over age 65 falls each year, and two-thirds of those who fall do so again within six months. 

According to the CDC, “The causes of falls can be divided into two categories, personal factors and environmental factors. Personal factors include muscle weakness, balance problems, limited vision, and taking certain medications such as tranquillizers or antidepressants. Environmental factors include home hazards such as clutter, loose rugs or other tripping hazards, poor lighting, especially on stairs, and not having stair railings or grab bars in the bathroom.”

Preventing a fall in the first place is key, and the CDC has developed a comprehensive program of proven strategies that help reduce falls in older adults: “Preventing Falls Among Older Adults”

Dogs raise spirits at the nursing home

Golden retrieverNursing home visits by a dog, brings out positive behavior from dementia patients, in a recent Australian study.  Researchers from the University of Adelaide, conducted therapy sessions, lasting for one week,  consisting of a one-hour group session twice a week with a group of dementia patients. The therapy group consisted of an activities therapist, two visiting dog handlers, and one dog.  Residents could pat and interact with the dog as the handler walked it around the group. 

They found that the group of dementia patients who participated in the group session tended to laugh, smile, and respond more, and these positive effects lasted for the next six weeks. 

Although this was a small study, the researchers felt that the dogs did indeed make a difference. In an article by MedPage Today, the researcher said, ”One of the hardest things for residents is leaving their pet behind.”

via MedPage Today, August 27, 2008 

via Wordley AM, et al “Animal-Assisted Therapy for People with Dementia Living in Residential Aged Care Facilities” DCC 2008; PS-19.

Nuts and corn might be harmless in diverticular disease

PeanutsA new study of nearly 48,000 men found no truth to the commonly held belief that people with diverticular disease should avoid eating nuts, corn, and popcorn.   

It is commonly recommended that patients with diverticular disease avoid eating these foods because they are believed to increase the risk for complications by damaging the intestinal mucosa or by lodging in the diverticula, according to the researchers. However, there is little evidence to support this, the researchers say, and these recommendations should be reconsidered.  

If you have diverticular disease, and have been avoiding these foods, ask your doctor before adding them back into your diet.

via Strate L, et al “Nut, corn, and popcorn consumption and the incidence of diverticular disease” JAMA 2008; 300: 907-914.

via MedPage Today, August 26, 2008


Arsenic in well water

Well waterArsenic is leached into groundwater mainly from natural mineral deposits.

A recent study found an association between environmental exposure to arsenic, found mainly in drinking water, and type 2 diabetes. Among 93 people who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, mean total urinary arsenic levels were 26% higher than in non-diabetic participants the researchers found.

Arsenic levels in drinking water are typically much lower in the U.S., where the Environmental Protection Agency has set a limit of 10 mcg/L for public water supplies. However, private well water is not covered by the EPA standard and arsenic levels may be higher, particularly in southwestern states. They estimated that about 13 million Americans live in areas where public water systems exceed the EPA standard for arsenic, not counting an unknown number with private water supplies. People drinking well water, particularly in the southwestern U.S., should have their water tested for arsenic.

via Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Navas-Acien A, et al., “Arsenic exposure and prevalence of type 2 diabetes in U.S. adults” JAMA 2008; 300: 814-22.

via MedPage Today, August 19, 2008

Factors in early childhood linked with snoring in adulthood

In a recent study of more than 15,000 adults in northern Europe, early childhood factors that appear to be Child asleeplinked to snoring in adulthood include any one of the following: 

  • newborn exposure to a dog in the home
  • hospitalization for a respiratory infection before age two, 
  • recurrent otitis as a child, or
  • large family size

Adult snoring is common, especially among men, and snoring may increase with age. Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe, creating the snoring sounds.

Adult conditions such as obesity, asthma, chronic bronchitis, or smoking cause an increased susceptibility for adult snoring. Having throat swelling, such as enlarged tonsils, or nasal problems, such as a deviated septum, can cause snoring.  Sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder,  can also result in snoring. Drinking alcohol or taking sleeping pills at bedtime overly relaxes the muscles in the throat which can contribute to snoring.

Here are some tips to help you stop snoring:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • Cut down or eliminate alcohol and other sedatives close to bedtime
  • Avoid sleeping flat on your back
  • Ask your doctor about sleep apnea or any other correctable causes of snoring
  • Parents should ask pediatricians, if their child snores.  It can be a sign of a serious problem that needs to be corrected.

via Franklin K, et al “Early life environment and snoring in adulthood” Respir Res 2008; 9: 63.
via MedPage Today, August 22, 2008

Know the warning signs of a harmful, teen dating relationship

One in eleven high school students reports being a victim of dating abuse. And this is not just physical abuse - it can come in many forms - verbal, emotional, physical and even sexual.

In a recent survey, many teens did not know the warning signs of an abusive relationship, and many parents didn’t know what was going on in their teens’ relationships.

Dating abuse isn’t an occasional argument or a bad mood, it is a pattern of controlling behavior that someone uses against a girlfriend or boyfriend. The following are warning signs of this type of dysfunctional and harmful relationship: 

  • Giving up activities or hobbies that they previously enjoyed
  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Spending excessive time with only the person they’re dating
  • Signs of jealousy and possessiveness
  • Constant contact by phone calls, texting or sending instant messages
  • Signs of threats, insults or inappropriate control of temper from the person they’re dating

Early sexual activity tends to fuel this dysfunctional behavior the researchers report.  The solution, experts say, are programs to help parents and their kids recognize unhealthy relationships, and to stop them before they start.

Parents, if it’s too late for preventive efforts and you need help now, first learn about the problem, and then consult professionals whom you trust, before venturing into a problem-solving conversation with your child.   This is not a situation to be ignored, taken lightly, or bluntly confronted, and can easily become an explosive and divisive chasm between you and your child, pushing your teen away from you and even closer to their dating partner. It’s essential to talk to your child and keep the lines of communication open, but beware of blundering into a dangerous situation unprepared. 

One place to start is the The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline which is an online resource as well as a phone helpline: 1-866-331-9474 | 1-866-331-8453 TTY.  They have a call center in Austin, Texas, where their staff are trained to offer support, information and advocacy to those involved in dating abuse relationships.  It also will provide help for concerned parents, teachers, clergy, law enforcement, and service providers.

via CDC, “Break the Silence, Stop the Violence”, August 2008

via  Survey sponsored by Liz Claiborne Inc. and and conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, operates the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, August 2008

Teens need 9 hours of sleep

TeensLess than nine hours of good quality sleep puts teenagers at risk for high blood pressure, as well as a number of other physical and psychosocial health problems.  

In a recent study from Case Western Reserve University, high blood pressure was significantly linked with inadequate sleep.  In this research, teens who slept fewer than 6 1/2 hours a night had more than twice the risk of high blood pressure and those with troubled sleep had more than triple the risk. 

Often referred to as “the Silent Killer”, high blood pressure can insidiously damage any organ in your body for years before symptoms develop.

Read more from Bay Area Medical Information (

via Javaheri S, et al., “Sleep quality and elevated blood pressure in adolescents” Circulation 2008; DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.766410

via MedPage Today, August 2008

Diabetes and obesity set the stage for heart disease

Women who are obese and diabetic have an 80% risk of developing heart disease, whereas normal-weight, nondiabetic women have a 34% risk, according to researchers from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.  Also, men with diabetes and obesity have a nearly 90% risk versus a 49% risk in normal-weight, nondiabetic men. Diabetes on its own significantly raises the lifetime risk of heart disease, but obesity worsens the situation.

via Diabetes Care, August 2008

Read more:
Diabetes, Take Control Before It Controls You
Exercise, and Getting Started
Weight Control

The benefits of dairy products in childhood

MilkYoung children who have two or more servings of dairy products a day throughout childhood have significantly better bone health as teenagers, according to researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine.  And, if a nondairy protein is added to this diet, their bone health is even more improved.   

via Moore LL, et al “Effects of Average Childhood Dairy Intake on Adolescent Bone Health” J Pediatr 2008: DOI: 10.1016/j/jpeds.2008.05.016.

Catastrophic injuries occurring in cheerleading

Cheerleading has evolved into the most dangerous sport of all for girls in both high school and college, according to an annual report released by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina. 

Cheerleading is increasingly becoming a highly competitive, gymnastic sport, involving difficult and dangerous aerial acrobatics, yet the coaches often don’t not have the required training for such activity.   Also, cheerleaders don’t have the proper equipment, like mats, or safety devices used in other sports. Catastrophic injuries, including a fractured back, permanent disability, and even death,  are occurring at increasing and alarming frequency as a result.  Gymnastics, track and field, and swimming trailed far behind in serious injuries, the statistics reveal.

via MedPage Today, August 2008