Medical Notes 19-11

19-11 notes


Medical Notes this week…

Does the world’s most widely used broad-spectrum weed killer cause cancer? A number of studies have come to different conclusions. But now a comprehensive new analysis in the journal Mutation Research – Reviews in Mutation Research has looked at all the evidence, including a test of more than 50,000 licensed pesticide applicators. The study concludes that yes, the chemical glyphosphate raises the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by as much as 41 percent. Glyphosphate is the primary ingredient in the weed killer Roundup.

If you’re a middle-aged man and can do 40 pushups without stopping, you’re at a 96 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who can do only 10. A study in the journal JAMA Network Open finds that the pushup test may be the most reliable and inexpensive way to judge a man’s heart health over his next 10 years, even more reliable than treadmill tests. But if you can’t do 40 pushups, don’t despair. Heart disease risk is lower to some degree as long as you can do 11 or more.

And finally… gardeners will tell you that playing in the dirt makes them happy, and the reason? There’s a natural antidepressant in soil that acts much the same way as Prozac, but without side effects. A study in the journal Neuroscience shows that gardeners inhale a soil microbe called Mycobacterium, which acts to raise serotonin in the brain, increasing feelings of relaxation and happiness for as long as three weeks.

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Medical Notes 19-10

19-10 notes


Medical Notes this week…

Antibacterial soaps are common today, as are antibacterial toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetics, and even clothing and baby toys. But a new study finds that the active ingredient in most of those things could actually be making bacteria more able to withstand medications. The study in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy shows that the chemical triclosan (trick-lo-san) does kill some microbes, but those that are left are substantially more resistant to antibiotics.

Men who have enlarged prostates may worry about prostate cancer, too. But a new study suggests that enlarged prostates actually protect against prostate cancer. The key is that the prostate sits in a confined space. Scientists believe that as the prostate becomes enlarged, it’s squeezed tightly, impeding the growth of cancer cells inside. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

And finally… over the last decade, many laws have locked up most of your sensitive medical data. But a new study shows that “shadow” health records generated just by living your life can tip off a lot about your health, and those records are wide open. The study in the journal Science Translational Medicine finds that using a fitness tracker, smartphone health app, or DNA ancestry test leave a health information trail. Shopping for a health-related item online or even searching the internet for health information leaves clues for savvy data gatherers.

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Medical Notes 19-09

19-09 notes


Medical Notes this week…

Women stay mentally sharp farther into old age than men typically do, and scientists now think they know why. It all has to do with how the brain burns energy. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that women’s brains burn energy in a much more youthful way throughout adulthood. Women’s brains appear to be about three years younger than men’s of the same chronological age, even in their 20’s, and that difference holds for the rest of their lives.

Binge drinking and prolonged heavy drinking may trigger a permanent change in a person’s DNA, which results in an even greater desire for alcohol. A study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that among binge and heavy drinkers, two genes are modified that influence drinking behavior—one that influences the body clock and another regulating the stress-response system. Scientists hope the findings may eventually help identify biomarkers for people at risk for alcoholic changes.

And finally, more than half of all American workers say they’ve suffered from job burnout, but most of them won’t take a “mental health day” away from the job to deal with it. The University of Phoenix survey shows only a third of workers have taken time off for mental health, mostly because they say their companies don’t view it as an acceptable reason to be off work.

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Medical Notes 19-08

19-08 notes


Medical Notes this week…

Explorers and scientists have been looking for the fountain of youth for thousands of years. Now there’s speculation they may have found an aging inhibitor in a generic HIV drug called Lamivudine. A study in the journal Nature shows that mice who are equivalent to 75 years old in human terms experienced dramatically reduced inflammation and other signs of aging when they received the drug. Lamivudine was approved for treating HIV in 1995. Scientists say they’re anxious to start human anti-aging trials.

Speed limits on highways are usually set as a result of engineering studies. But some local governments override those recommendations, believing that the lower the limit is, the safer the road will be. A new study in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention shows that’s only partially true. Crashes are reduced when a speed limit is set five miles per hour lower than recommendations… but setting the speed limit 10, 15, or 25 miles per hour lower actually increases both total crashes and fatal crashes because so many drivers completely ignore the limit.

And finally… educators have long sought ways to get girls more interested in science. Now a study in the journal Psychological Science has some tips. The study shows that suggesting “let’s do science” is much more effective at getting girls engaged than suggesting “let’s be scientists.” Researchers say pervasive stereotypes, even among the young, torpedo the idea that very many girls ever do become scientists.

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Medical Notes 19-07


Medical Notes this week…

A cancer diagnosis can create stress that goes beyond the breaking point. A new study in the journal Nature Communications shows that people with cancer are more than four times more likely to commit suicide compared to other people. White men and people who receive a diagnosis at a younger age are most likely to complete suicide, along with people who are diagnosed with lung, head and neck, and testicular cancers. Researchers say that even though cancer is a major cause of death in the U.S., most cancer patients survive it and die of other causes.

Electric scooters are a rapidly rising cause of injury, and a new study shows that one in three people involved in an e-scooter accident is injured badly enough to need treatment in the E.R. The study in the journal JAMA Network Open shows that 40 percent of those hurt had head injuries and another 32 percent had fractures. Only four percent of those hurt were wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Falls rather than collisions made up nearly three-quarters of the accidents.

And finally… it turns out that people who are good navigators are almost always good at identifying smells as well. A study in the journal Nature Communications finds that the same area of the brain is used for both of these two very different tasks, and that the brain region is bigger in people who are good at them. Scientists admit the finding surprised them.

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Medical Notes 19-06


Medical Notes this week…

Trauma at such an early age that we don’t remember it can still have lifelong effects. A study in the journal Developmental Science screened nearly 200 pre-teens for stressful experiences in infancy and toddlerhood, asking if they’d gone through stressors such as parental divorce, a move to a new hometown, or the death of a loved one. Then they were given structural MRI’s… which showed a much greater likelihood of a smaller hippocampus in the brain of the traumatized youth. That can lead to memory deficits.

If you get one of your knees replaced, there’s a pretty good chance it will lead to having the other knee done within five years. A study in the Journal of Orthopedic Research shows that happens to nearly a quarter of people who have total knee replacement surgery… possibly a result of abnormal walking patterns after the first replacement. Researchers say physical therapy after knee replacement should aim to normalize walking movement to avoid the need for a second surgery.

And finally… if you’re in a stressful situation, think about your Valentine. A study in the journal Psychophysiology shows that visualizing your romantic partner is just as effective at lowering your blood pressure as actually having them there to comfort you. It could be one reason having a sweetie is good for your health.

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Medical Notes 19-05


Medical Notes this week…

Cancer deaths are continuing to decline. In fact, a report from the American Cancer Society trumpets a major milestone—cancer death rates have dropped every year for the last 25 years. Overall, they’ve dropped 27 percent since 1991… but some cancers are even more striking. For example, lung cancer death rates are down by 48 percent among men. Breast cancer death rates are down by 40 percent, and prostate cancer death rates have dropped by 51 percent.

Parents of teenagers are remarkably pessimistic that schools are keeping their kids safe. A study in the Journal of Community Health shows that 36 percent of parents believe their local high school is “highly likely” to have a shooter incident in the next three years. The study finds that the majority of parents are dissatisfied with the systems schools have in place to counteract gun violence.

Two drugs commonly prescribed for type two diabetes may significantly raise the risk for heart attacks. The drugs, sulfonylureas (sul-fon-eye-loor-ee-ahs) and basal insulin, are often prescribed when metformin doesn’t work. But a study in the journal JAMA Network Open shows that patients who take basil insulin are twice as likely to experience cardiovascular harm, and those taking sulfonylureas are 36 percent more likely to be harmed than patients taking newer second-line drugs. Experts say the results should prompt large scale changes in how type two diabetes is treated.

And finally… more than half of people who take medical marijuana for chronic pain admit they’ve driven while under the influence… and one in five users say they’ve driven while they were “very high” in the last six months. The study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence surveyed medical marijuana users in Michigan… where recreational marijuana is also legal. Researchers say they’re troubled that users don’t think there’s much risk to driving under the influence of pot… but they admit they’re not sure how marijuana affects driving for people who use it every day.

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