Medical Notes 19-03


Medical Notes this week…

Folate, or vitamin b-9, is an essential nutrient, especially for pregnant women. Folic acid is often added to bread, flour, cereal, and pasta to help eliminate deficiencies. Now new research shows supplementation is more important than we thought, because once somebody is short on folate, the damage can’t be fixed. The study in the journal PNAS shows that folate deficiency triggers errors in chromosomes that are passed on as the cell divides. Once those changes occur, they’re permanent.

If you’ve ever fibbed to your doctor, you’re not alone. In fact, a study in the journal JAMA Network Open finds that between 60 and 80 percent of people are less than forthcoming to their doctors about things that could affect their health. People apparently want to avoid being judged or lectured by doctors… or sometimes, they’re simply too embarrassed to tell the truth.

Various forms of dementia are increasing… and now scientists have found that a single specific mutation in one gene can cause one of them. “Frontotemporal dementia” accounts for about 20 percent of all early-onset forms of the disease…. which can affect people as young as their 40’s. A study in the journal Translational Psychiatry has tracked down a single mutation as the cause… and researchers say the finding could be important for both treatment and in research on Alzheimer’s disease.

And finally… a new study shows that forcing kids to apologize usually backfires. The study in the journal Merrill-Palmer Quarterly finds that children who receive an insincere apology dislike the apologizing kid even more than they did before. Transgressors feel worse, too… and don’t learn to have empathy for their victim.

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Medical Notes 19-02

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Medical Notes this week…

It’s well known that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is rising… but the speed of the increase is stunning researchers. A study in the journal Lancet Neurology finds that the number of people with dementia around the world has more than doubled since 1990. Researchers estimate that within about 30 years… more than 100 million people will be affected with dementia.

Air pollution is bad for your health… but researchers haven’t been able to quantify just how bad until now. A Danish study in the journal Environment International used advanced models to simulate the effects of pollution on large populations. It shows that cutting city pollution to the level found in the country could increase the lifespan of the average urban dweller by one full year.

And finally… it doesn’t take long to believe your own lies. And the older you are, the less time it takes. A study in the journal Brain and Cognition used EEG’s to monitor brain activity of people purposely telling lies… then telling the truth to the same questions 45 minutes later. Researchers found that people over 60 are much more likely than young people to accept as the truth a lie they had told less than an hour earlier. Apparently, scientists say, telling a lie scrambles the memory so people ultimately accept it as what really happened.

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Medical Notes 19-01


Medical Notes this week…

After serious injury, the leading cause of death is blood loss. But a new study shows that if a person needs massive transfusions, the fresher the blood, the better. The study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine finds that people receiving large transfusions of packed blood more than about three weeks old have about a five percent higher death risk… and the more blood transfused, the higher the risk. Experts say more blood and plasma donors are needed to overcome shortages… and shelf life limits.

If you didn’t sleep well last night, you’re more likely to be angry today. That sounds intuitive, but a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology proves it– losing just a couple hours of sleep makes you much more likely to react with anger to a frustrating situation. Researchers used annoying noises in the lab to measure anger responses… and found that anger was substantially higher in people who were sleep-deprived. The next step is to see if sleep loss makes people act more aggressively toward others.

And finally… people who grow up in an abusive home are more likely to repeat the behavior themselves. But a new study shows that it’s the opposite in the workplace. The study in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that people who’ve been abused and mistreated by their bosses are much more likely to become good bosses themselves. Apparently, abused employees learn what not to do when they’re running things.

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Medical Notes 18-52


Medical Notes this week…

Death rates for most major health conditions have been in decline, but chronic kidney disease is a big exception, according to a study in the journal JAMA Open. Researchers say that deaths due to chronic kidney disease have increased overall by 58 percent over the last 15 years… and among people under 55, who previously suffered little chronic kidney disease, death rates are sharply up as well. Scientists blame high-sugar, high-salt foods and the increase in health problems such as high blood pressure and type two diabetes… which can trigger kidney disease.

Some people say having a tough childhood makes kids grow up fast. But a new study in the journal Biological Psychiatry finds that it also ages children prematurely. Researchers analyzed DNA of children age eight to 16 who had been exposed to violence, neglect, or emotional abuse… and found that on a cellular level, they were older than similar children living in a more stable environment. Those changes are reflected in the average age of puberty… which is lower among children growing up in a tough environment.

And finally… if you’re a night owl, your health may suffer for it. Previous studies have linked being a night owl to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease… and now a study in the journal Chronobiology International has added up the effect—night owls may have a 10 percent higher risk of early death. Researchers admit they don’t know why a person’s chronotype has such an effect.

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Medical Notes 18-51


Medical Notes this week…

American lifespans have declined for the third year in a row… the first time that’s happened since World War I. A report from the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Preventions finds that a baby boy born today in the United States can expect to live to 76… while the average baby girl can expect a lifespan of 81 years. Researchers blame opioid overdoses… flu deaths… Alzheimer’s disease and suicides for the decline in the American lifespan.

Some women want to have their children as close together as possible, but a new study shows that it’s wise to wait at least a year to get pregnant again. The study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine finds that waiting a year between the birth of one child and conception of another lowers complications. Women older than 35 have a lower risk of death when they wait … and for mothers under 35, there’s a lower risk for the baby when children aren’t so close together.

And finally… if your desk is a mess, your co-workers probably make negative assumptions about you. A study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences finds that a messy office leads people to think its occupant is more cranky, careless, neurotic and less conscientious than people who have a neater space. Researchers say the finding applies to virtually any personal space.

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Medical Notes 18-50


Medical Notes this week…

Millions of people take low dose aspirin in hopes of warding off a heart attack. Millions more take omega-3 fish oil supplements in part for the same reason. But a pair of studies in the Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine show that if you’re healthy and haven’t had a heart attack already… neither one will do you much good. In both studies, heart events were virtually the same as for people taking a placebo. And those taking aspirin had nearly twice the stomach bleeding… and a lot more indigestion.

People who’ve suffered a terrible loss often suffer worse health afterward. Now scientists have tracked one reason. A study at Rice University shows that people suffering from severe grief experience as much as 53 percent higher levels of inflammation throughout the body compared to normal people, and that outward signs of depression are no guide to the inflammation going on inside. Researchers say inflammation contributes to almost every disease in older people… especially heart attack and stroke.

And finally… some people consider attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder to be a disability. But a study in The Journal of Creative Behavior finds that in some fields, like marketing, product design, and technology, having ADHD is an asset to employment. Researchers find that people with ADHD resist conformity and ignore typical information. In short, they much more easily think outside the box.

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Medical Notes 18-49


Medical Notes this week…

Skin cancer death rates around the world have skyrocketed over the last 30 years… and almost all of the increase is among men. A study presented to the World Congress of Cancers of the Skin shows that among the world’s 18 richest nations, men’s skin cancer deaths have risen by at least 50 percent in eight of them. Among women, the increase is much more modest and in some countries, women’s skin cancer deaths are in decline. Researchers say it appears that men are much less likely to protect themselves against the sun.

People with autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, systemic lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis have a higher heart attack risk than others… and now doctors believe they’ve found one reason. A study in the journal Cell Metabolism finds that the culprit is an overabundance of an immune molecule called IL-17. Researchers say the molecule prompts the walls of the blood vessels to store too much collagen… trapping cholesterol and making the blood vessels stiff. A number of drugs which target the immune molecule are already on the market.

And finally… if you’ve ever been to the emergency room in a lot of pain, you’ve probably had to choose your pain level based on the “smiley face” scale. But now doctors are working on a more objective measure of pain. A study presented to the Society for Neuroscience shows that using scalp electrodes and an EEG to measure specific brain waves is much more accurate, and could help people to more quickly get the pain medication they need.

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