Testing It Up » April 2011

Monthly Archives: April 2011

Substance Abuse

Aspirin and Prozac = Bad Combo

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It seems that painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and anti-depressants such as Prozac and Celexa, are not a good combination, according to a study published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

ProzacA feature on The Wall Street Journal shared that researchers were able to determine that painkillers, specifically the class of pain medication that are classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), seem to decrease the effectiveness of a class of anti-depressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).

First study author Jennifer Warner-Schmidt, a researcher at Rockefeller University in New York, said: “It appears there’s a very strong antagonistic relationship between NSAIDs and SSRIs… This may be one reason why the response rate [in patients of SSRIs] is so low.”

The results of the study, however, need confirmation through further studies. In addition, it was unclear if taking ibuprofen occasionally for headaches can affect the effectiveness of an anti-depressant, or if a patient needs to take NSAIDs long term for such conditions as arthritis for an inhibitory effect to kick in.

The researchers initially looked into the effect of combining NSAIDs and SSRIs in mice, before looking into the effect of the combination in humans. They examined data from a large clinical trial participated in by 4,000 patients, known as STAR*D, and determined that there was a significant difference in the effectiveness of SSRIs when taken with NSAIDs.

Steve Wengel, a depression researcher and chair of the University of Nebraska Medical Center psychiatry department, commented: “If it’s substantiated in further studies, it would certainly imply we would have to use a different treatment for patients who are chronically taking NSAIDs.” Dr. Wengel is not involved in the study.

New York Health Screening

Health & Wellness

American Lung Association Releases Annual State of the Air Report

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Half of Americans are reportedly breathing in air that is of poor quality, according to the recently-released State of the Air report from the American Lung Association.

air pollutionA feature on the Voice of America shared details from the 2011 State of the Air report, which was released on April 27. Based on the report, 53.3 percent of the population of the United States, which roughly translates to 165 million people, breathes in air deemed as “too often dangerous to breathe.” The report ranks the quality of air in cities and counties in the United States, taking into consideration the most common types of air pollution.

Janice Noland, an assistant vice president at the American Lung Association, shared that there are various sources of pollutants which are currently polluting our nation’s air. She shared: “Driving down the highway, turning on the electricity contribute to some of the pollution sources because of the burning combustion, burning coal, burning gasoline or the diesel that is delivering food to our grocery store.”

Twenty-five major metropolitan areas are listed in the survey as having the worst air quality. Most of the cities in the list, according to the feature, are located in California; these areas, according to Noland, have a lot of cars, sea ports with emissions from barges, trucks, and ocean vessels, which contribute to the worsening state of the air. Air quality rankings conducted a measurement and comparison of ozone levels and particulates, which are the two most common types of air pollution.

The cities with the cleanest air are Honolulu, Hawaii, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Early Disease Detection Substance Abuse

ADHD in Kids Linked to Drug Use Later in Life

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A study funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicated that kids with ADHD are up to three times more likely to abuse or develop a dependence for such substances as nicotine, cocaine and marijuana as adolescents and young adults.

smoking addictionA feature on USA Today shared details of a study conducted by psychologists at the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of South Carolina-Columbia. It consisted of an analysis of 27 long-term studies, which followed 4,100 ADHD patients, and 6,800 children who did not suffer from ADHD. The researchers determined that adolescents who had ADHD were more likely to experiment with nicotine, as well as illegal substances, at an earlier age.

Lead researcher Steve Lee, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at UCLA, shared that children who have ADHD are thrice as likely to become nicotine dependent; one and a half times more likely to use marijuana; and twice as likely to use cocaine, when compared against those who did not suffer from ADHD when they were younger.

An ADHD diagnosis, it was found, increased the possibility that a child has used nicotine or illegal substances, and of developing issues with substance abuse by the time they become adolescents or young adults.

Brooke Molina, an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, said ADHD may not necessarily lead to substance abuse: “This risk is roughly the same as the risk of alcoholism for a child of an alcoholic.”

Lee commented that the use of drugs and other substances may temporarily relieve distress, brought about by anxiety, social dysfunction, stress, and conflict due to ADHD. The study was published online in the journal Clinical Psychology Review.

Los Angeles Drug Screening

Health & Wellness Home Health Hazards

Kids Need More Protection Against Dangerous Chemicals

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for more stringent laws related to chemicals, indicating that the United States is not doing enough to protect children from chemicals that may prove to be dangerous.

child protectionReuters Health shared the following comment from Dr. Jerome Paulson, of the AAP Council on Environmental Health and the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.: “Children are not little adults… Their bodies are different and their behaviors are different. That means that their exposures to chemicals in the environment are different, and the way their bodies (break down) those chemicals are different.”

A law that is supposed to provide public information regarding risks associated with various chemicals, as well as provide the government with the authority to keep dangerous chemicals of the market, has been unable to achieve its goals.

According to Dr. Paulson, the consequences of this failure may have a significant and unpredictable impact on children. Furthermore, Paulson shared that during the important periods of a child’s development, they become more susceptible to chemicals; specifically mentioned was the period when brains and bodies quickly change.

The law being referred to by the AAP is the Toxic Substances Control Act, which was passed in 1976. The aim of the law is to protect the public against exposure to dangerous chemicals, but the AAP believes that there is a need to update the law, which has only been used in regulating five types of chemicals.

Paulson said further: “The reality is, we live in a chemical world, and some of them are benign and some of them aren’t, and we don’t know which are and which aren’t… It makes it impossible for us to understand what people should do to try to protect themselves or their children.”

Health & Wellness

Weight Loss Tips: Small Steps, Big Losses

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Losing weight is no laughing matter, and for some, it can be one of the trickiest and more difficult things that they need to do.

Experts have mentioned on several occasions that the key to losing weight successfully is to choose a method that is doable and sustainable. A feature on WebMD shares a few tips that are simple and easy enough to be both achievable and sustainable – and may bring huge success in terms of shedding unwanted pounds.

weight lossEat slowly. How fast you eat can lead to overeating, so WebMD suggested getting yourself a timer and giving yourself 20 minutes to finish a meal. Wolfing down food may block signals that trigger the fullness hormones of the body, which may lead to overeating.

Eat more vegetables. Serve more vegetables during your meals, adding color and variety, and you may be well on your way to shedding pounds without necessarily feeling deprived. Just ensure that you do not add too much fat when you cook them, and that you add flavor using lemon juice and herbs, as opposed to fatty sauces and dressings.

Sip Green Tea. Looking for a great way to finish off a meal? Try sipping green tea. There are studies that indicate that green tea increases the rate at which the body burns calories temporarily, perhaps due to phytochemicals called catechins.

Go the extra mile. Losing weight may mean going the extra mile – literally. Burning an extra 100 calories a day may add up to weight loss of 10 pounds in 12 months; those extra 100 calories may be burned by walking a mile, which can take about 20 minutes. You can also choose to jog for 10 minutes, or clean the house for half an hour.

Early Disease Detection Substance Abuse

Kidney Cancer More Aggressive Among Smokers

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Smoking has figured prominently in several of our previous posts – and always not in a good way. This time around, we talk about smoking and its link to kidney cancer, based on a study that was released in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

kidney cancerAccording to a feature by Reuters Health, kidney cancer appears to be more common – as well as more aggressive – among heavy smokers. In a study led by Dr. Thomas J. Polascik, a surgeon at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the researchers determined that more than one in four smokers who are undergoing kidney cancer surgery were suffering from advanced stages of the cancer, as opposed to only one in five among those who were non-smokers.

The study also determined that smokers were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer, when compared against non-smokers, considering age and other factors. The probability increased as cigarette consumption increased.

In a bit of good news, however, the study likewise determined that former smokers who managed to kick the habit also lowered their risk for advanced kidney cancer. Dr. Polascik told Reuters Health: “It can’t bring you down to the risk of a nonsmoker, but it can get you almost there.”

The study involved an analysis of data for 845 people who underwent kidney cancer surgery at Duke University Medical Center. Twenty-five percent of the patients were suffering from advanced cancer, which is defined as cancer which has spread beyond the kidney.

According to the American Cancer Society, one in 70 Americans is diagnosed with kidney cancer.

Health & Wellness

Single Best Exercise: H.I.T.

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Exercise can mean different things to different people. Often, the kind of exercise that people engage in will depend upon their interests and their abilities, with the latter being used as a generic term that covers physical, emotional or financial aspects. There are people who like to keep it simple, and people who use fancy machines and gadgets; there are those who exercise at home, or in public parks, and those who opt to become members in exclusive health clubs and gyms.

exerciseNo matter what type of exercise one engages in, however, there is a common denominator to all this: exercise is important to one’s general health and well-being, and can help people lower their risk for developing various health problems.

Like most things, however, people could not help but wonder what the best exercise is – and a feature on The New York Times provides the answer – or at least leads to one.

There are various factors to consider when evaluating an exercise routine, among them a routine’s ability to build endurance and muscles. One important factor to consider, however, is sustainability – meaning, will the person actually stick to the exercise routine long enough for it to make a difference?

Several likely “candidates” for the title were mentioned: brisk walking and squats were among them. The feature, however, ended by discussing a particular routine that seems to have it all: H.I.T.

H.I.T stands for High Interval Training. It includes physical movements that alternate at regular intervals between extremely intense exercise (this is essentially performed at the highest intensity that one can stand, lasting only for several seconds) and a period of rest. An example of this, given by Martin Gibala, the chairman of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, would be sprinting for a minute “at a pace that feels unpleasant but sustainable, followed by 60 seconds of pedaling easily, then another 60-second sprint and recovery, 10 times in all,” on a stationary bike.

New York Health Screening

Early Disease Detection

Pink Sunday in Indiana Town on Mother’s Day

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Breast cancer is a disease that has afflicted thousands of women, a significant number of whom are mothers. It is therefore fitting that an activity designed to raise breast cancer awareness and funds for breast cancer research be conducted in conjunction with Mother’s Day.

breast checkThis is exactly what the Greater Evansville Alliance of Susan G. Komen for the Cure is doing, as it celebrates Pink Sunday on May 8, 2011, Mother’s Day. Pink Sunday in Evansville is a collaborative effort between the Alliance, local religious organizations, and community groups, according to a report on the Daily Republican Register. It aims to raise breast cancer awareness through education on breast health and breast cancer.

A free greeting card, which contains the four breast self-awareness steps, will be provided by the Affiliate. There will also be a magnet that contains the Affiliate’s contact information so that participants will have someone to turn to should they need assistance.

Alcohol Testing Substance Abuse

Study: Energy Drinks + Alcohol Is Risky

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Last year there was much concern about the popularity of Four Loko, a caffeinated alcoholic energy drink, and other brands like it. The beverages have since been banned in several states, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed the mixture of alcohol and caffeine as unsafe.

caffeinated alcoholic drinksA study conducted by scientists from Northern Kentucky University yielded results that support the earlier declaration of the FDA. According to the new study, which was published online in advance of the July 2011 print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, combining the effects of caffeine in energy drinks, and the intoxicating effects of alcohol, is more risky as opposed to just consuming alcohol.

A feature by HealthDay shared that the study involved participants composed of 56 college students, aged 21 to 33. The study participants were divided into 4 groups, and received any of the following drinks: an alcoholic drink, an energy drink, a mixed drink composed of alcohol and an energy drink, or a placebo. All the beverages looked and tasted like energy drinks; hence, participants could not tell which type of drink they were given.

After consuming the drink, researchers evaluated how fast the participants could execute, or suppress, certain actions. In addition, they were also asked to rate such feelings as stimulation, sedation, impairment, and levels of intoxication.

The results of the evaluation showed that those who drank the alcoholic drink exhibited impaired impulse control. Those who consumed an alcoholic energy drink, however, thought that they were less impaired than those who had the same amount of alcohol alone. In the real setting, this means that they are more likely to take risks, such as getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

Early Disease Detection

Lifestyle Choices That Will Keep Cancer at Bay

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There is no single, clear-cut reason as to why people develop cancer. While genetics may play a rather significant role in the development of cancer, it is also entirely possible that cancer is brought about by the lifestyle choices that a person makes.

healthy lifestyleA feature on WebMD indicates that at least one-third of adult cancer cases may be linked to lifestyle choices, according to experts. This means that there is certainly something that could be done by people who are not genetically predisposed to develop cancer to keep this disease at bay.

So what are the things that one needs to do in order to decrease their risk for developing cancer? The first one that we will mention may no longer warrant a lengthy justification, as it is a choice that we have been advocating for quite sometime: be smoke free.

Smoking is linked not just to lung cancer, but to more than a dozen cancers as well. The habit is said to account for more than 30 percent of cancer deaths, which is why doctors usually advice smokers to quit – and non-smokers to never start. It is also advisable to be wary of second-hand smoke, for those who are not smokers.

Other worthy lifestyle choices include ensuring that one is within a healthy weight range; engaging in sufficient physical activity; incorporating fruits and vegetables into one’s daily diet; limiting alcohol consumption; following healthy ways of coping with stress; undergoing the appropriate cancer screenings and tests, at the appropriate time; and learning about one’s family health history.