What’s in Your Head Matters: New Studies Show Link Between Loneliness and Health

Written by buzz. Posted in Health

When it comes to loneliness quality rather than quantity of relationships is key.

In 1993, the movie “Six Degrees of Separation” popularized the idea that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on earth, so that a chain of “friend to friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in six steps or fewer.

In the movie, rich NYC art dealers, the Kittredges, are at first entranced and then stunned when a young con man claiming to be a friend of their son’s at Harvard regales them with tales of his life. Though his lies are exposed, the couple remains irrevocably touched by his impact and try desperately to find him when he disappears.

It seemed their perception of what he brought to their lives outweighed the deception. And so it is with loneliness in two fascinating new University of Arizona studies: the research team found that above all, loneliness is a matter of perception. In this era of instant messaging, Facebook and Twitter, when it does seem as if we all share some universal connections, what matters, according to researchers is not how many Facebook friends we have, whether we live near loved ones or even if we are partnered up, but how we feel about the relationships we have.

Loneliness is the discrepancy between your achieved and desired level of social contact, and that has important implications,” says Chris Segrin, the UA Communication Department Head and lead author of the study. “The portrait of a lonely person is very difficult to paint because what is really important is what is in your head.”

Segrin and Stacey Passalacqua, who recently earned her UA doctorate in interpersonal and health communication, decided to study individual perceptions of stress and social support to understand ways loneliness may be linked to health.

In a study of 265 adults ages 19 to 85, Segrin and Passalacqua found that stress plays a crucial role for those who reported being lonely. They found that lonely people were prone to have fewer close connections, were less apt to manage daily stressors well and tended not to keep up on their health. Also, lonely people did not get adequate sleep.

So while people can experience the same stressors – be they financial or relationship problems or just life’s annoyances – lonely people will have different responses according to an article “Functions of Loneliness, Social Support, Health Behaviors, and Stress in Association With Poor Health,” the pair published in a June issue of Health Communication.

Of particular interest was the fact that even people with large social networks experience loneliness, and that quality, not quantity was the decisive factor when it comes to relationships.

Segrin also collaborated with Tricia Domschke, a doctoral degree candidate in communication, on another study “Social Support, Loneliness, Recuperative Processes and their Direct and Indirect Effects on Health,” which has also been accepted for publication also in Health Communication.

Segrin and Domschke found that lonely people did not get as much of a recharge from activities like going on vacation or getting a good night’s sleep as those who were happy with their relationships. What both studies suggest is that people need to care for themselves and a crucial way of doing this is nurturing relationships.

Perceptions are all it takes, and when you experience stress, it has a physiological effect on the body,” she added. “The mind has such a powerful effect on the body and, really, our perceptions are going to shape our world,” says Passalacqua.

Cheap Drug Could Save Lives of Thousands of Accident Victims

Written by buzz. Posted in Health

Thousand of accident victims bleed to death before reaching the hospital. A study shows using the drug, TXA, could save as many lives as mandatory seat belt laws or tougher drunk driving measures.

A cheap, commonly used drug that stops bleeding during elective surgeries could save the lives of tens of thousands worldwide if administered within eight hours of a bleeding injury.

The drug, tranexamic acid, or TXA, was given to more than 10,000 adult trauma patients in 40 countries who received the drug within eight hours of being injured. Researchers compared those patients’ outcomes to more than 10,000 accident victims who got a placebo treatment.  Doctors initially worried that TXA might increase side effects such as blood clots or strokes in patients who received it, but the study showed no such effects.

The study found that patients who got TXA had a 15 percent lower chance of dying from a hemorrhage than those who didn’t get it. Dr. Ian Roberts, professor of epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and lead researcher for the study stated, “When people have serious injuries, whether from accidents or violence, and when they have severe hemorrhage, they can bleed to death. This treatment reduces the chances of bleeding to death by about a sixth.”

Patients who received the drug also had a 10 percent lower chance of dying from any other cause, including organ failure and head injuries, versus patients who didn’t receive TXA. The study was paid for by the British government and published online in the medical journal Lancet.

TXA is not patented and is manufactured generically by several companies.  It costs approximately $4.50 a gram with a typical dose being 2 grams.  Because it is generally given via an injection, it would be easy to introduce, even in developing countries, according to experts.

“The option to use tranexamic acid should be available to doctors treating trauma patients in all countries,” said Roberts and Haleema Shakur, also of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who are petitioning to have the drug listed as essential by the World Health Organization (WHO).  Once a drug is on the WHO’s essential list, organizations such as UNICEF will often purchase it for use in developing countries.  More than 90 percent of trauma deaths occur in countries where access to medicines is often restricted by poor infrastructure and few resources.

The drug also has major applications here in the United States where according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) accidents are the fifth leading cause of death.  Thousands of people needlessly bleed to death before they reach the hospital.  Experts say that using TXA could save as many lives as mandatory seat belt laws or tougher drunk driving measures.

According to Roberts, roughly 600,000 people bleed to death each year. “It’s important to remember that deaths from injuries are increasing around the world and that they usually involve young adults, often the main breadwinner in the family. The impact on the family is devastating,” he added.

Study researchers estimate that 13,000 lives could be saved in India and 12,000 in China annually by increased use of TXA.  In the U.S., they estimate that some 2,000 lives could be saved by using the drug.

Oregon Pharmacy Board: Marijuana Is Medicine

Written by buzz. Posted in Health

To some, marijuana is dope, to others, it is medicine. And of course, to many, medicine can be pretty good dope. Whatever the case, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy recently voted 4 -1 to re-categorized marijuana from a straight up recreational drug to one with pharmaceutical value.

Thirteen other states have made this reclassification, but none in years, according to a June 16 press release from Americans for Safe Access. Most states defer to the federal designation, ASA says, which ranks marijuana as a Schedule I substance — in other words, dope. While Oregon is already a medical marijuana state, the ASA says these kinds of official classification changes help push the federal government to come into the 21st Century with regard to its view of pot.

The Obama Administration has already directed federal law enforcement to relax on its rousting of medical marijuana practitioners, but the ASA is campaigning for more meaningful and permanent changes from the President. The California State Assembly Committee on Health recently passed a resolution urging Obama to do just that. The measure appeals to the feds to create a medical marijuana policy that not only reflects the growing view of pot as medicine, but ensures patients’ ability to get it safely if they would “benefit from it.”

Yoga’s Mind/Body Benefits May Lead to Insurance Coverage

Written by buzz. Posted in Health

Studies show yoga improves sleep, reduces dependence on sedatives and helps cancer patients resume the activities of normal life, benefits that may lead to insurance coverage for yoga classes such as this one.

Yoga, long associated with Eastern mysticism and tony health clubs, is actually quite egalitarian.  Once someone learns the moves and breathing techniques, no special equipment or clothing is required.  What doctors have long suspected and scientists are now proving, is that yoga is remarkable effective in treating the side effects of the most egalitarian of all diseases – cancer.

According to a 410 participant study highlighted at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Annual Meeting in June, yoga was shown to improved sleep, reduce dependence on sedatives and help cancer patients resume the activities of normal life.  “Clinicians should now feel pretty comfortable prescribing gentle Hatha yoga or restorative yoga for their patients,” said Karen Mustian, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the department of radiation oncology and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Doctors were particularly interested in yoga’s ability to clear mental fog and ease the fatigue that can afflict cancer patients for years after they are cured. The Rochester study focused on cancer survivors with half of the patients were assigned to yoga classes twice a week for one month. At trial’s end, 31 percent of yoga patients no longer had the sleep disruptions, twice the recovery rate of the control group. Yoga practitioners also reported a 42 percent reduction in fatigue, compared with a 12 percent reduction for those who didn’t take classes.

Dozens of smaller studies show similar results, yet health insurers and government programs won’t pay for yoga. It is hoped that this research in addition to more than $5 million in additional studies funded this year by the National Institutes of Health may provide enough evidence to allow coverage.

So promising is the idea of mind-body intervention into disease that the National Cancer Institute awarded its largest grant ever, $4.5 million, to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  Researchers there will compare yoga to meditation and to stretching and will analyze the economic benefits from increased productivity at work. “Once we can show an economic impact, you’ll start to see changes,” Lorenzo Cohen, professor of behavioral science and cancer prevention at the University. “Companies want to provide services that keep their employees healthy and productive.

Fortunately for some cancer patients, one hospital isn’t waiting for more evidence.  Beth Israel Medical Center in New York is one of the few facilities in the country to offer personal yoga-therapy instruction for all of its sickest cancer patients.

One of the patients benefitting is David Goldberg, a 30 year old computer programmer with leukemia, who receives yoga instruction at his hospital bed.  Because his immune system is so compromised from five rounds of chemotherapy, Goldberg’s instructor wears a mask.  Goldberg’s session includes slow gentle stretches, starting with his feet and ending with his shoulders, and breathing instructions to take him away from the hospital sounds and into his own body. “I’m hooked up to a machine, so I can’t totally forget that I have this. For me, it’s just an amazing experience to feel where my body is and what I’m experiencing,” he said.

Pot Poll: Forget The “Medical,” Just Give Us The Marijuana

Written by buzz. Posted in Health

Too hippie?

Cannabis Science, Inc., a biotech company focused on creating marijuana based medicinal products, is pretty pleased with current events in California, even after the city of Los Angeles announced it will be closing about 400 medical dope dispensaries. That’s because polls are showing 49 percent of the populace there supports full pot legalization, with just 41 percent against it. And those same citizens will likely be voting on that very question come November.

What’s more, the ranks of those in favor of full legalization, Cannabis Science believes, is bound to increase as outraged patients react to Los Angeles’ curious move.

If pot is fully legalized, it will make moot most of the challenges that medical marijuana businesses currently face — at least in the state of California. Cannabis Science, in particular, is trying to develop marijuana based pharmaceuticals for approval by the Federal Drug Administration. In a June 8 press release touting the poll numbers, company CFO Richard Cowan said the only way to protect patients is to fully legalize marijuana. It looks like the people of California agree.

The November ballot measure would legalize growing and consuming pot. The poll was conducted by the Los Angeles Times and University of Southern California. The sample size was 1,500 and the margin of error is 2.6 percent.

There Might Be Bears

Written by buzz. Posted in Health

Keep all food — and any scented products — well away from your campsite

Thankfully, we don’t need to worry too much about lions and tigers when we take to the mountains and forests to hike or camp. (Well, cougars in some locations, but that seems to be pretty rare). What is not so rare is to encounter a bear! Population sprawl has driven bears into suburban communities and has exposed them to the influence of humans. Namely, human food. Yogi, that pesky cartoon bear, loved those picnic baskets, but you really wouldn’t want to meet up with him face-to-face at your campsite.

Zookeepers at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo recently staged a demonstration with two of the park’s grizzlies to make a point. They set up a mock campsite with typical coolers and tents full of typical camping food, then kicked back to see what would happen. The grizzlies quickly transformed the site into a big bear supermarket. They crushed the coolers and tore apart sleeping bags in search of a hidden granola bar. “They know what they’re looking for,” said Woodland Park’s Julie Hopkins. “They’re following their noses for every good smell they can find.” Wildlife experts say brown bears can remember 10 years later where they found a good food source.

Bear-resistant containers are smooth and rounding to prevent bears from gripping

The lesson learned here is to always, always keep food well away from your campsite’s sleeping area, at least 100 feet away. And while hanging food in trees is one method to keep the bears away, some parks, such as Yellowstone National Park, don’t allow it. Bear-resistant containers have proven to be a far better deterrent. Made from a tough ABS polymer with smooth sides and rounded edges, bears have nothing to grip onto. Lids are secured with stainless steel locks that are easy for humans to open with a coin or a screwdriver, but are difficult for bears to open. Anything with a scent should be stowed in the canister, and this includes sunscreen, soap, mosquito repellent, lip balm, deodorant, medications, toothpaste, and feminine products — along with food, of course. Keep the canisters locked, placed on a level surface 100 feet or more from the campsite, away from cliffs or water sources so a bear can’t knock it down a hill or roll it into the water. Additionally, don’t attach a rope as bears could easily carry it away. Some people place pots and pans on top of the canister to sound an alarm if a bear disturbs the container. For hikers, carry the canister in your pack and replace food that you eat with other items to conserve space.

Wild bears have a natural fear of humans and will attempt to avoid people, but they can become aggressive once they’ve had a taste of human food. In addition to securing your food, are some helpful tips for avoiding bears on your next hiking or camping trip.

  • Make plenty of noise so you don’t surprise bears that may be on your path. (Attach a bell to your backpack).
  • Try to travel with the wind at your back. Bears can smell your scent from miles away if the wind is in the right direction.
  • Some experts say that dogs can provoke a bear attack. It may be advisable to not bring your dog along when travelling in bear country.
  • Bears are more active at dawn and sunset from May to October.
  • Bear repellent spray is a pressurized cayenne pepper that can be projected up to 8 meters, causing burning and tearing of the eyes and inflammation of the lungs and throat. The effects of the bear spray last up to an hour but do not cause lasting damage. (Carry in an easily accessible holster). Use bear spray only if the bear charges to within a few meters.

Bottom line? Bears are not Yogi or Smokey. They are large, fast, and potentially vicious wild animals, and when we encroach into their habitat, common sense and pre-planning must prevail. Lions and tigers? Not so much. But bears? Oh my.

Lead Safety Still A Factor After All These Years

Written by buzz. Posted in Health

Lead poisoning is especially dangerous for children

Even the Romans knew that lead was poisonous, and yet they so enjoyed its diverse everyday uses, they couldn’t stop using it. Roman aqueducts were made of lead, as well as utensils and wine vessels, and the upper crust of Roman society in particular consumed lead in vast amounts over time leading to illness, madness, and death — and probably contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. After their fall, lead continued to serve a variety of functions, including printing presses, alchemy (with hopes of turning lead into gold), and guns and gunpowder. In addition, lead was known to be extremely convenient for eliminating inconvenient relatives.

Lead continued to be important to the economies of modern times. By 1980, the United States was consuming about 1.3 million tons of lead per year according to a National Academy of Science report. Lead was used as a gasoline additive from the 1920s until the late 1970s when the Environmental Protection Agency finally phased it out. Lead has been used in paint and plumbing pipes, and homes built before the mid-1970s are likely still tainted. Today, lead content remains a concern with products and toys imported from other countries — lead poisoning is especially dangerous for children.

Imported toys are a safety concern for lead content

Why is lead so dangerous? The body has no use for it, and yet ingested (or inhaled in the form of lead dust), the body replaces other vital metals such as zinc, calcium, and iron with lead in biochemical reactions. It can then affect blood pressure (causing developmental delays in children and high blood pressure in adults), trigger anemia, and affect sperm production. Lead displaces calcium, adversely altering electrical impulses in the brain which diminishes cognitive and memory functions.

Lead poisoning can occur if a person is exposed to high levels of lead over a short period of time. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Pain or tingling in hands or feet
  • Weakness

Lead is listed by the EPA and other agencies as carcinogenic, and exposure has been linked to infertility, risk of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. Scientists are concerned that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for pregnant women and young children.

Surprisingly, lead is still prevalent in our society. From artists to battery manufacturers to miners and plumbers, lead exposure is a very real danger. Here are some tips to protect yourself if you work or live in an environment with lead:

  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke in areas where lead is handled or processed.
  • Use an effective lead removal product to clean your hands if you work with lead, such as stained glass solder. Standard soap and water is not enough to remove lead residues from your skin.
  • Shower and change clothes and shoes after working around lead-based products.
  • Work in areas that are well-ventilated.
  • Talk with our doctor about workplace lead exposure if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
  • Be diligent about the origin of children’s toys and their exposure to lead in their environment, especially if you live in an older home.

Move Over Cyclists, Poker Player Doping Is Huge

Written by buzz. Posted in Health

Is that my hand or am I hallucinating?

At first glance, the findings of a new study from Nova Southeastern University in Florida make it sound as though the thing should soon be published in “The Journal Duh.” The trumpeted conclusion: Poker players use drugs to enhance performance.

You mean people that make money from one vice partake in another? Noooo. You mean people ingest something to stay awake and focused while competing in a 30-hour tournament? You don’ say.

But the specifics of the findings are genuinely kooky. Reading them, I still say “No way,” but with incredulity rather than sarcasm.

According to a press release from Nova Southeastern, researchers found that about 80 percent of poker players around the world use drugs to improve their game. That’s where the “duh” for the most part stops. The “whaaa?” part commences with a list of the drugs they use. Some of them include valium, marijuana, hydrocodone and alcohol.

The reasons for stimulants are obvious, needing to stay awake for many, many hours of high stakes concentration — of course, I’m not sure all people on cocaine are that good at quietly focusing on a single task of the mind. Apparently, the downers and light psychoactive drugs are used to increase the players’ concentration. Whaaaat? Who’s concentration improves while stoned?

My hunch is that these players think they’re being helped, but are sorely mistaken and just too stoned to realize it. I’ve known people who’ve claimed heightened concentration while high, but since I was speaking with them, I know for a fact, they were dead wrong.

Genetics Aside Women Can Modify Breast Cancer Risk A New Study Shows

Written by buzz. Posted in Health

New study shows multiple risk factors do not increase overall breast cancer risk.

Nearly 40 million US women die of breast cancer each year, making it the second cause of death among US women overall.  While there is no cure, scientists do know genetics, obesity, alcohol consumption and hormone replacement therapy are all risk factors for breast cancer.

Until today, researchers assumed there might be dangerous interactions if a woman was genetically prone to breast cancer and had one or more of the lifestyle related risk factors, such as hormone replacement therapy.  It was thought a woman with these combined factors would be at especially high risk for the disease.  Now, from Britain comes some good news that shows this thinking was wrong.

According to a study published June 2 in the British medical journal, Lancet, scientists found that found that although genetic mutations and lifestyle choices both contribute to cancer, they do so separately and do not mix for a more deadly effect.

Using a statistical analysis to examine the relationship between genetic and lifestyle factors, British researchers studied 7,610 women with breast cancer and 10,196 women without it.  Each woman provided a blood sample for genetic testing and information about other risk factors including obesity, alcohol consumption and hormone replacement therapy.

Researchers studied genetic mutations that are carried in up to 60 percent of women and known to increase a woman’s breast cancer risk from 10 to 20 percent.  Not studied were the rare BRCA genes which dramatically increase the risk of breast cancer.

“There’s a danger of feeling you’re at the fate of your genes,” said Ruth Travis of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford and the study’s lead author. “But whatever you’re born with, there are things you can do to modify your risk.” Britain’s Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK paid for the study.

Battles To Protect Alleged Jamaican Trafficker Claim Lives

Written by buzz. Posted in Health

Suspected drug and gun trafficker Christopher “Dudus” Coke was at the center of at least 50 deaths in Kingston, Jamaica, as of May 26; but his involvement doesn’t include drug overdoses or illegal arms. The deaths are the result of battles between Jamaican citizens trying to protect him and government officials trying to capture and extradite him to the United States.

The U.S. says Coke is a cocaine and gun kingpin responsible for untold numbers of drug and gun deaths. Coke’s Kingston neighbors say he’s a benefactor to impoverished people.

The people trying to stop Coke’s extradition to New York know him as a kind man who tirelessly supports and assists a largely destitute population. To many in Kingston, he is a savior in a place where nobody else seems to care. Of course, families of cocaine addicts, gunshot casualties and overdose victims in the U.S. have a starkly different view.

In the U.S., people are angry at the devastation by which Coke is alleged to have built a fortune. In Kingston, people are incensed that someone is trying to kidnap and imprison the only one that is willing to spend a fortune to help them.

Well, guess I can cross Jamaica off the places that would still welcome an American tourist on vacation. Geez, this list is getting short.

Twitter BUZZ