‘Dabbling’ in Hard Drugs in Middle Age Linked to Increased Risk of Death

Newswise — Young adults often experiment with hard drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and opiates, and all but about 10 percent stop as they assume adult roles and responsibilities. Those still using hard drugs into their 50s are five times more likely to die earlier than those who do not, according to a new study by University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers published online Jan. 27, 2012, in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.4 percent of Americans ages 50-59 and 7 percent of adults ages 35-49 reported use of a drug other than marijuana sometime in the past year. The study’s lead author, Stefan Kertesz, M.D., associate professor in the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine. and colleagues attempted to discover if lifelong hard-drug use shortens lifespan to better enable primary-care doctors to advise patients who use drugs recreationally.

“While government guidelines have not endorsed screening for drugs in primary care, many doctors are challenged when they discover patients continue to dabble with them,” Kertesz says. “In primary-care practice, we often hear from stable patients who report using some cocaine, irregularly, perhaps on weekends. It’s an underappreciated but very common situation. The typical question physicians have to ask is ‘If this patient doesn’t have addiction, what advice can I give other than noting that it’s unwise to break the law?’ After all, we are supposed to be doctors, not law enforcement.”

Kertesz and a research team from other universities looked at data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study for their analysis. CARDIA, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, is a long-term research project involving more than 5,000 black and white men and women from Birmingham, Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland, designed to examine the development and determinants of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors. Participants ages 18-30 were recruited and followed from 1985 to 2006.

The research team looked specifically at the reported use of “hard drugs” by 4,301 of the CARDIA participants. They compared people who stopped drug use early to those who continued and calculated the likelihood of premature death among these groups.

“Fourteen percent of the people in the study reported recent hard-drug use at least once, and of these, half continued using well into middle age,” Kertesz says. “But, most of the drug users in our study were not addicts. They were dabblers who used just a few days a month.”

Kertesz and his colleagues found that older hard-drug users were more likely to report being raised in economically challenged circumstances in a family that was unsupportive, abusive or neglectful. The team also found that those who were heavy drug users into young adulthood and continued at lower levels into middle age were roughly five times more likely to die than persons who didn’t use drugs.

“We can’t assume that drugs caused death, as in an overdose,” he says. “Rather what we found is that middle-age adults who continue to dabble in hard drugs represent a group that is at risk of bad outcomes — which could include death from trauma, heart disease or other causes that are not a direct result of their drug use — at a higher rate than people who stopped using drugs.”

Kertesz added that the team’s findings are a reminder that people who continue to use drugs are potentially quite vulnerable. They often have grown up under economic and psychosocial stress from childhood onward. They continue to smoke and drink and they remain at elevated risk of premature death.

“Based on the data we hope to offer better advice to primary-care doctors struggling with the rising tide of drug-taking by adults who have not left behind many of the bad habits they learned in young adulthood,” he says.

Study co-authors include Yulia Khodneva, M.D., Monika Safford, M.D., and Joseph Schumacher, Ph.D., UAB Division of Preventive Medicine; Jalie Tucker, Ph.D., UAB School of Public Health; Joshua Richman, M.D., Ph.D., UAB Department of Surgery; Bobby Jones, Ph. D., Department of Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University; and Mark J. Pletcher, M.D., departments of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

Released: 1/27/2012

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/dabbling-in-hard-drugs-in-middle-age-linked-to-increased-risk-of-death

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Take a Big Fat Break this Mardi Gras Because Carnival Means “So long” to Meat

– Meatless Monday campaign offers delicious recipes for the lean days ahead-

Mardi Gras, also called Carnival, celebrates the last day of indulgence before the start of the Lenten season. During Lent, millions of households will cut back on meat and other rich foods. Meatless Monday offers recipes with photos to help observers through the “lean” weeks of Lent and beyond. With the simplicity of Meatless Monday, reducing meat in our diets is easier than you think and the health benefits can be huge.

Newswise — For centuries, Mardi Gras – or Fat Tuesday, also called Carnival – has celebrated the last day of indulgence before the start of the Lenten season. During Lent, millions of households will cut back on meat and other rich foods during this period of purification. The word Carnival itself stems from the Latin carne vale, or “farewell to flesh.”

Today, there are more reasons than ever to take the occasional break from meat. Reducing the amount of meat in our diets can benefit our personal health, the environment and even our wallets. Meatless Monday, a public health initiative produced in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future, advises foregoing meat just one day a week as one way to reap these benefits. “It’s easier than you think and the payoff can be huge,” says Robert Lawrence, MD, director of the Center for a Livable Future. “Eating less meat not only helps lower cholesterol and decrease cancer risks; it reduces your carbon footprint and helps conserve water. Plus, plant-based meals cost less, an added bonus during these economically tough times.”

Many Americans are heeding the call for a healthier diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that we will be eating about 12% less meat in 2012 than we did five years ago.

The simplicity of Meatless Monday has turned the initiative into a global movement. The campaign is now flourishing in 22 countries and counts among its followers such celebrities as film director James Cameron; co-host of ABC’s The Chew, chef Mario Batali; hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons; and former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney.

A poll conducted by FGI Research for The Monday Campaigns found that more than 50% of Americans were aware of the Meatless Monday movement, with 27% of those aware actively participating.

Meatless Monday offers hundreds of recipes in its online database to help observers through the “lean” weeks of Lent and beyond, including Smothered Mushrooms (http://www.meatlessmonday.com/smothered-mushrooms) and Spicy Rice with Kale (http://www.meatlessmonday.com/spicy-rice-with-kale).

Released: 1/25/2012          Source: The Monday Campaigns

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/take-a-big-fat-break-this-mardi-gras-because-carnival-means-so-long-to-meat

People Lie More When Texting

Wichita State University professor David Xu said people are less likely to lie via video chat than when in person.

Newswise — Sending a text message leads people to lie more often than in other forms of communication, according to new research by David Xu, assistant professor in the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University.

Xu is lead author of the paper, which compares the level of deceit people will use in a variety of media, from text messages to face-to-face interactions.

The study will appear in the March edition of the Journal of Business Ethics. The other co-authors are professor Karl Aquino and associate professor Ronald Cenfetelli with the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.

How the study worked

The study involved 170 students from the Sauder School performing mock stock transactions in one of four ways: face-to-face, or by video, audio or text chatting.

Researchers promised cash awards of up to $50 to increase participants’ involvement in the role play. “Brokers” were promised increased cash rewards for more stock sales, while “buyers” were told their cash reward would depend on the yet-to-be-determined value of the stock.

The brokers were given inside knowledge that the stock was rigged to lose half of its value. Buyers were only informed of this fact after the mock sales transaction and were asked to report whether the brokers had employed deceit to sell their stock.

The authors then analyzed which forms of communication led to more deception. They found that buyers who received information via text messages were 95 percent more likely to report deception than if they had interacted via video, 31 percent more likely to report deception when compared to face-to-face, and 18 percent more likely if the interaction was via audio chat.

The fact that people were less likely to lie via video than in person was surprising, Xu said, but makes sense given the so-called “spotlight” effect, where a person feels they’re being watched more closely on video than face-to-face.

Xu said this kind of research has implications for consumers to avoid problems such as online fraud, and for businesses looking to promote trust and build a good image, Xu said.

Released: 1/25/2012

Source: Wichita State University

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/people-lie-more-when-texting

Cohabitating Valentines Are Happier Than Wedded Couples

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. — When it comes to the well-being of married versus cohabitating Valentines, wedded couples experience few advantages in psychological well-being and social ties, according to a new study at Cornell University.

The study, “Reexamining the Case for Marriage: Union Formation and Changes in Well-being,” is being published in the February issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family(available online: http://bit.ly/xL4t9U).

“We found that differences between marriage and cohabitation tend to be small and dissipate after a honeymoon period. Also while married couples experienced health gains – likely linked to the formal benefits of marriage such as shared health care plans – cohabiting couples experienced greater gains in happiness and self-esteem. For some, cohabitation may come with fewer unwanted obligations than marriage and allow for more flexibility, autonomy and personal growth,” said Kelly Musick, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell’s College of Human Ecology, who co-authored the study with sociologist Larry Bumpass of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Marriage has long been an important social institution, but in recent decades western societies have experienced increases in cohabitation, before or instead of marriage, and increases in children born outside of marriage,” said Musick. “These changes have blurred the boundaries of marriage, leading to questions about what difference marriage makes in comparison to alternatives.”

Previous research has sought to prove a link between marriage and well-being, but many studies compared marriage to being single, or compared marriages and cohabitations at a single point in time.

This study compares marriage to cohabitation while using a fixed-effects approach that focuses on what changes occur when single men and women move into marriage or cohabitation and the extent to which any effects of marriage and cohabitation persist over time.

The researchers used a sample from the National Survey of Families and Households of 2,737 single men and women, 896 of whom married or moved in with a partner over the course of six years. The study focused on key areas of well-being, considering questions on happiness, levels of depression, health and social ties.

“Compared to most industrial countries, America continues to value marriage above other family forms,” concluded Musick. “However our research shows that marriage is by no means unique in promoting well-being and that other forms of romantic relationships can provide many of the same benefits.”

The study was funded in part by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Released: 1/24/2012

Source:  Cornell University

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/cohabitating-valentines-are-happier-than-wedded-couples-finds-study

Walking and Texting at the Same Time? Stony Brook Study Says Think Again!

A Stony Brook University study that tested cell phone use/texting while walking showed use of the mobile device often results in walking errors and interferes with memory recall.

Newswise — STONY BROOK, N.Y., January 18, 2012 – Talking on a cell phone or texting while walking may seem natural and easy, but it could be dangerous and result in walking errors and interfere with memory recall. Researchers at Stony Brook University found this to be the case in a study of young people walking and using their cell phones. The study is reported in the online edition of Gait & Posture.

Thirty-three men and women in their 20s, all of whom reported owning and using a cell phone and familiar with texting, participated in the study. To assess walking abilities, participants completed a baseline test. Each participant was shown a target on the floor eight meters away. Then, by obstructing vision of the target and floor, participants were instructed to walk at a comfortable pace to the target and stop. They repeated the same walk three times. After each walk, the amount of time it took and the position where each participant stopped was measured.

Participants returned one week later. With vision occluded except for the ability to see a cell phone, one-third completed the exact same task; one-third completed the task while talking on a cell phone; and one-third completed the task while texting.

“We were surprised to find that talking and texting on a cell phone were so disruptive to one’s gait and memory recall of the target location,” says Eric M. Lamberg, PT, EdD, co-author of the study and Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, School of Health Technology and Management, Stony Brook University.

Dr. Lamberg summarized that the changes from the baseline blindfolded walk to testing indicated that participants who were using a cell phone to text while walking and those who used a cell phone to talk while walking were significantly slower, with 33 and 16 percent reductions in speed, respectively. Moreover, participants who were texting while walking veered off course demonstrating a 61 percent increase in lateral deviation and 13 percent increase in distance traveled.

Although walking seems automatic, areas in the brain controlling executive function and attention are necessary for walking. Dr. Lamberg says that the significant reductions in velocity and difficulty maintaining course indicates cell phone use and texting impacts working memory of these tasks.

“We are using the findings to help physical therapy patients improve true functional walking while making them aware that some tasks may affect their gait and/or certain aspects of memory recall,” said Dr. Lamberg. He emphasizes that using a cell phone while walking reflects a “real world” activity, one that recovering patients are likely to engage in sooner rather than later during their recovery process.

Lisa M. Muratori, PT, EdD, study co-author and Clinical Associate Professor in Stony Brook’s Department of Physical Therapy, points out that the study is also being used to help them further understand the underlying mechanism causing the difficulty in performing the dual-task of walking while using a cell phone.

Drs. Muratori and Lamberg believe that these results bring new and important insight into the effects of multi-tasking with mobile devices. Elucidating the cause of this disruption may allow for new physical therapy treatment interventions and modifications in technology – such as voice-activated texts – that may lessen the potential dangers of walking while using hand-held devices.

Both authors describe the results as preliminary, with the need for further studies with larger and more varied populations.

Released: 1/18/2012

Source: Stony Brook University Medical Center

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/walking-and-texting-at-the-same-time-stony-brook-study-says-think-again

We May Be Less Happy, but Our English Language Isn’t

Newswise — “If it bleeds, it leads,” goes the cynical saying with television and newspaper editors. In other words, most news is bad news and the worst news gets the big story on the front page.

So one might expect the New York Times to contain, on average, more negative and unhappy types of words — like “war,” ” funeral,” “cancer,” “murder” — than positive, happy ones — like “love,” “peace” and “hero.”

Or take Twitter. A popular image of what people tweet about may contain a lot of complaints about bad days, worse coffee, busted relationships and lousy sitcoms. Again, it might be reasonable to guess that a giant bag containing all the words from the world’s tweets — on average — would be more negative and unhappy than positive and happy.

But new research shows just the opposite.

“English, it turns out, is strongly biased toward being positive,” said Peter Dodds, an applied mathematician at the University of Vermont.

The UVM team’s study “Positivity of the English Language,” is presented in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

This new study complements another study the same Vermont scientists presented in the Dec. 7 issue of PLoS ONE, “Temporal Patterns of Happiness and Information in a Global Social Network.”

That work attracted wide media attention showing that average global happiness, based on Twitter data, has been dropping for the past two years.

Combined, the two studies show that short-term average happiness has dropped — against the backdrop of the long-term fundamental positivity of the English language.

In the new study, Dodds and his colleagues gathered billions of words from four sources: twenty years of the New York Times, the Google Books Project (with millions of titles going back to 1520), Twitter and a half-century of music lyrics.

“The big surprise is that in each of these four sources it’s the same,” says Dodds. “We looked at the top 5,000 words in each, in terms of frequency, and in all of those words you see a preponderance of happier words.”

Or, as they write in their study, “a positivity bias is universal,” both for very common words and less common ones and across sources as diverse as tweets, lyrics and British literature.

Why is this? “It’s not to say that everything is fine and happy,” Dodds says. “It’s just that language is social.”

In contrast to traditional economic theory, which suggests people are inherently and rationally selfish, a wave of new social science and neuroscience data shows something quite different: that we are a pro-social storytelling species. As language emerged and evolved over the last million years, positive words, it seems, have been more widely and deeply engrained into our communications than negative ones.

“If you want to remain in a social contract with other people, you can’t be a…,” well, Dodds here used a word that is rather too negative to be fit to print — which makes the point.

This new work adds depth to the Twitter study that the Vermont scientists published in December that attracted attention from NPR, Time magazine and other media outlets.

“After that mild downer story, we can say, ‘But wait — there’s still happiness in the bank,” Dodds notes. “On average, there’s always a net happiness to language.”

Both studies drew on a service from Amazon called Mechanical Turk. On this website, the UVM researchers paid a group of volunteers to rate, from one to nine, their sense of the “happiness” — the emotional temperature — of the 10,222 most common words gathered from the four sources. Averaging their scores, the volunteers rated, for example, “laughter” at 8.50, “food” 7.44, “truck” 5.48, “greed” 3.06 and “terrorist” 1.30.

The Vermont team — including Dodds, Isabel Kloumann, Chris Danforth, Kameron Harris, and Catherine Bliss — then took these scores and applied them to the huge pools of words they collected. Unlike some other studies — with smaller samples or that elicited strong emotional words from volunteers — the new UVM study, based solely on frequency of use, found that “positive words strongly outnumber negative words overall.”

This seems to lend support to the so-called Pollyanna Principle, put forth in 1969, that argues for a universal human tendency to use positive words more often, easily and in more ways than negative words.

Of course, most people would rank some words, like “the,” with the same score: a neutral 5. Other words, like “pregnancy,” have a wide spread, with some people ranking it high and others low. At the top of this list of words that elicited strongly divergent feelings: “profanities, alcohol and tobacco, religion, both capitalism and socialism, sex, marriage, fast foods, climate, and cultural phenomena such as the Beatles, the iPhone, and zombies,” the researchers write.

“A lot of these words — the neutral words or ones that have big standard deviations — get washed out when we use them as a measure,” Dodds notes. Instead, the trends he and his team have observed are driven by the bulk of English words tending to be happy.

If we think of words as atoms and sentences as molecules that combine to form a whole text, “we’re looking at atoms,” says Dodds. “A lot of news is bad,” he says, and short-term happiness may rise and and fall like the cycles of the economy, “but the atoms of the story — of language — are, overall, on the positive side.”

Released: 1/12/2012

Source: University of Vermont

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/we-may-be-less-happy-but-our-language-isn-t

Some Like it Hot: Popular Yoga Style Cranks up the Heat

What You Need to Know to Prevent Injuries

Photo Credit, Hospital for Special Surgery. People practicing hot yoga should take certain precautions, said certified yoga instructor Diana Zotos of Hospital for Special Surgery.

Newswise — Yoga is one of the hottest fitness trends and a style known as “hot yoga” is gaining in popularity.

Hot yoga refers to yoga practiced in a heated environment, with the room temperature generally reaching 90 to 105 degrees. The theory behind it is that hot yoga helps the body to sweat out toxins while allowing the practitioner to safely achieve deeper poses. Bikram is a common form of hot yoga.

Almost 16 million Americans practice some form of yoga, according to a 2008 study in the Yoga Journal.

While the practice can offer health benefits and a sense of well-being, people practicing hot yoga, especially beginners, should take certain precautions, according to Diana Zotos, a certified yoga instructor and physical therapist in the Rehabilitation Department at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.

“Yoga of any type is physically challenging, and the heated environment of hot yoga makes the practice especially demanding,” Zotos says. “The heat makes people feel as if they can stretch deeper into poses and can give them a false sense of flexibility. This can lead to muscle strains or damage to the joint, including ligaments and cartilage.”

Zotos says people over 40 who have never done Bikram yoga may be at greater risk of injury, and she recommends they familiarize themselves with it prior to trying a class. “There are many books and videos that describe this style and can demonstrate the poses and techniques,” she says. “Since classes are constructed of the same 26 poses, people can become familiar with them beforehand.”

Beginners should keep in mind that poses will require a certain level of leg, core and upper body strength, as well as balance, according to Zotos. People should also have a tolerance for stretching and moderate flexibility in their legs and spine.

“The heat factor also puts more strain on the heart and challenges endurance. That being said, people should be of good cardiovascular health; have healthy hip, knee, spine and shoulder joints; shouldn’t have balance or neurological issues; and should have a general tolerance for excessive heat,” she advises.

Zotos has these additional tips:

• Be well-prepared. Bring a mat and towel, and
wear shorts and a tank top. If possible, bring a buddy. It can be more fun and less intimidating if you take your first class with a friend.
• Make sure you drink plenty of fluids well before class (but not coffee or soda). Don’t eat anything too heavy (more than 200 calories) two to three hours prior to class.
• Make sure the studio and teachers have a good reputation. Ask about their experience and credentials. The teacher should be certified in Bikram or another form of yoga.
• Try to arrive early. This way you can introduce yourself and speak with the instructor, pick a good spot in the studio to set up your mat and get comfortable with your surroundings and the heat.
• Start slowly and learn the basics. Never push yourself to the point of pain while stretching or assuming a position.
• Listen to your body. Stop at the first sign of discomfort. If you are extremely fatigued, take a break. Do not try yoga poses beyond your experience or comfort level.
• Don’t get discouraged if you can’t reach a pose. It’s not a competition.
• Ask questions if you’re not sure how to perform a pose.
• If you get dizzy, lightheaded, overheated or experience chest pain, STOP immediately. Seek medical assistance if necessary.

Anyone who questions whether hot yoga is safe for them should consult their physician, Zotos says. “If you have sensitivity to heat, if you’ve ever had heat stroke or tend to get fatigued, dizzy or dehydrated quickly, you should ask your doctor before starting hot yoga. Anyone with osteoarthritis, any rheumatologic arthritis, pain in muscles or a joint, or any kind of previous injury should check with their doctor.”

Zotos says it’s especially important that anyone who has hypertension, low blood pressure or heart disease check with their cardiologist before trying hot yoga.

For more tips concerning other forms of exercise and wellness advice, visit www.hss.edu/wellness.

Released: 1/16/2012

Source: Hospital for Special Surgery

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/some-like-it-hot-popular-yoga-style-cranks-up-the-heat

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