All of us having achieved a certain age know that having a purpose in life, a mission, is the best way to live. Younger people may also be aware of this, but, they may not have a living testimony of this truism. My own purpose has been to be “other directed,” to help my family, my friends and my patients. There are many good returns for doing so, like sleeping and aging better. I hope you continue dedicating your life to serving others.
Hugo Rodier, MD
People with “purpose in life” may age better
TIME (8/16, MacMillan) reports people who have “a purpose in life” may age better than those who do not, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry. Researchers found that people “who reported having goals and a sense of meaning were less likely to have weak grip strength and slow walking speeds,” which are both “signs of declining physical ability and risk factors for disability.”
Medscape (8/16, Harrison) reports that Carol Ryff, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin, wrote an accompanying editorial, which concluded, “Leading a life of purpose not only feels good and meaningful, existentially speaking, it may also be an area of rich potential in which intervention studies and public health education programs might contribute to improved health of our ever-growing aged population.”
Patients need not take full prescription of antibiotics
NBC Nightly News (7/27, story 10, 0:30, Holt) reported, “For years it’s been doctor’s orders, when you take antibiotics, make sure you finish them even if you feel better.” Investigators in the UK, however, are now “saying that may not always be necessary.” Their research revealed that “in people who came down with pneumonia in the hospital, a shorter course of antibiotics was just as effective as a longer course.” What’s more, a shorter course was also linked to “lower rates of recurrence and antibiotic resistance.”
USA Today (7/27, Bacon) reports that the author of the analysis published in the British Medical Journal writes that the belief that patients should always complete the full prescription of antibiotics, even if their condition improves, is “fallacious” and is likely a barrier to decreasing unnecessary use of antibiotics.
Taking NSAIDs may have unintended and worrisome consequences for people who vigorously exercise
The New York Times (7/5, Reynolds, Subscription Publication) reports that taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) “could have unintended and worrisome consequences for people who vigorously exercise,” researchers found. According to the findings from “two new studies,” NSAIDs may “overtax the kidneys during prolonged exercise and reduce muscles’ ability to recover afterward.” One study was published online in the Emergency Medical Journal. The second study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Air pollution may be linked to likelihood of survival in patients with liver cancer
Reuters (6/21, Kennedy) reports that research suggests that for individuals “diagnosed with liver cancer, living in an area with heavy air pollution from industry, traffic or smoke is linked to lower odds of survival.” The study indicated “the association between levels of tiny particles known as PM 2.5 in the air and death from liver cancer or from any cause was strongest for people with the least advanced cancers.” The findings were published in the International Journal of Cancer.
Pollution levels below those considered safe may still increase risk for premature death
The CBS Evening News (6/28, story 8, 1:45, Mason) reported that a new study “shows that levels of air pollution considered safe can still shorten life spans.” The research “also found the air in Atlanta is among the worst in the country.”
The New York Times (6/28, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) “Well” blog reports that research on “more than 60 million Medicare recipients has found that even pollution levels below those generally considered safe increase the risk for premature death.” The findings were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The Los Angeles Times (6/28, Barboza) reports in “Science Now” that the investigators “found no sign of a ‘safe’ level of pollution, below which the risk of dying early tapered off.”
Yoga = physical therapy for relieving lower back pain
ABC World News Tonight (6/19, story 12, 0:15, Muir) reported on a new study “revealing that yoga is equal to physical therapy when it comes to relieving pain in your lower back.” The findings were published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
On the CBS Evening News (6/19, story 10, 1:55, Mason), medical correspondent Jon LaPook, MD, was shown saying, “In the study, 320 adults with moderate-to-severe back pain received one of three approaches over 12 weeks – weekly yoga classes, 15 physical therapy visits, or education about how to cope with back pain.” The study found that not only was yoga “just as effective as physical therapy,” but also that “both groups were about 20 percent less likely to use pain medication than patients receiving education alone.”
“Chronic Lyme disease” misdiagnoses increasing (CDC)
The Washington Post (6/15, Sun) says more Americans “are being misdiagnosed with ‘chronic Lyme disease’ and prescribed dangerous and often expensive treatments that do not work,” according to “a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” The article states that the “CDC is trying to raise awareness about the dangers of misdiagnosis and unproven treatments,” adding that study author Christina Nelson, MD, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, says neither the CDC nor “the National Institutes of Health recommends using the diagnosis ‘chronic Lyme disease,’” which is often a clinical determination lacking “objective evidence” such as laboratory testing.
NYTimes analysis: US has entered “age of anxiety”
On the front page of its Style section, the New York Times (6/11, Williams, Subscription Publication) reported that while the US in the 1990s was deemed “Prozac [fluoxetine] Nation,” now the spread of anxiety has transformed the country into the “United States of Xanax [alprazolam].” According to the Times, “anxiety is starting to seem like a sociological condition, too: a shared cultural experience that feeds on alarmist CNN graphics and metastasizes through social media.” The Times added that “as depression was to the 1990s…so it seems we have entered a new Age of Anxiety.”
Consumption of sugary foods, drinks during pregnancy may increase children’s risk of allergies
CNN (7/5, Scutti) reports, “Women who consume too many sugary foods and drinks during pregnancy may be increasing their children’s risk of developing an allergy or allergic asthma,” researchers found. The findings were published online in the European Respiratory Journal.
Drinking alcohol every few days protects against type 2 diabetes
TIME (7/27, MacMillan) reports, “Drinking alcohol – especially wine – every few days may help protect against type 2 diabetes.” The findings were published in Diabetologia. Researchers looked at “data from more than 70,000 healthy Danish adults who were surveyed about their health and drinking habits around 2007,” then tracked “them for five years.”
CNN (7/27, Scutti) reports that the researchers found that “compared to people drinking less than one day each week, men who drink frequently had a 27% lower risk while women had a 32% lower risk.”
Some plant-based diets are better for circulation than others
Reuters (7/17, Seaman) reports that while “people may turn to vegetarian diets to reduce their risk of heart disease,” research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology “suggests not all plant-based foods are created equal.”
MedPage Today (7/17, Bachert) reports that investigators found that “in three ongoing prospective cohort studies, higher adherence to a plant-based diet index was modestly linked to lower coronary heart disease (CHD) incidence.” However, “the inverse association was significantly stronger for adherence to a healthier version of the plant-based diet – with high levels of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and legumes and nuts.”
HealthDay (7/17, Norton) reports, meanwhile, that “diets heavy in pasta, bread, potatoes and sweets appeared just as bad as, if not worse than, diets high in animal products.”
Poor diet, obesity and inactivity could overtake smoking in cancer death risk
USA Today (6/9, O’Donnell) reports researchers suggest that “as the rate of smoking decreases, other unhealthy habits,” such as poor diet, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, and excess weight, “threaten to offset the progress in reducing cancer deaths.” The issue was discussed by researchers from the American Cancer Society at a recent meeting of the Council of Accountable Care Physicians.
Phthalates found in high concentrations in mac and cheese mixes made with powdered cheese
In “Well,” the New York Times (7/12, Rabin, Subscription Publication) reports that phthalates, chemicals that “can disrupt male hormones like testosterone and have been linked to genital birth defects in infant boys and learning and behavior problems in older children,” may “still be present in high concentrations in your child’s favorite meal: macaroni and cheese mixes made with powdered cheese.” A “study [pdf] of 30 cheese products has detected phthalates in all but one of the samples tested, with the highest concentrations found in the highly processed cheese powder in boxed mac and cheese mixes.”
Long-term dietary improvements may be associated with decreased risk of death
STAT (7/12, Sheridan) reports that “long-term improvements in diet were associated with a significantly decreased risk of death,” researchers found. The study revealed that “making mostly healthier choices for 12 years could decrease someone’s risk of death during the next 12 years by 20 percent.” The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Coffee consumption may be linked to longer life
On its website, CBS News (7/10, Welch) reports people who drink coffee may live longer, according to two new studies that were both published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The first study “found that drinking one cup of coffee a day was associated with a 12 percent decrease in risk of death,” and that drinking “two to three cups a day” decreased the risk of death by 18 percent. The second study “found coffee consumption was linked with a lower risk of death from all causes, and specifically for circulatory diseases and digestive diseases.”
Reuters (7/10, Seaman) reports that researchers from Johns Hopkins wrote in an accompanying editorial, “Recommending coffee intake to reduce mortality or prevent chronic disease would be premature,” but “it is increasingly evident that moderate coffee intake up to 3 to 5 cups per day or caffeine intake up to 400 mg/d is not associated with adverse health effects in adults and can be incorporated into a healthy diet.”
Surgery may not be best option for localized prostate cancer
Reuters (7/12, Emery) reports that a “study that has followed prostate cancer patients for up to two decades concludes that surgery is probably not the best option for most men with localized tumors.” The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The AP (7/12, Marchione) reports that investigators found “after 20 years, death rates were roughly similar for those who had immediate surgery and those initially assigned to monitoring, and surgery had more side effects.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (7/12, Olson) reports, however, that “the results…did show that surgery was probably a better option for younger men with long life expectancies.”
Many small tumors detected through mammography are biologically prone to slow growth
The NPR (6/7, Stein) “Shots” blog reports that researchers “may have solved a big medical mystery: why mammograms don’t save more lives.” In “a study involving thousands of breast cancer cases,” the investigators found “that a significant proportion of tumors detected through mammography are not small because they are found early.” Rather, “the tumors are small because they are biologically prone to slow growth.” The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Healio (6/7, Gormley) reports that researcher Donald R. Lannin, MD, said, “This paper shows that a large portion of small cancers are small, not because they were diagnosed early, but because they are biologically favorable and grow so slowly that they will never become large. Therefore, small cancers have a good prognosis, not because they were caught earlier, but because they are fundamentally different in their composition.”
BPA still in many canned foods, study indicates
CBS News (6/14) reports “Bisphenol A, or BPA, has been removed from baby products, reusable water bottles and most toys. But the chemical is still being used in a lot of food packaging.” CBS explains “the Center for Environmental Health recently tested more than 250 cans purchased at supermarkets and dollar stores for BPA” and “found nearly 40 percent contained the chemical…down from 67 percent two years ago, but the number still concerns some experts.” Charles Margulis of the Center said, “It’s still much too high. … We need to get it down to zero.”
- J. Neurology Rev 2017 August p4, J. Sleep Sci Prac 2017 July 10 Epub ↑