Drug Interactions a Serious Health Concern

We live in an age where medical and pharmaceutical research is something we take for granted. The medical procedures and medications we rely on to maintain and improve our health are often seen as safe, reliable and easy to obtain. Yet these advances in medical technology do not come without risks, especially when we take two or more types of drugs. The risk of drugs interacting with one another to cause negative, and potentially deadly, side effects is a very real one, and one that leads to a shockingly high number of deaths and injuries each year.Drug Interactions Deadlier Than Car CrashesAbout 34,000 people die every year as the result of automobile crashes, while more than 2 million people sustain injuries. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration reports that , or ADRs, are responsible for killing nearly three times as many people as those killed in car crashes. The FDA reports that about 100,000 people die from ADRs each year, while another 2 million suffer serious complications.Drugs a Part of Modern LifeThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 82 percent of the population takes at least one type of medication, while nearly 30 percent take five or more types of drugs. These figures include both over-the-counter medications, as well as prescription drugs.The CDC also reports that about 700,000 people visit emergency rooms every year because of ADRs, while another 120,000 people have to be hospitalized. The extra expenses caused by ADRs account for an additional $3.5 billion in health care costs every year.A Growing, and Often Preventable, ProblemDrug companies are constantly developing new medications, while researchers are regularly discovering new uses for already existing drugs. The population is, as a whole, becoming much older, and older Americans are much more likely to regularly use both prescription and over-the-counter medications than younger people. When these factors are combined with the fact that physicians are more often prescribing medications as a preventative measure, and more people have access to prescription drug coverage, the trend lines are clear; adverse drug interactions will increase, and continue to do so, for the foreseeable future.Fortunately, there is at least one positive factor in all of this. …

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Asbestos Blunder Results in Demolition Firm Fine

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Asbestos Blunder Results in Demolition Firm FineAsbestos Blunder Results in Demolition Firm FineA Portsmouth company has faced criminal charges today after it stripped more than 50 metres of asbestos board without the correct licences.James Site Services, of Cosham, was taken to Court by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after inspectors carried out a routine inspection at one of its small development sites in Fareham, Hampshire and uncovered serious failings.Asbestos InsulationPortsmouth Magistrates’ Court was told that James Site Services, which specialises mainly in site preparation for demolition projects, had been hired to strip out asbestos from a bungalow that was due to be refurbished.During an inspection, the HSE discovered the company had illegally removed 54 metres of cancer-causing insulation boards, even though it did not have the correct licence.Only registered tradesmen are allowed to handle asbestos removal work because of the dangers it poses, with Mesothelioma cancer, which is caused by fibres from the material coating the inside of a worker’s lungs, resulting in hundreds of deaths a year in the UK.Asbestos Survey IgnoredAlthough James Site Services had correctly commissioned a survey to identify the presence of asbestos, the HSE said the company chose to ignore its findings and carried out the asbestos removal work itself, exposing workers to serious dangers.For its part in this decision, James Site Services was fined a total of £500 and told to pay £1,000 in costs after it pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.In cases where executives ignore the concerns of third parties in relation to asbestos, penalties are normally larger, but because James Site Services is only a very small company, the sanctions were made less severe.”Serious Failing”Speaking after his organisation’s successful prosecution, HSE inspector Dominic Goacher said, “This was a serious failing on the part of the company. Having received the survey they asked for, it looks as though no one at James Site Services bothered to read it. Or, if they did, they disregarded its contents and failed to act to protect workers from possible exposure to one of the deadly killers in industry.”HSE operates a highly-regulated licence regime in order to ensure work with asbestos is carried out safely by a skilled, competent workforce. By taking the work on, James Site Services not only put their workers at risk but also gained an unfair financial advantage.”Mr Goacher added that it is very important companies not only get an asbestos survey done, but that they also follow its guidance and ensure that staff members are properly protected.One of the most dangerous factors in dealing with asbestos is that it is almost invisible and is very hard to identify at first glance.Asbestos Hidden Killer CampaignIn an attempt to highlight the dangers of exposure to asbestos materials, the HSE recently launched its Hidden Killer campaign to educate small business owners on the seriousness of asbestos inhalation.Not only can improper asbestos extraction lead to litigation, it can cause those affected to suffer from a slow, painful death, as the inner-lining of the lungs is heavily damaged by the material.By Francesca WitneyOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Breakthrough in creating invisibility cloaks, stealth technology

Controlling and bending light around an object so it appears invisible to the naked eye is the theory behind fictional invisibility cloaks.It may seem easy in Hollywood movies, but is hard to create in real life because no material in nature has the properties necessary to bend light in such a way. Scientists have managed to create artificial nanostructures that can do the job, called metamaterials. But the challenge has been making enough of the material to turn science fiction into a practical reality.The work of Debashis Chanda at the University of Central Florida, however, may have just cracked that barrier. The cover story in the March edition of the journal Advanced Optical Materials, explains how Chanda and fellow optical and nanotech experts were able to develop a larger swath of multilayer 3-D metamaterial operating in the visible spectral range. They accomplished this feat by using nanotransfer printing, which can potentially be engineered to modify surrounding refractive index needed for controlling propagation of light.”Such large-area fabrication of metamaterials following a simple printing technique will enable realization of novel devices based on engineered optical responses at the nanoscale,” said Chanda, an assistant professor at UCF.The nanotransfer printing technique creates metal/dielectric composite films, which are stacked together in a 3-D architecture with nanoscale patterns for operation in the visible spectral range. Control of electromagnetic resonances over the 3-D space by structural manipulation allows precise control over propagation of light. Following this technique, larger pieces of this special material can be created, which were previously limited to micron-scale size.By improving the technique, the team hopes to be able to create larger pieces of the material with engineered optical properties, which would make it practical to produce for real-life device applications. For example, the team could develop large-area metamaterial absorbers, which would enable fighter jets to remain invisible from detection systems.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Central Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Secret to cutting sugary drink use by teens found by new study

A new study shows that teenagers can be persuaded to cut back on sugary soft drinks — especially with a little help from their friends.A 30-day challenge encouraging teens to reduce sugar-sweetened drink use lowered their overall consumption substantially and increased by two-thirds the percentage of high-school students who shunned sugary drinks altogether.The “Sodabriety” challenge, piloted by Ohio State University researchers, was an effort to confront the largest source of added sugar in the U.S. diet: sugar-sweetened soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, and flavored milk and coffee.Students were tapped to establish teen advisory councils, whose members led the interventions at two rural Appalachian high schools. They designed marketing campaigns, planned school assemblies and shared a fact per day about sugar-sweetened drinks over the morning announcements.The primary message to their peers: Try to cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages for 30 days. Students opted not to promote eliminating these drinks entirely during the challenge.Overall, participating teens did lower their intake of sugary drinks, and the percentage of youths who abstained from drinking sugar-sweetened beverages increased from 7.2 percent to 11.8 percent of the participants. That percentage was sustained for 30 days after the intervention ended.In an unexpected result, water consumption among participants increased significantly by 60 days after the start of the program, even without any promotion of water as a substitute for sugar-sweetened drinks.”The students’ water consumption before the intervention was lousy. I don’t know how else to say it. But we saw a big improvement in that,” said Laureen Smith, associate professor of nursing at Ohio State and lead author of the study. “And there was a huge reduction in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. The kids were consuming them fewer days per week and when they were consuming these drinks, they had fewer servings.”Smith co-authored the study with Christopher Holloman, associate professor of statistics at Ohio State. The research is published in a recent issue of the Journal of School Health.Smith originally set out to conduct a community-based study concerning the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in Appalachian Ohio. …

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U.S. headache sufferers get $1 billion worth of brain scans each year

One in eight visits to a a doctor for a headache or migraine end up with the patient going for a brain scan, at a total cost of about $1 billion a year, a new University of Michigan Medical School study finds.And many of those MRI and CT scans — and costs — are probably unnecessary, given the very low odds that serious issues lurk in the patients’ brains.In fact, several national guidelines for doctors specifically discourage scanning the brains of patients who complain of headache and migraine. But the new study shows the rate of brain scans for headache has risen, not fallen, since guidelines for doctors came out. This may mean that patient demand for scans drives much of the cost.The researchers suggest that better education of the public, and insurance plan designs that ask patients to pay part of the cost based on the likely value of the scan for them, may be needed to reduce unnecessary use and spending.The research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine by a team from the U-M Department of Neurology, uses national data on headache-related doctor visits and neuroimaging scans by people over age 18, and calculates estimated total costs across multiple years.In all, 51.1 million headache-related patient visits occurred between 2007 and 2010 — nearly half of them related to migraine. The vast majority were by people under the age of 65, and more than three-quarters of the patients were women. In those same four years, 12.4 percent of these visits resulted in a brain MRI or CT.The researchers estimated the total cost of the four years’ worth of scans at $3.9 billion, based on typical Medicare payments to doctors for imaging.”This is a conservative cost estimate based on what Medicare would pay for these tests. CTs and MRIs are commonly ordered for headache and migraine, and increasing over time, despite the fact that there are rare circumstances where imaging should be used,” says Brian Callaghan, M.D., M.S., the U-M neurologist who led the team performing the study.”Lots of guidelines say we shouldn’t do this — including ones from neurology and radiology groups — but yet we still do it a lot. This is a source of tremendous cost in health care without a lot of evidence to justify the cost,” he notes.A billion dollars’ worth of reassurance?Doctors might order a CT or MRI scan for a headache or migraine to put patients’ minds at ease about fears that a malignant brain tumor, aneurysm, arteriovenous malformation or other issue might be causing their symptoms.And even if the patient doesn’t meet the conditions that guidelines say can benefit most from brain imaging — for instance, someone with an abnormal neurological exam or a known cancer — doctors might order a scan at a patient’s request to protect themselves legally.But past research shows that only 1 percent to 3 percent of scans of patients with repeated headaches find that a growth or blood vessel problem in the brain is to blame. And many of the issues that scans spot turn out not to pose a serious threat — or may not require treatment right away.”There’s solid research showing that the number of times you find serious issues on these scans in headache patients is about the same as that for a randomly chosen group of non-headache patients,” he says. “And a lot of the things we find on such scans aren’t necessarily something we will do something about.”Callaghan notes that the current study, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s National Ambulatory Care Medical Survey, couldn’t detect which scans met guidelines and which didn’t.But the fact that 14.7 percent of people who saw a doctor for headache or migraine in 2010 went on to have a brain scan would not be expected if guidelines were being followed, he says. The team is working on further research into the appropriateness of the scans ordered for patients.He also notes that the $1 billion a year estimate doesn’t include other costs, including follow-up tests and any treatment that might be ordered if a scan finds something. …

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Nicotine withdrawal weakens brain connections tied to self-control over cigarette cravings

People who try to quit smoking often say that kicking the habit makes the voice inside telling them to light up even louder, but why people succumb to those cravings so often has never been fully understood. Now, a new brain imaging study in this week’s JAMA Psychiatry from scientists in Penn Medicine and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Intramural Research Program shows how smokers suffering from nicotine withdrawal may have more trouble shifting from a key brain network — known as default mode, when people are in a so-called “introspective” or “self-referential” state — and into a control network, the so-called executive control network, that could help exert more conscious, self-control over cravings and to focus on quitting for good.The findings help validate a neurobiological basis behind why so many people trying to quit end up relapsing — up to 80 percent, depending on the type of treatment — and may lead to new ways to identify smokers at high risk for relapse who need more intensive smoking cessation therapy.The brain imaging study was led by researchers at University of Pennsylvania’s new Brain and Behavior Change Program, led by Caryn Lerman, PhD, who is also the deputy director of Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, and Elliot Stein, PhD, and collaborators at NIDA. They found that smokers who abstained from cigarettes showed weakened interconnectivity between certain large-scale networks in their brains: the default mode network, the executive control network, and the salience network. They posit that this weakened connectivity reduces smokers’ ability to shift into or maintain greater influence from the executive control network, which may ultimately help maintain their quitting attempt.”What we believe this means is that smokers who just quit have a more difficult time shifting gears from inward thoughts about how they feel to an outward focus on the tasks at hand,” said Lerman, who also serves as the Mary W. Calkins professor in the Department of Psychiatry. “It’s very important for people who are trying to quit to be able to maintain activity within the control network — to be able to shift from thinking about yourself and your inner state to focus on your more immediate goals and plan.”Prior studies have looked at the effects of nicotine on brain interconnectivity in the resting state, that is, in the absence of any specific goal directed activity. This is the first study, however, to compare resting brain connectivity in an abstinent state and when people are smoking as usual, and then relate those changes to symptoms of craving and mental performance.For the study, researchers conducted brain scans on 37 healthy smokers (those who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day) ages 19 to 61 using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in two different sessions: 24 hours after biochemically confirmed abstinence and after smoking as usual.Imaging showed a significantly weaker connectivity between the salience network and default mode network during abstinence, compared with their sated state. Also, weakened connectivity during abstinence was linked with increases in smoking urges, negative mood, and withdrawal symptoms, suggesting that this weaker internetwork connectivity may make it more difficult for people to quit.Establishing the strength of the connectivity between these large-scale brain networks will be important in predicting people’s ability to quit and stay quit, the authors write. Also, such connectivity could serve as a clinical biomarker to identify smokers who are most likely to respond to a particular treatment.”Symptoms of withdrawal are related to changes in smokers’ brains, as they adjust to being off of nicotine, and this study validates those experiences as having a biological basis,” said Lerman. “The next step will be to identify in advance those smokers who will have more difficultly quitting and target more intensive treatments, based on brain activity and network connectivity.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. …

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Lack of sleep, stress describe a mother’s experience after child’s ALL treatment

“It’s a whole new cancer world” and “I don’t remember what it’s like to have sleep” were the most common themes of mothers interviewed by University of Colorado Cancer Center researchers during the maintenance period after a child’s treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Results of this qualitative study are published in a recent issue of the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.A second study, published today in the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, shows the quantitative differences between stress, anxiety and depression in these parents of chronically ill children and parents of healthy children. Many months after their child’s diagnosis and treatment, 46 percent of mothers exhibited symptoms of clinical anxiety and 26 percent of mothers showed depressive symptoms.”Even though these mothers were in the maintenance phase of their child’s illness and the prognosis was good, we heard them say over and over that things could never go back to what they were before,” says Madalynn Neu, PhD, RN, assistant professor at the CU College of Nursing, an education partner of the CU Cancer Center.”Many had lost their normal lives — lost jobs, houses, friends. Some were juggling their time around their child’s needs and they had fears about many things — fear of recurrence, fear of making a mistake with medication, fear their kids might get sick with an infection,” says Ellen Matthews, PhD, RN, CU Cancer Center investigator and associate professor at the CU College of Nursing.The researchers explain that they chose to work with mothers in this maintenance period of relative stability following treatment so as to avoid making further demands on mothers during the acute period of their child’s illness. This allowed Neu, Matthews and colleagues to look at the mid- and longer-term effects of a child’s diagnosis on a mother’s wellbeing. For example, the researchers found that once sleep arrangements changed during a child’s treatment, they frequently stayed changed rather than going back to what parents had seen as “normal” before treatment.”Mothers talked about the difficulty of sleep while giving steroid medication. And if the ill child got to stay up late watching movies, the siblings wanted to stay up too. The same was true of sleeping in a parent’s room: if an ill child wanted to sleep close to a parent (or if a parent wanted to sleep close to an ill child!), siblings tended to move in as well. Sleep can be challenging for parents of well children and our studies show it’s even more so for parents of children who have experience ALL,” Neu says.Interestingly, the researchers point out that while depression and stress was higher in mothers of children treated for ALL, anxiety levels as measured by salivary cortisol levels were similar to mothers of well children.”This may have been affected by the fact that even the control group wasn’t without anxiety. Financial, marital, social and career concerns mean that parents of young children experience anxiety even without ALL,” Matthews says.The group hopes that awareness of maternal concerns after a child’s treatment for ALL will help design interventions that will help mothers manage these lifestyle issues affected by their child’s illness.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Colorado Denver. …

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Beneficial anti-inflammatory effects observed when plant extracts fed to sick pigs

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) is the most expensive and invasive disease for pig producers on a global scale. Though it is not occurring on every farm, it is the biggest disease problem in the pig industry, said a University of Illinois animal sciences researcher.E. coli has also been a problem historically and continues to be on an industry-wide basis, said James Pettigrew. “Either disease can sweep through a farm so their alleviation would substantially reduce production costs. Even though many management practices have been used in the swine industry, these practices cannot guarantee freedom from disease for pigs,” he said.Consumer concerns about bacterial resistance to antibiotics have prompted the swine industry to seek additional methods to protect the health of pigs, including special feed additives. This interest led Pettigrew and his team to explore the potential benefits of selected plant extracts.The researchers conducted two experiments to test the beneficial effects of adding plant extracts to pig diets to combat PRRS and E. coli. In both experiments, researchers used four diets in weanling pigs, including a control diet and three additional diets that included garlic botanical extracted from garlic, turmeric oleoresin extracted from ginger, or capsicum oleoresin from pepper. In both experiments, half of the pigs in each dietary treatment were challenged with either E. coli or PRRS virus while the other half of the pigs were non-challenged.”We’ve known for a long time that plant extracts, also called essential oils or botanicals, have certain biological actions,” said Yanhong Liu, a doctoral student who led the studies. …

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Secondhand smoke exposure linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes

Secondhand smoking is linked with pregnancy loss, including miscarriage, stillbirth and tubal ectopic pregnancy, according to new research from scientists at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) and the University at Buffalo (UB). The study findings, published online by the journal Tobacco Control, mark a significant step toward clarifying the risks of secondhand smoke exposure.”This study demonstrated that pregnancy outcomes can be correlated with secondhand smoking. Significantly, women who have never smoked but were exposed to secondhand smoke were at greater risk for fetal loss,” says the study’s lead investigator, Andrew Hyland, PhD, Chair of RPCI’s Department of Health Behavior.While there was previously some evidence that smoking during pregnancy was associated with the three outcomes of fetal loss studied here — spontaneous abortion or miscarriage (loss of a fetus before 20 weeks of gestation), stillbirth (loss of a fetus after 20 or more weeks of gestation) and tubal ectopic pregnancy — such evidence for secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure had been limited. This study is significant in two ways: One, it considered lifetime SHS exposure rather than only during pregnancy or reproductive years, taking into consideration smoke exposure in participants’ childhood and adult years. Two, the comparison group of never-smokers was limited to women without any SHS exposure, producing a truer control group compared to previous studies.The large sample size and comprehensive assessment of SHS exposure added strength to the findings. Historical reproductive data, current and former smoking status, and details about SHS exposure over lifetime were collected from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. This allowed for a study group of 80,762 women.”The statistical power gained from the large cohort of women that was available is noteworthy,” added co-author Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, Professor in the Departments of Social and Preventive Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Vice Provost for Research Advancement and Strategic Initiatives at UB. “As a result of the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, participants came from a broad range of geographic areas and had multiple ethnic, educational and socio-economic backgrounds. This allowed for a comprehensive assessment of detailed information on exposures, outcomes and potential confounders.”Women with the highest levels of SHS exposure — despite never having smoked themselves — had significantly greater estimates of risk for all three adverse pregnancy outcomes, and these risks approached the risk seen among women who smoke (those who smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime). The highest levels of lifetime SHS exposure were defined by childhood exposure for longer than 10 years, adult home exposure for more than 20 years and adult work exposure for more than 10 years.”This study offers new information for women regarding the lifetime impact secondhand smoke can have on reproductive outcomes and their ability to successfully bring a pregnancy to full term,” says Dr. …

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Smartphone app aids college-age women in abusive relationships, study shows

Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are at the highest risk for dating violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, these women are less likely than older adults to seek formal safety resources and instead look to peers or technology for help and advice. In an effort to connect more young women with safety information, University of Missouri researchers collaborated with Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and the One Love Foundation to develop the “One Love My Plan” smartphone application, an interactive tool that helps college-age women in abusive relationships clarify their priorities and customize personal safety plans.”At some point, almost everyone knows someone in an unhealthy relationship,” said Tina Bloom, an assistant professor at the MU Sinclair School of Nursing. “The purpose of the My Plan app is to quickly and confidentially provide women and concerned friends with information and available resources. Our goal is not to replace existing services, but to better connect students with them.”To ensure that young women would find the app helpful and comprehensive, Bloom and her colleagues conducted focus groups with college-age women who identified themselves as survivors of abusive relationships.”Students said that phones feel private, and they always have their phones with them,” Bloom said. “One student told us that she really liked the app because it provided strategies she could use immediately to help herself or a friend. In abusive situations, there are many factors to consider. The My Plan app gives students tools to examine their relationships, set their priorities and privately access resources when they are ready.”Previous research shows that, across all socioeconomic backgrounds, millennials comprise the age group most likely to own smartphones, and many smartphone users access health information using their mobile devices. Bloom says the free app is filled with helpful features, including:Information on healthy relationship dynamics, common relationship violence myths and potential behavioral red flags. Sample scripts for approaching friends who are possibly in dangerous relationships. …

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Almost 13 million smoking deaths could be prevented in China by 2050

China is home to about one third of the world’s smokers and reducing smoking in China could have an enormous public health impact, even on a global scale.Even though China raised the tax on tobacco products in 2009, this did not translate to higher retail prices for consumers and the only ban that has been enforced is on public transport. WHO went on to publish a report in 2011 which stated that there were multiple opportunities to improve tobacco control.Using a version of the SimSmoke Tobacco Control Policy model (a model of tobacco smoking prevalence and smoking-related deaths), populated with data from China, researchers from Spain, France and the US estimated the potential health impact of this programme in China from 2015 — 2050.Under current policies, a total of over 50 million deaths due to smoking were estimated from 2012 to 2050.Projecting the status quo scenario forward, the researchers estimate that active smoking in males would fall from 51.3% in 2015 to 46.5% by 2050 — and in females from 2.1% in 2015 to 1.3% in 2050In 2015, the estimated number of deaths from smoking was about one million (932,000 for males and 79,000 for females). In males, annual deaths were expected to peak at 1.5 million in 2040, but then drop to 1.4 million by 2050. In females, annual deaths from smoking were estimated to be 49,000 in 2040 and 42,000 by 2050.Relative to the status quo scenario, increasing cigarette taxes to 75% of the package price was estimated to reduce smoking prevalence by almost 10% for both males and females by 2015. By 2050, smoking prevalence showed a reduction of 13% for males and 12% for females. The researchers estimate that between 2015 and 2050, this tax would save approximately 3.5 million lives.Smoke-free air laws and a well enforced marketing ban also showed “potent and immediate” effects. Comprehensive smoke-free air laws were estimated to show a 9% reduction in smoking rates by 2015, increasing to about a 10% reduction in 2050, potentially averting around 3.4 million deaths. A comprehensive marketing ban would reduce smoking prevalence by about 4% and avert just over two million deaths by 2050.A high intensity tobacco control campaign would lead to a 2.5% relative decline in smoking rates by 2015 and prevent 1.1 million deaths due to smoking by 2050, while stronger health warnings were projected to yield a relative 2.3% reduction in smoking rates by 2050.The researchers estimate that complete implementation of the WHO framework “would lead to as much as a 34% relative reduction in male smoking prevalence by 2020, and a 41% reduction by 2050.” They say, despite the lag time expected between reductions in current smoking and declines in smoking attributable deaths, nearly half a million annual tobacco related deaths could be averted yearly by 2050.These estimates suggest that substantial health gains could be made, say the authors — a 40% relative reduction in smoking prevalence and almost 13 million smoking attributable deaths averted and more than 154 million life years gained by 2050 — by extending effective public health and clinical interventions to reduce active smoking. They add that these policies would be cost effective and say that “without the implementation of the complete set of stronger policies, the death and disability legacy of current smoking will endure for decades in China.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Massachusetts’ fire-safe cigarette law appears to decrease likelihood of residential fires

A six-year-old Massachusetts law requiring that only “fire-safe” cigarettes (FSCs) be sold in the state appears to decrease the likelihood of unintentional residential fires caused by cigarettes by 28%, according to a new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers.The study will appear online February 13, 2014 in the American Journal of Public Health.”This study is the first rigorous population-based study to evaluate the effectiveness of the fire-safe cigarette standards, and shows that science-based tobacco product regulation can protect the public health,” said lead author Hillel Alpert, research scientist at the Center for Global Tobacco Control at HSPH.Burning cigarettes left smoldering on a bed, furniture, or other flammable material are a leading cause of residential fires in the United States, generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year in property damage, health care costs, lost productivity, death, and injuries. Young children, seniors, African Americans, Native Americans, the poor, people living in rural areas or in substandard housing, and firefighters are especially at risk.To evaluate the effectiveness of Massachusetts’ Fire Safe Cigarette Law, the researchers analyzed seven years of data from 2004 to 2010 on accidental residential fires, including 1,629 caused by cigarettes. The information was reported to the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System, a system maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services.The results appear to show that the likelihood of unintentional residential fires caused by cigarettes decreased by 28% after the Massachusetts law was enacted in 2008. The largest reductions were among cigarette fires in which human factors, such as falling asleep while smoking, were involved, and among fires that were ignited on materials, which are the scenarios for which the standard was developed.”This study confirms that the fire standard compliant (FSC) cigarette law has reduced the number of fires from cigarettes started by igniting furniture and bedding as it was designed to do,” said Massachusetts Fire Marshal Stephen Coan.”We now have the science to support that all tobacco companies throughout the world should voluntarily make their cigarettes less likely to ignite fires,” said Gregory Connolly, professor of the practice of public health and director of the HSPH Center for Global Tobacco Control.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Brain’s ‘sweet spot’ for love found in neurological patient

A region deep inside the brain controls how quickly people make decisions about love, according to new research at the University of Chicago.The finding, made in an examination of a 48-year-old man who suffered a stroke, provides the first causal clinical evidence that an area of the brain called the anterior insula “plays an instrumental role in love,” said UChicago neuroscientist Stephanie Cacioppo, lead author of the study.In an earlier paper that analyzed research on the topic, Cacioppo and colleagues defined love as “an intentional state for intense [and long-term] longing for union with another” while lust, or sexual desire, is characterized by an intentional state for a short-term, pleasurable goal.In this study, the patient made decisions normally about lust but showed slower reaction times when making decisions about love, in contrast to neurologically typical participants matched on age, gender and ethnicity. The findings are presented in a paper, “Selective Decision-Making Deficit in Love Following Damage to the Anterior Insula,” published in the journal Current Trends in Neurology.”This distinction has been interpreted to mean that desire is a relatively concrete representation of sensory experiences, while love is a more abstract representation of those experiences,” said Cacioppo, a research associate and assistant professor in psychology. The new data suggest that the posterior insula, which affects sensation and motor control, is implicated in feelings of lust or desire, while the anterior insula has a role in the more abstract representations involved in love.In the earlier paper, “The Common Neural Bases Between Sexual Desire and Love: A Multilevel Kernel Density fMRI Analysis,” Cacioppo and colleagues examined a number of studies of brain scans that looked at differences between love and lust.The studies showed consistently that the anterior insula was associated with love, and the posterior insula was associated with lust. However, as in all fMRI studies, the findings were correlational.”We reasoned that if the anterior insula was the origin of the love response, we would find evidence for that in brain scans of someone whose anterior insula was damaged,” she said.In the study, researchers examined a 48-year-old heterosexual male in Argentina, who had suffered a stroke that damaged the function of his anterior insula. He was matched with a control group of seven Argentinian heterosexual men of the same age who had healthy anterior insula.The patient and the control group were shown 40 photographs at random of attractive, young women dressed in appealing, short and long dresses and asked whether these women were objects of sexual desire or love. The patient with the damaged anterior insula showed a much slower response when asked if the women in the photos could be objects of love.”The current work makes it possible to disentangle love from other biological drives,” the authors wrote. Such studies also could help researchers examine feelings of love by studying neurological activity rather than subjective questionnaires.The full article can be found online at: https://hpenlaboratory.uchicago.edu/sites/caciopponeurolab.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/Cacioppo%20et%20al_Current%20Trends%20in%20Neurology%202013.pdfStory Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Excess weight linked to brain changes that may relate to memory, emotions, and appetite

Being overweight appears related to reduced levels of a molecule that reflects brain cell health in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory, learning, and emotions, and likely also involved in appetite control, according to a study performed by researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and other institutions. The results of the study were published in Neuroimage: Clinical.Jeremy D. Coplan, MD, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate, led a multicenter team that visualized the molecule, N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) application. NAA is associated with brain cell health. Overweight study participants exhibited lower levels of NAA in the hippocampus than normal weight subjects. The effect was independent of age, sex, and psychiatric diagnoses.The importance of the hippocampus — a seahorse-shaped organ deep within the brain — to the formation and preservation of memory and to emotional control is well known, Dr. Coplan notes, but its role in appetite control is less established.”The relevance of the finding is that being overweight is associated with specific changes in a part of the brain that is crucial to memory formation and emotions, and probably to appetite,” said Dr. Coplan. The study is believed to be the first human research documenting the association of NAA with body weight.”Whether low NAA is a consequence of being overweight, causes being overweight, or a combination of both remains to be determined,” Dr. Coplan added. …

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HPV study: Does vaccinating one sexual partner also benefit the other?

A new study by McGill University will examine whether vaccinating only one partner in a couple against the human papillomavirus (HPV) can help prevent transmission of HPV to the unvaccinated partner.The study — called TRAP-HPV, an acronym for Transmission Reduction And Prevention with HPV vaccination — is a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind trial involving 500 sexually active couples. The study aims to determine the efficacy of an HPV vaccine in reducing transmission of genital, anal, and oral HPV infection in unvaccinated sexual partners of vaccinated individuals.HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, the second most common cancer in women globally. Prophylactic vaccines against certain high-risk HPV types have been shown to be effective in preventing infection. However, much remains to be understood on the effects of HPV vaccine on the blockage of transmission of target HPV types to sexual partners of vaccinated individuals.”This is the first study to look at whether unvaccinated partners of vaccinated individuals have a benefit in terms of protection from HPV infection,” explained Eduardo Franco, Director of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and leader of the study. “It will help us understand the important issue of herd immunity from HPV vaccination. If partner protection is sufficiently high we may be able to get adequate population level immunity from much less than 100% vaccination coverage and devote our scarce public health funds to other pressing needs.””Efficacy studies of the HPV vaccines generally look at genital HPV infections, but our study will also be looking at other anatomical sites that HPV infects, such as the anal and oral regions,” says Kristina Dahlstrom, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Oncology, Division of Cancer Epidemiology. “Increasing the knowledge about HPV transmission dynamics will benefit cost-effectiveness studies and have implications for decision-making when implementing population-level vaccination strategies.”The U.S. Centers for Disease Control considers HPV the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. Another McGill study called HITCH (HPV Infection and Transmission in Couples through Heterosexual activity), also from Dr. Franco’s team, found more than half (56 per cent) of young adults in a new sexual relationship were infected with HPV. …

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Well-watered citrus tested in cold-acclimating temperatures

Commercial citrus growers are often challenged by environmental conditions in winter, including low seasonal rainfall that is typical in many citrus growing regions. Growers must rely on irrigation to sustain citrus crops through dry winters, so understanding how to determine citrus irrigation needs is critical for successful operations.Authors of a study published in HortScience noted that current methods used to determine moisture needs for citrus are limited, in that they do not account for effects of cold acclimation on water requirements. “Evidence suggests that at least some changes in plant water deficits occur as a result of cold temperatures and not dry soil,” noted Robert Ebel, lead author of the study. “Changes in citrus water relations during cold acclimation and independent of soil moisture content are not well understood. Our study was conducted to characterize changes in plant relations of citrus plants with soil moisture carefully maintained at high levels to minimize drought stress.”Ebel and his colleagues conducted two experiments–the first in Immokalee, Florida, using potted sweet orange, and the second in Auburn, Alabama, using Satsuma mandarin trees. The citrus plants were exposed to progressively lower, non-freezing temperatures for 9 weeks. During the experiments trees were watered twice daily–three times on the days data were collected–to minimize drought stress.Results of the experiments showed that soil moisture was higher for plants in the cold compared to plants in the warm chamber, and results showed that cold temperatures promoted stomatal closure, higher root resistance, lower stem water potential, lower transpiration, and lower stem water potential. Leaf relative water content was not different for cold-acclimated trees compared with the control trees. The key to minimizing drought stress, the scientists found, was carefully maintaining high soil moisture contents throughout the experiments, especially on the days that the measurements were performed.”Our modern understanding of plant water relations has mainly evolved from studying growing plants at warm temperatures and in soils of varying moisture contents,” Ebel explained. “However, this study demonstrates that those relationships are not consistent for citrus trees exposed to cold-acclimating temperatures.”The authors added that the study findings could have implications for commercial citrus growers who currently use traditional measures of determining irrigation scheduling during winter months.The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/48/10/1309.abstractStory Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Horticultural Science. …

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Intuitive number games boost children’s math performance

A quick glance at two, unequal groups of paper clips (or other objects) leads most people to immediately intuit which group has more. In a new study, researchers report that practicing this kind of simple, instinctive numerical exercise can improve children’s ability to solve math problems.A report of the study appears in the journal Cognition.”We wanted to know how basic intuitions about numbers relate to mathematics development,” said University of Illinois psychology professor Daniel Hyde, who conducted the study with Saeeda Khanum, of Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, and Elizabeth Spelke, of Harvard University. “Specifically we wanted to know whether thinking intuitively about numbers, such as approximating and comparing sets without counting, helps in actually doing math.”To test this, the researchers asked first-graders to practice tasks that required them to approximate, or roughly evaluate the number of objects in a set without counting them. Other children did tasks such as comparing the brightness of two objects or adding the lengths of lines.Children who practiced evaluating the number of objects performed better on arithmetic tests immediately afterward than did their counterparts who evaluated other qualities of objects, Hyde said.”These results showed that brief practice with tasks requiring children to guess or intuit the number of objects actually improved their arithmetic test performance,” he said.Additional experiments helped the team rule out other factors — such as greater motivation or level of cognitive engagement — that might contribute to the guessers’ enhanced math performance. The researchers also varied the difficulty of the arithmetic tests to see if the benefits of practicing intuitive judgments about the number of objects enhanced the children’s speed or accuracy, or both.”For easier problems, where all children are very accurate, those who practiced engaging what we call their ‘intuitive sense of number’ performed roughly 25 percent faster than children practicing a control task,” Hyde said. “For more difficult problems, children engaging their intuitive sense of number scored roughly 15 percentage points higher than those practicing a control task. If this were a real quiz in school, these children would have scored about a letter grade and a half higher than those in the control conditions.”Similar improvements were not seen on a verbal test, “suggesting the enhancing effect is specific to mathematics and is not due to general motivation or interest in the training task,” Hyde said.”Previous studies have tested whether children who are better at intuitive number tasks also have higher math grades or perform better on math tests. There the answer is yes,” Hyde said. “Our study is the first to provide a causal link in children. We showed that practice on these kinds of tasks actually causes better math performance in children.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. …

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Rats! Humans and rodents process their mistakes

Oct. 20, 2013 — What happens when the brain recognizes an error? A new study shows that the brains of humans and rats adapt in a similar way to errors by using low-frequency brainwaves in the medial frontal cortex to synchronize neurons in the motor cortex. The finding could be important in studies of “adaptive control” like obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD, and Parkinson’s.People and rats may think alike when they’ve made a mistake and are trying to adjust their thinking.That’s the conclusion of a study published online Oct. 20 in Nature Neuroscience that tracked specific similarities in how human and rodent subjects adapted to errors as they performed a simple time estimation task. When members of either species made a mistake in the trials, electrode recordings showed that they employed low-frequency brainwaves in the medial frontal cortex (MFC) of the brain to synchronize neurons in their motor cortex. That action correlated with subsequent performance improvements on the task.”These findings suggest that neuronal activity in the MFC encodes information that is involved in monitoring performance and could influence the control of response adjustments by the motor cortex,” wrote the authors, who performed the research at Brown University and Yale University.The importance of the findings extends beyond a basic understanding of cognition, because they suggest that rat models could be a useful analog for humans in studies of how such “adaptive control” neural mechanics are compromised in psychiatric diseases.”With this rat model of adaptive control, we are now able to examine whether novel drugs or other treatment procedures boost the integrity of this system,” said James Cavanagh, co-lead author of the paper who was at Brown when the research was done and has since become assistant professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. “This may have clear translational potential for treating psychiatric diseases such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia.”To conduct the study, the researchers measured external brainwaves of human and rodent subjects after both erroneous and accurate performance on the time estimation task. They also measured the activity of individual neurons in the MFC and motor cortex of the rats in both post-error and post-correct circumstances.The scientists also gave the rats a drug that blocked activity of the MFC. What they saw in those rats compared to rats who didn’t get the drug, was that the low-frequency waves did not occur in the motor cortex, neurons there did not fire coherently and the rats did not alter their subsequent behavior on the task.Although the researchers were able to study the cognitive mechanisms in the rats in more detail than in humans, the direct parallels they saw in the neural mechanics of adaptive control were significant.”Low-frequency oscillations facilitate synchronization among brain networks for representing and exerting adaptive control, including top-down regulation of behavior in the mammalian brain,” they wrote.In addition to Cavanagh, the lead authors are Nandakumar Narayanan, formerly of Yale and now of the University of Iowa, and James Cavanagh, formerly of Brown and now of the University of New Mexico. …

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The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 – Yet Another Obstacle to Banning Asbestos in the U.S

TheChemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 1009)(CSIA) is a bill currently before congress. The legislation is designed to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. Many public health advocates who support TSCA reform do not support the CSIA as it is currently written, believing that the chemical industry is behind the draft legislation.On July 31, 2013, Linda Reinstein, President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, and a long-time leader in the effort to ban asbestos in the U.S., testified before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee (EPWC) at a hearing in support of TSCA reform. According to Ms. Reinstein, the CSIA as currently drafted would do more harm to public health and the environment than good. As detailed in the ADAO position paper, the …

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Study in teens & young adults may help predict if health insurance expansion will cut ER use

Oct. 17, 2013 — As the nation’s health care system prepares for uninsured Americans to gain health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, a question hangs over crowded hospital emergency departments: Will the newly insured make fewer ER visits than they do today?According to the results of a new University of Michigan Medical Schoolstudy in teens and young adults, the answer likely reflects a balance of ER care versus clinic visits. While the number of ER visits will likely stay about the same, clinic visits will likely go up.The results, from the first national study of its kind, are published in Academic Emergency Medicine by a team led by U-M emergency physician Adrianne Haggins, M.D., M.S. The work was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at U-M, and used data from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The researchers looked at patterns of emergency and non-emergency outpatient visits made by adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 in the years before and after a major expansion of public health insurance coverage for this group. They were especially interested in ER care, given that it is unclear how the demand for both types of ambulatory care will change nationally when insurance is provided.The results show the impact of CHIP, or Children’s Health Insurance Program, a federal/state program signed into law in 1997 that made it possible for near-poor children to receive state-sponsored insurance. More than 7 million children now have CHIP insurance, and it remains an option under the Affordable Care Act.By comparing the national trends in adolescents’ ER and outpatient visit numbers with those for young adults (ages 19-29) in the 1992-1996 pre-CHIP era, versus post-CHIP years 1999-2009, the team could gauge the impact of CHIP as a national source of new insurance coverage. Most states didn’t allow such young adults to enroll in CHIP, making them a good comparison group in the pre-ACA era.The researchers found:Outpatient visits rose significantly among adolescents after CHIP went into effect, while young adults’ outpatient visits were flat. ER visits by adolescents stayed flat after CHIP went into effect, while ER visits by young adults rose. The ratio of outpatient-to-ER visits rose among adolescents, but fell among young adults. A ratio such as this, which shows the balance between the types of care settings, could be useful for assessing the impact of insurance reforms. …

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