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Am Fam Physician. 1998;57(4):619-620

Do computer nerds have low bone density? In a study of 44 nonobese boys ages 15 to 17, one group was enrolled in two hours of group endurance training five days a week for five weeks, while the other group was enrolled in a computer class for the same amount of time. The exercise program resulted in a 20 percent increase in circulating osteocalcin, a 22 percent rise in bone-specific alkaline phosphatase, and almost a 30 percent increase in C-terminal procollagen peptide level. The computer class group experienced no changes in bone formation or resorption, according to Family Practice News.

One more reason to prevent hypertension or at least get it under control: brain shrinkage! Stroke published a study in which researchers compared two groups of elderly patients, one with hypertension and one without. The hypertensive group had experienced some shrinkage in the areas of the brain that control memory and language. Why this happens or how long it takes is unknown.

Is a good hard spanking sometimes necessary to discipline a misbehaving child? That's what a General Social Survey asked U.S. adults in 1988 and again in 1994. According to the results, published in American Demographics, 80 percent of adults asked in 1988 felt it was sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a hard spanking; in 1994, only 74 percent felt that way.

What would make a sick woman come in to work? According to the Workplace Wellness Survey, having no one to cover for them was the main reason for 54 percent of the women surveyed. Feeling their co-workers would have to cover for them was cited by 53 percent, feeling guilty for missing work by 46 percent and having run out of sick leave by 26 percent.

Got maggots? Physicians in the United States, Britain and Israel have been reviving the ancient practice of using them to treat wounds not responding to antibiotics or surgery. According to Physician's Financial News, some of the nonhealing wounds had persisted for as long as 17 years.

Want some mental exercise? A study of motivations for working out found that people who are able to stick with their routines appreciate the effect exercise has on their minds as much as the effect it has on their bodies. According to Psychology Today, the mood lift that it provides, and being part of a group of fitness fanatics, keeps exercise fun.

Computed tomography (CT) scans can be pretty useful ... to a serious musician who wants to buy a violin. According to the Radiological Society of North America, CT scans are being used to discover violin defects, information about how the instruments were made and “fingerprints” that can help identify lost or stolen violins.

The Journal of Rural Health reported a survey on the attitudes of rural Minnesota family physicians toward nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Of the 276 physicians who responded, about 90 percent indicated that they were highly confident in the abilities of midlevel providers to perform preventive and routine care. However, more concern was expressed about nonphysician practitioners taking call, covering emergency departments and performing hospital rounds.

There's now an official marijuana ward for HIV patients at San Francisco General Hospital. Patients will spend 21 days taking the protease inhibitor indinavir and smoking either marijuana or a placebo while researchers study how the substances interact, reports Physician's Weekly. The NIH has given $1 million for the study; the feds will provide the pot.

Losing weight may be the fastest route to a good night's sleep for some people. Sleep apnea is often caused by extra body weight; in fact, 70 percent of people with sleep apnea are obese, reports the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The good news: Losing as little as 20 pounds can improve airflow significantly, and reaching an ideal body weight may cure the problem.

Blame it on those stiletto heels: Women have about 90 percent of the 795,000 annual surgeries for bunions, hammertoes, neuromas and bunionettes, reports the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. A three-inch heel, while possibly quite fashionable, creates seven times as much stress on the forefoot as a one-inch heel; it also increases one's risk of falling flat on one's face—which isn't fashionable at all.

Prevention reports that 32 percent of women and 24 percent of men won't sleep on an airplane because (you guessed it) they're afraid they'll start drooling.

Where are your patients getting their medical information? According to a National Health Council survey of 2,256 adults, 40 percent of Americans consider the media their primary source of medical and health information. Physicians are the main source of information for 36 percent of respondents; magazines, 35 percent; radio, 4 percent, and the Internet, 2 percent.

Pain following a mastectomy can last for years. In a study of 137 women who underwent surgery for breast cancer, a University of Kentucky team found that 25 percent had pain and discomfort for up to eight years after surgery. On a scale of 0 to 10, the women rated their pain an average of 3.1, reports Physician's Weekly.

Drug abuse was the biggest U.S. social concern of 1997, cited by 32 percent of adults as among their top two or three concerns in a Roper Starch Worldwide survey published in American Demographics. The homeless were a top concern for 21 percent of those surveyed, terrorism for 13 percent and foreign relations for 10 percent. Getting into a war and having fuel and energy shortages were top concerns for 5 percent of those surveyed.

Who says everything has to deteriorate as you get older? University of Florida researchers found that many seniors can smell and taste as well as the youngsters.

Thirty-two percent of all babies are now born out of wedlock. According to the Kiplinger Washington Letter, the rate has reached a plateau after rising from 18 percent in 1980 to 33 percent in 1994. For African Americans, 70 percent of babies are born to single mothers; for Hispanics, 41 percent; for whites, 26 percent, and for Asians, 16 percent. One third of all out-of-wedlock births are to teenage mothers.

Did you have breakfast today? The more education and the higher income you have, the more likely you are to eat breakfast, according to information from the NPD Group, cited in U.S. News & World Report. The same goes for Southerners and older people. Cereal is the food of choice for 67 percent of U.S. breakfast eaters. Toast is the second most popular breakfast item, cited by 36 percent, while 9 percent of Americans go for pancakes, sausage and waffles.

The ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Review newsletter is delighted to report that there will “finally” be a hearing to find out whether the recent rise in the number of smoking scenes in movies is merely a coincidence, or if the tobacco companies have sunk their claws into top movie executives, too. A California state senator is holding the hearing.

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