brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(2):379-380

Businesses are beginning to purchase defibrillators to enhance their first-aid kits, according to The Wall Street Journal. These automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have voice prompts and offer a computerized analysis of the victim's condition. They come with drawings that show proper placement of the paddles and recorded voice instructions that give advice such as, “Do not touch patient.” The machines also let the rescuer know when the AED should not be used to shock a victim as an unnecessary shock could be fatal. A fear concerning availability of these devices to lay persons is that they might panic, fail to call 911 and delay the rescue.

Searching for the fountain of youth? Scientists at Southern Methodist University may have found it. Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E are being used to prolong the life of fruit flies. Aging is caused by free oxygen radicals that are produced as cells break down nutrients. Antioxidants work to clean up the free radicals, but the older we get the more free radicals and the less antioxidants we have. Scientists have engineered fruit flies that produce high levels of antioxidants, and these flies lived 34 percent longer than normal and were much more active. Tests for humans are still a long way off, but the hope for a more youthful old age remains, says Business Week.

Just how popular are alternative therapies? A nationwide poll published in JAMA found that 12 percent of respondents had used herbal products in the previous year, 11 percent had used massage therapy, 11 percent had used chiropractic treatment, 6 percent had taken megavitamins, 3 percent had used homeopathy and 1 percent had used acupuncture.

Where and when a child is born may affect his or her risk for schizophrenia. Children who are born in urban areas or in late winter have an increased risk for schizophrenia. It seems that maternal viral infections, which occur more frequently in densely populated areas and during colder months, may affect the developing fetal brain, reports New England Journal of Medicine.

Alzheimer's disease has always been difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Now, doctors may have a new place to look, according to a study by New York University School of Medicine, reported in The Lancet. Using magnetic resonance imaging of the entorhinal cortex, a part of the brain used for short-term memory, may help diagnose early Alzheimer's disease. Scientists compared the size of the entorhinal cortex in healthy volunteers and persons with early stages of Alzheimer's disease. On average, the entorhinal cortex was 27 percent smaller in the patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Does popping bubble wrap really reduce stress? Researchers measured stress levels in two groups of students before a session of bubble wrap popping. During the session, the students who vigorously popped bubble wrap were significantly more relaxed and energized than those who did not participate. These findings make sense, because people who are stressed often tap their fingers or fidget. For those without access to bubble wrap, other stress-lowering options include knitting, drumming pencils and whittling, reports Family Practice News.

If you could choose certain traits for your unborn baby, would you do it or leave it to chance? According to a survey in Time, people's preferences depend on the trait. When participants were asked if they would choose to rule out a fatal disease, 60 percent said yes; to ensure greater intelligence, 33 percent would; to influence height or weight, 12 percent would; and to determine gender, 11 percent would.

Dieters beware: food restriction appears to cause rebound weight gain, lowered self-esteem and other psychologic problems. According to a researcher at the University of Toronto, humans and animals who are deprived of food exhibit bingeing tendencies once the restrictions are lifted. Humans who are deprived of food display lower self-esteem, depression, emotional hyperreactivity, cognitive difficulties, and a preoccupation with eating, food and body weight. These problems occur whether the food restriction is voluntary or involuntary. The focus on dieting and food restriction over the past 20 years may have caused the increase in the overweight population, according to a researcher cited in Family Practice News.

Even teenagers show early evidence of developing heart disease, according to a study in JAMA. Researchers examined the coronary arteries and two parts of the aorta in 2,876 people between the ages of 15 and 34 who died of accidents, homicides or suicides from 1987 to 1994. All but two of the aortas showed fatty streaks, signaling the onset of atherosclerosis. Of participants in the youngest group, between 15 and 19 years of age, 60 percent had fatty streaks and nearly one fourth of the males and about one eighth of the females had evidence of hard plaques. The older the patients, the greater the plaque buildup.

If your patients aren't worried about their health, try appealing to their vanity. According to a newsletter by the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson, smokers (especially women) show signs of aging earlier than nonsmokers. These signs include wrinkles around the corners of the eyes and mouth and pronounced wrinkling on the backs of the hands. Chemicals in tobacco smoke affect the skin's elastin, a protein in the elastic fibers that make up elastic tissue. Drying of the elastin equals more wrinkles and a more aged appearance.

Want to help your older patients live life to the fullest? Consumer Reports on Health has some tips that can do just that. Older people should do low-impact aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching exercises. They should also eat a low-fat diet that's high in produce, whole grains and dairy products, and get enough calcium and supplements of vitamin E and vitamins D and B12. Older patients should also consider low-dose aspirin therapy, estrogen replacement if they are postmenopausal, and immunization. On top of that, they should stay mentally active and socially engaged.

Do you think that people who use cellular phones are the most distracted drivers? Well, think again. According to USA Today, only 29 percent of drivers sometimes or frequently make phone calls while driving alone, while 80 percent may be drinking a beverage, 70 percent may be eating, 60 percent may be singing out loud, 10 percent may be reading, 9 percent may be putting on their makeup and 5 percent may be shaving.

Breast cancer patients who smoke are far more likely to get lung cancer than patients who don't smoke, according to a study of 580 patients with breast cancer. Risk factor analysis for the 280 women with subsequent lung cancer and 300 women without showed that smoking caused a sixfold increase in the risk of lung cancer in women who were not treated with radiation, while there was no increased risk of lung cancer in nonsmokers who had radiotherapy. Combining smoking and radiation therapy caused the risk of lung cancer to rise to 16.8 times that of women who had not been exposed to radiation or smoking, reported a researcher at the American Society of Preventive Oncology meeting, cited in Physician's Weekly.

Continue Reading

More in AFP

Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.