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Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(8):2231

Are teenage smokers going up in smoke? A recent survey conducted by Health and Human Services found that 60 million persons or 27.7 percent of Americans over the age of 12 years smoke. Despite these significant numbers, the percentage of teenage smokers has decreased since 1997 reports USA Today. In 1997, 20 percent of children 12 to 17 years of age were identified as smokers, while only 18 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds were identified as smokers in 1998.

How are your “executive control processes” (planning, scheduling, working memory)? If you think you could use some help, take a hike. A recent study in Nature indicated that improved aerobic fitness can improve the executive control processes, which typically decline with age. The researchers suggest that improved oxygenation increases blood flow to the frontal and prefrontal areas of the brain, supporting these functions.

A recent survey cited in Time magazine indicated that the number of graduates entering primary-care residencies increased 10 percent between 1993 and 1998 in California. The survey, first published in Archives of Surgery, found that 54 percent of graduates during these years chose general practice as their medical focus, providing one more piece of evidence that family practice is continuing to thrive.

Vietnam veterans are at a higher risk for hepatitis C virus than average Americans. According to U.S. News and World Report, hepatitis C infects 1.6 percent of Americans, but this number is four to five times higher in veterans. A recent Veterans Affairs study found that, of 95,447 hepatitis C screenings conducted in 1998, 31 percent were positive and, among those positive results, over half were obtained from Vietnam veterans. The virus may have been contracted by soldiers who engaged in unprotected sex, used intravenous drugs, had blood transfusions or had contact with the wounded.

Concerned about the safety of your patients involved in online support groups? A recent report in the Wall Street Journal offers some Web-savvy advice. Patients should be encouraged to monitor the conversations or transcripts of previous conversations from individual sites before providing any personal information. They should also try to find out who operates the Web site and whether it is monitored. If a site is run by a moderator, angry outbursts and commercial pitches for drugs and other items will be kept to a minimum. Finally, and most importantly, patients should be warned to watch out for rumors and unsupported health claims.

From the “snow on the roof/fire in the furnace” file, the AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) has completed a new study that demolishes many common perceptions about aging and sexuality. According to the study, more than half of Americans who are 45 years of age or older are satisfied with their sex lives, and most men over 45 who have partners find their partners attractive. A satisfying sexual relationship is important to quality of life, according to 67 percent of men and 57 percent of women. While sex is important, a good relationship is even more important; 90 percent of respondents, both men and women, said a good relationship with a spouse or partner is important to their quality of life reports the New York Times.

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