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Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(10):1899-1900

“I'm only 25. Cardiac arrest can't happen to me.” Wrong. Listen up: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association released a study showing that deaths from cardiac arrest had increased in 15- to 34-year-olds during the 1990s. Researchers are particularly concerned about two findings: the death rate for cardiac arrest rose three times faster in young women than in young men and rose 19 percent in blacks versus 14 percent in whites.

Babies can be dangerous, or at least their “nappies” can be. As a result of a case-control study recently published in The Lancet, researchers in Auckland, New Zealand, show that nappy changing is associated with a fourfold increased risk that the changer will develop giardiasis. What's a “nappy”? It's the dreaded diaper, of course.

Previous studies of hormone replacement therapy and its effects on stroke risk have shown conflicting results. However, a recent study published in Circulation has cleared up some of this confusion by showing that hormone replacement therapy does not affect women with heart disease. The study randomly selected women with heart disease to receive hormone replacement or placebo. The results after four years were insignificant. The researchers also looked at types of stroke.

Those cramped airplane seats can cause a serious medical problem in some people. The problem was dubbed “economy-class syndrome” after reports of several passengers developing deep venous thrombosis (DVT) or dying from DVT complications after long air flights. Researchers at Stanford University Medical Center have determined that there are some things at-risk patients can do to stay healthy on long flights—for example, moving their legs and feet as much as possible while seated, wearing compressive stockings, drinking as much fluid as possible (but not alcohol, because of its diuretic qualities) and consulting with their physician before lengthy air travel. By the way, on long flights, people can end up with economy-class syndrome even when traveling in expensive first-class seats.

Using just a supersized rubber band, exercisers can stretch the benefits of their workout. A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows that combining step aerobics with a stretch-band resistance workout can improve strength, aerobic capacity and muscle mass more than a step aerobics class alone. Another benefit: step plus resistance means fewer trips to the gym for separate sessions.

“Friends don't let friends drive drunk.” But how about letting them ride a bicycle after they've had a few drinks? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine studied 124 Maryland bicyclists who were involved in serious crashes and found that one third of those fatally injured had elevated blood alcohol levels at the time of the crash. Researchers determined that after only one drink, bicyclists are six times more likely to suffer injury or death from a bicycle crash than cyclists who do not drink. After four or five drinks, they are 20 times more likely to be seriously injured or to die.

As a George Michael song proclaims, “You've got to have faith.” That is, if you want to live a long life. According to a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, worshipers take better care of themselves and thus live longer lives. Study participants who attended religious services at least weekly got more exercise, had regular check-ups and more friends, felt less depressed and were less likely to smoke. Sorry, there's no news yet on how your behavior here on Earth affects you in the afterlife.

MCI. No, we aren't talking about a phone company or even the correct name for the international airport in Kansas City, Mo. These three letters stand for “mild cognitive impairment,” believed to be an early stage of Alzheimer's disease. According to a study in the Archives of Neurology, MCI is characterized by distinct changes in forgetfulness over a year or two that can be verified by psychologic testing. Evidence also shows that the hippocampus is smaller or shrunken in appearance in persons with pre-Alzheimer's MCI.

When someone mutters the word “culture,” it usually evokes images of the ballet and art museums. And is referring to humans. However, according to Behavioral and Brain Sciences, there is evidence of culture in chimps, monkeys, dolphins, birds and killer whales. A group of humpback whales in the gulf of Maine—and only these whales—give their feeding routine a spin by slamming their tail flukes onto the ocean's surface to engulf their prey in a cloud of roiling, bubbling water. The evidence of this culture change wasn't recognized until researchers began comparing notes on the same species in different parts of the world.

Here's more than you probably want to know about other peoples' bathroom habits. Survey results recently reported by the National Association for Continence stress the importance of people telling their physician about the problem of urinary urgency. Good start! However, the survey report then lists the following data: 33 percent of the survey respondents wait to use a public restroom until no one else is in the facility—and some of them run the faucet while using the toilet to avoid being heard; 53 percent read in the bathroom; 27 percent (under age 40) admitted to making love in there; 47 percent say they ponder serious issues in the bathroom; and about 33 percent admit they retreat to the bathroom to talk on the phone. One can only guess who came up with such questions. Or where.

Chalk yet another one up for aspirin. A new study speculates that besides reducing rates of fatal heart attacks and colon cancer, aspirin also may reduce the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. Researchers at New York University Medical Center who tracked 748 women over 12 years found that those who took aspirin regularly were less likely to develop ovarian cancer. It is thought that aspirin's anti-inflammatory qualities may reduce chronic inflammation that may lead to ovarian cancer.

Borderline Pap test results may no longer be a “what next?” situation. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that a second test for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection allows doctors to identify 96.3 percent of the women who do, and those who don't, need treatment. HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, causes most cases of cervical cancer.

Another example of people with too much time on their hands: a letter in Archives of General Psychiatry postulates that Samson, the son of Manoah, meets six of the seven criteria for antisocial personality disorder. While children are taught that Samson was a hero, the authors of this letter argue that Samson's constant lies, thievery, repeated fights and killing with abandon match the psychiatric association's diagnostic manual's definition of antisocial personality disorder: “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”

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Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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