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Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(4):605

Impatience and a feeling of time urgency may increase young persons' risk of developing high blood pressure later in life, according to a study presented at the scientific sessions of the American Heart Association and reported in Internal Medicine News. Of 3,142 persons 18 to 30 years of age who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, those with a stronger sense of time urgency and impatience were more likely to develop hypertension within the next 13 years. The study supports the hypothesis that certain components of “type A” behavior pose health risks.

Here's some troubling news: prescription drug abuse among young people is on the rise. As reported in America's Pharmacist, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that about 3 million young people 12 to 17 years of age had taken prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes; 7.9 percent said they had done so in the past year. About 15 percent of 18- and 19-year-olds and 12.1 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds reported using prescription drugs nonmedically in the past year.

Learning to read forces the brain to do something it doesn't really want to do. As reported on the Web site of the Kansas City Star, a neuroscientist at the University of Kansas Medical Center thinks that the human brain finds reading laborious because it is wired primarily for auditory language. Before words can make sense, the brain has to convert letters into their picture equivalents. The letter images become neural patterns on the optic nerve and are transmitted to the visual cortex, where electrical charges are created and sent to different parts of the brain. Unscrambling the letters and turning them into images is even more complicated; this process involves the brain's auditory areas, six or more areas that deal with vision, and 24 other areas. In accomplished readers, the brain cells that turn symbols into images are interconnected.

A common weed may enhance some aspects of memory. As reported by the BBC News, laboratory tests show that lemon balm helps to increase the activity of acetylcholine, a memory-affecting chemical that is reduced in patients with Alzheimer's disease. In a study presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society, researchers at an English university asked 20 volunteers to take capsules containing dried lemon balm. Memory tests conducted three and six hours after ingestion showed that lemon balm had no effect on working memory, which is the ability to recall daily events. However, the herb did improve secondary memory, which is the ability to learn, store, and call up information.

Laws that ban smoking in public areas and workplaces may reduce the rate of heart attacks in a community, according to a study presented at the annual scientific session of the American College of Cardiology. In a comparison of heart attack rates four years before and six months after a temporary smoking ban took effect in Helena, Mont., researchers found that the number of heart attacks fell 45 percent in the region, compared with surrounding areas. According to one of the researchers, the finding supports evidence that long-term secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of heart disease, and that short-term exposure leads to changes in the blood that can increase the risk of heart attack.

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