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Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(01):22

When choosing a doctor, does a patient’s race influence the decision? Researchers surveyed more than 3,500 white, black, and Latino patients and found that many black and Latino patients believe racism exists in the health care system, and those who have this perception are more likely to go to a doctor of their own ethnicity. The study, published in Annals of Family Medicine, found that nearly one fourth of black patients preferred a black doctor and one third of Latinos preferred a Latino doctor. Patients who perceived racism were also more satisfied with their doctor if he or she was of the same race, according to the report.

A monthly shot may help patients with alcoholism stay on the wagon longer. Data from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in JAMA found that long-acting injectable naltrexone significantly reduced heavy drinking among patients with alcoholism and was well tolerated. Compared with daily oral treatments, a once-a-month regimen may be more effective in the long-term because adherence is easier. The authors hope that the shot becomes an effective treatment option for patients with alcoholism as well as those with other substance dependencies.

The risk of associated health problems might not be over after the body has healed from a respiratory infection. Preliminary research published in Clinical Infectious Diseases shows a link between Chlamydia pneumoniae and heart attack in young men. By age 30, one half of Americans have evidence of C. pneumoniae antibodies in their blood. The study included 600 men in the U.S. military between 30 and 50 years of age. One half of the participants had been hospitalized for a previous heart attack. Researchers found that high levels of C. pneumoniae were associated with the occurrence of heart attack, especially when the high levels were present one to five years before the heart attack. Men in the military were studied because researchers had access to stored blood samples taken before the heart attacks occurred.

Items in the grocery store that are labeled “reduced fat” and “reduced sugar” are supposed to be healthier, but reports that new reduced-sugar versions of popular breakfast cereals offer no health benefit. Although these cereals contain less sugar than their predecessors, the sugar has been replaced with refined carbohydrates, which are no healthier than sugar, resulting in the same number of calories as the original cereal.

Should bullies be sent to the doctor’s office instead of the principal’s office? Bullying has become a serious public health issue, according to researchers. According to a study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, bullying might be a result of cognitive and emotional deficiencies, excessive television watching, obesity, inattention, and aggression. Maximizing cognitive stimulation and limiting the amount of time young children spend in front of the television helped reduce their risk of becoming bullies later in life. Emotional support during the children’s early years also independently protected them.

What could you accomplish if you had an extra year to live? According to a study published in British Medical Journal, you could find out if you adopted a Mediterranean diet. The diet is high in fruits, vegetables, fish, and olive oil, with moderate consumption of wine and low intake of meat and dairy products. The study of 74,607 men and women 60 years and older measured adherence to the Mediterranean diet on a 10-point scale. Men who scored between 6 and 9 lived one year longer than those who followed the diet less closely.

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Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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