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Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(4):562-563

Money isn’t the only reason that some older Americans don’t take their prescription drugs. Health Affairs published the results of a prescription drug survey given to 17,685 Medicare recipients. The cost of the drugs was the leading reason that prescriptions were not filled (26 percent), but that was followed closely by side effects (25 percent). Fifteen percent of people surveyed said they stopped taking medications because they thought they didn’t need them or because they were taking too many drugs.

A review of scientific evidence sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has shown that episiotomies performed during uncomplicated vaginal births do not provide immediate or long-term benefits for the mother. In fact, women who experienced spontaneous tears during delivery had less pain than those with episiotomies. The AHRQ says that this discovery may help women with uncomplicated childbirth to avoid a procedure that is of no benefit to them.

Does the color of a sports uniform affect athletic performance? A study published in Nature has shown that Olympians who competed in combat events (e.g., boxing, martial arts, wrestling) and who wore red performed better than those who wore blue. Olympians wearing red won 55 percent of all competitions and 60 percent of contests deemed to be evenly matched. After looking at other high-profile sporting events, researchers found that teams wearing red consistently performed better than teams wearing other colors. The reason for this link is unclear, but researchers say that red is associated with anger and aggression and may actually boost an athlete’s testosterone level. The color also may intimidate opponents. Of course, they warn that a red jersey can’t substitute for talent and won’t necessarily guarantee better performance.

Sad about missing your daily exercise? It could be depression. Family Practice News reports that results of a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society showed a link between exercise cessation and depression. The study included 40 healthy people whose regular exercise routines consisted of at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day on three or more days per week. Researchers asked one half of participants to stop their exercise routine and the rest to continue exercising as usual. After two weeks, the cessation group scored significantly higher on the Beck Depression Inventory compared with the exercise group (4.5 and 1.7, respectively). People in the cessation group showed more signs of fatigue, changes in appetite, and poor concentration than those who continued their regular exercise routines. None of the participants became clinically depressed.

Experts need to learn more about how to prevent recurring child abuse in families referred to child protective agencies. The Lancet published a study of 163 families with a confirmed instance of child abuse. The goal was to see if in-home nurse visits would decrease the incidence of repeated child abuse. According to the results, the home-visit–based strategy was not effective in preventing recurring child abuse and neglect. Researchers say that efforts should focus instead on preventing first-time child abuse.

Victory over their disease may be only half the battle for children with cancer. Two in three young cancer survivors go on to develop other chronic health problems, emotional stress, and debt related to their cancer treatment, according to a study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Researchers found that one in 10 patients treated in the 1970s and 1980s is now facing a $25,000 cancer-related debt. By 45 years of age, these patients were two to six times more likely than their healthy siblings to develop other health problems, largely attributable to radiation and cancer drug treatments.

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Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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