Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Research Shows A Large Number Of Women Have Experienced Domestic Violence

domestic violence, CDC, reporting on healthDomestic Violence: 25 percent of women surveyed by the government say they were violently attacked by their husbands or boyfriends in a finding one federal official called “astounding,” the Associated Press reports.

C-Sections: The number of births by Cesarean section in Calif. has risen 50 percent in the past 10 years, new research shows, but it isn’t because of the health benefits over vaginal delivery. Researchers cite financial incentives for doctors and an “awareness gap” of the procedure’s risks among the explanations, Stephanie O’Neill reports for KPCC public radio.

Health Reform: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley predetermined the findings of a state committee working on health reform even before Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Reporting on Health - The Reporting on Health Daily Briefing*

Teens Who Smoke Pot: At Risk For Mental Illness Later?

Teenagers and young adults who use marijuana may be messing with their heads in ways they don’t intend.

Evidence is mounting that regular marijuana use increases the chance that a teenager will develop psychosis, a pattern of unusual thoughts or perceptions, such as believing the television is transmitting secret messages. It also increases the risk of developing schizophrenia, a disabling brain disorder that not only causes psychosis, but also problems concentrating and loss of emotional expression.

In one recent study that followed nearly 2,000 teenagers as they became young adults, young people who smoked marijuana at least five times were twice as likely to have developed psychosis over the next 10 years as those who didn’t smoke pot.

Another new paper concluded that early marijuana use could actually hasten the onset of psychosis by three years. Those most at risk are youths who already have a mother, father, or sibling with schizophrenia or some other psychotic disorder.

Young people with a parent or sibling affected by psychosis have a roughly one in 10 chance of developing the condition themselves — even if they never smoke pot. Regular marijuana use, however, doubles their risk — to a one in five chance of becoming psychotic.

In comparison, youths in families unaffected by psychosis have a seven in 1,000 chance of developing it. If they smoke pot regularly, the risk doubles to 14 in 1,000. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Skin Cancer Risk, Indoor Tanning, And Maternal Influence

teen tanning bedNot all maternal influence on daughter behavior is good. Take for example the influence of the unhealthy use of indoor tanning beds as presented in a recent Archives of Dermatology article (full reference below) which “investigated whether indoor tanning with one’s mother the first time would influence frequency of tanning later in life and whether it was associated with age of initiation.”

Joel Hillhouse, Ph.D., of East Tennessee State University-Johnson City and colleagues published a study the May 2010 issue of the Archives of Dermatology which looked at which health-based intervention worked best in reducing skin cancer risks. They found that “emphasizing the appearance-damaging effects of UV light, both indoor and outdoor, to young patients who are tanning is important no matter what their pathological tanning behavior status.”

For this study, Hillhouse and colleagues randomly selected a total of 800 female students who were then sent a screening questionnaire on their indoor tanning history. Those who reported ever indoor tanning (n = 252) were invited to participate in the study and offered an incentive ($5). A total of 227 (mean age, 21.33 years; age range, 18-30 years) agreed, signed informed consent documents, and completed assessments.

One of the questions asked who accompanied the participant the first time they indoor tanned (i.e. tanned alone, with friend, with mother, or other). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

When Puberty Ends

I heard a 23-year-old woman complain: “I must be getting old when 11:00 at night is late.” It got me thinking.

It turns out that the explanation for why teens are natural night owls has recently been elucidated. They can’t help it — they just don’t get tired until way later in the evening. Then, of course, their bodies want to stay asleep well into the next morning in order to feel sufficiently rested. Since most of them are stuck with the artificial structure of school hours, they’re screwed — and condemned to suffer constant fatigue from cumulative sleep deprivation. Old news.

Then I started wondering about the back end of this phenomenon. Even though our American “youth culture” attributes great coolness to late-night happenings, since this pubertal sleep shift is biological, there must come a point at which their pineal glands go back to releasing melatonin at a more reasonable hour. Does 10 years sound about right? I remember not being nearly as enamored of the “all-nighter” by the time medical school rolled around, as opposed to college, where staying up all night was a regular occurrence. Certainly by residency (ages 26 to 30), it was a killer. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Teen Pregnancy Decline Is Likely As Low As It Will Go

Teen pregnancy rates have declined, but likely bottomed out, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Teen births dropped by a third between 1990 to 2005, but rose again in 2006 and 2007. The latest figures for 2008 show a decline of 2.4 percent, to 41.5 pregnancies per 1,000 teenagers. Experts told My Health News Daily/MSNBC the dropping rates have bottomed out, and that new strategies are needed to deglamorize teen pregnancy.

Teen birth rates were consistently highest in states across the South and Southwest, and lowest in the Northeast and upper Midwest. In 2008, state-specific teenage birth rates varied widely, from less than 25.0 per 1,000 15-19 year olds (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont), to more than 60.0 per 1,000 (Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »