Articles Posted in Research Studies

booze-256x1024It’s more than happy hour chardonnays with office mates or malt liquors  at a summer barbecue.

Public health experts are warning that alcohol drinking is rising sharply, and in especially worrisome fashion for women, seniors, African Americans, Latinos, and Americans of Asian descent. As the nation struggles with addiction crises—especially a plague of opioid drug abuse—booze woes may be getting less than their deserved attention.

Our heavy and increasing alcohol consumption, as captured in a sizable and regular survey of Americans’ tippling habits, should be of big concern. That’s because experts note that it can “portend increases in many chronic co-morbidities in which alcohol use has a substantial role.”

caregiver-300x200Pick up that phone. Dash off a text or an email. Issue a dinner invitation or make a date for a casual lunch. Or just drop by to see that friend or loved one who struggles with the burdens of caring for someone in poor physical or mental health.

Why now? Why not? Paula Spann deserves credit for her latest New York Times column highlighting the “unbearable” loneliness and isolation that caregivers confront as, other experts estimate,  43.5 million Americans provide $470 billion in tough, unstinting, and unpaid work for loved ones.

Even as they do so, however, they often must abandon their own careers and chunks of their own lives, watching with sadness as their social contacts and intellectual interests narrow, especially as their worlds become consumed with washing, feeding, entertaining, and keeping safe a spouse, grandparent, uncle, aunt, or other loved one. Their woes can be especially great if they’re caring for loved ones with the increasingly common and hugely demanding conditions of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Chronic_Traumatic_Encephalopathy-300x153Football players and fans, if they had doubts before, have taken yet another hit to their favorite sport, with a retrospective study of hundreds of pro players’ brains finding a damaging disorder in a startling percentage of the donated organs.

Experts reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that 110 of 111 brains of onetime players in the National Football League, examined by neuropathologists and other experts, showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. It’s a degenerative disease that experts think is caused by repeated head blows. It has been linked with multiple symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. The problems can crop up long after the head trauma stops.

Caution needs to be exercised with this research because the athlete-brain donors and their families were extremely self-selecting. They participated in the post-mortem study, some with guarantees of confidentiality about identities, because they had experienced or started to show likely CTE-related debilitation before their deaths.

spinning-300x200Although many sports enthusiasts relish the summer as a peak time to train hard to get especially fit, wise athletes for safety’s sake may wish to build their way up to exhausting workouts, and to ensure they’re staying hydrated in healthful ways, while also recognizing that endurance competitions may alter their bodies in ways that they should at least be aware of.

The New York Times has posted an eyebrow-raising story on the perils to hard-driving jocks, male and female, of “rhabdo,” aka rhabdomyolysis, a “rare but life-threatening condition often caused by extreme exercise. It occurs when overworked muscles begin to die and leak their contents into the bloodstream, straining the kidneys and causing severe pain.”

Two doctors say they treated three recent, severe rhabdo cases brought on when novices in not great shape leaped into intense spinning classes, demanding exercise regimens lasting around an hour and involving specialized stationery bicycles. They found in medical literature 46 other, documented rhabdo cases, with 42 tied to novices’ spinning.

ExpiredDrug-300x225Americans each year needlessly toss hundreds of millions of dollars in costly, valuable, and still potent drugs, a wasteful practice driven by a “myth,” the mistaken belief in and scrupulous adherence to already debunked product expiration dates.

Drug discards, including of medications that may be in short supply nationwide, occur all along the distribution chain, from corner druggists up to giant health system pharmacies.

The practice flies in the face of known evidence, much of it developed, verified, and shared by the same force that presses for expired meds to get tossed: Uncle Sam.

PE-Color-240x300The Republicans haven’t waved a white flag—yet. They may never formally surrender. But the GOP’s seven-year, take-no-prisoners campaign to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has foundered. For good?

Political prediction is a knucklehead’s sport. It’s never safe to predict what’s going to happen, especially when unpredictable tragedies rear up like  Sen. John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis.

No matter. We now know painful truths about the politicians who have sway over our health care—and will continue to do so in vast ways, Trumpcare or no.

anesthesia-300x153Some of the very medical specialists who are supposed to put patients to sleep experience big problems themselves staying awake, with more than half of anesthetic trainees reporting in a new national survey in Britain that they had crashed their cars or nearly done so while headed home after long night shifts.

American doctors’ social media responses to this new research indicate that work weariness and drowsy driving are perils for practitioners on this side of the Atlantic, too.

The doctors’ complaints also underscores the irrationality of recent decisions by American medical educators to reinstate long shifts for interns and residents, trainees who play important—and sleep-deprived— front-line roles in providing medical services to too many patients in academic medical centers and hospitals nationwide.

Pinocchio_Smoking-300x169Tougher ratings for movies targeting teen-agers and higher cigarette taxes may be two good ways to crack down on Big Tobacco’s persistent and harmful peddling of its poisonous wares, health experts say, based on information flowing from the sprawling Golden State.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just assessed Hollywood’s progress in reducing depictions of tobacco in the movies, finding that, under pressure from anti-smoking campaigns,  Tinsel Town had slashed its showing of the use or implied use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, smokeless tobacco products and electronic cigarettes from 2005 to 2010. But that progress has reversed since then, and now, based on top 10 grossing movies in any calendar week, cinematic depictions of tobacco use has soared by 80 percent.

Although pictures rated G or PG, those films most accessible to the broadest movie-going audiences, saw reductions in their showing of smoking and other tobacco use, depictions of these negative health practices rose sharply in movies aimed more at teenagers and older youths  in those works with ratings of PG-13 (by 43 percent) and R (by 90 percent).

opioid-graficAlthough Americans may like to think that it doesn’t or shouldn’t matter as much as it does, where they live can have major effects on their health. Geography isn’t an absolute determinant, but key differences have been discerned in how it affects the prescribing dangerous opioid drugs, cancer death rates, some air pollution harms, and risks of insect-related infections. Let’s look at specifics:

Opioid prescribing dips but data show big regional differences

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided a rare glimmer of good news about the nation’s epidemic of powerful painkiller abuse, finding that the peak of doctors’ opioid drug prescribing appears to have occurred in 2010 and has dropped sharply since.

dna-208x300Pathologists are the medical specialists whom few patients ever meet, but they play increasingly important roles in treatment decisions. Some new reports raise concerns about systematic errors in the path lab.

The New York Times painted a surprisingly distanced picture of the work of pathologists in a recent report on these medical doctors who are trained to interpret an array of laboratory tests and often microscopic materials to determine the care for complex diseases.

The paper found that the specialists and their labs mislabeled and mixed up patient samples and results, as well as sometimes contaminating them—yes, rarely, but with potentially significant harms. Erroneous results could lead to misdiagnoses, resulting in patients getting wrong or ineffective treatment, especially for cancers, experts say.

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